Thursday, 26 May 2011

Long live Committees! Why Clegg's NHS intervention is good for democracy.

A Radical Liberal's Perspective is going to issue a vague general rule here, something this blog will avoid doing too often, it is that: the longer a bill is debated and evidence from experts is brought in, the better the bill will become. This might seem like nonsense, either you agree with a bill or you don't; there can't be a 'good' bill. Well obviously there can, this blog disagrees strongly with Blair's Terrorism Act but it also resents the poor quality of the bill. The bill has allowed councils to use it to snoop on their residents for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism, this was never the intention of the bill and so it must be concluded that it is a poor bill.

There was one small constitutional reform that Blair's government did that amazingly actually did strengthen the Commons. They reformed the committee reading stage, changing the stage from 'standing committees' to 'public bill committees'. The change was not just cosmetic though, MP's in these committees are now allowed to take evidence from experts on the bills they are discussing, a fairly obvious and simple change.

A Radical Liberal's Perspective believes that strong parliamentary committees are a good thing. The committee stage of a bill is a very important point where serious discussion and reform of a badly written bill can take place. Clegg referring the NHS bill back to the committee stage is a good example of sensible democracy. The bill clearly has not got a mandate from the floor of the house to go to a vote yet, there is no where near a consensus on what should be in it from either side. Under this countries last government this blog is fairly sure that the idea of sending a bill through any part of parliament twice would be seen as heresy.

A Radical Liberal's Perspective concludes that respecting parliament and respecting the stages of consideration a bill goes through is ultimately very good for democracy in this country and is a step on the long road to a parliament that can hold our executive to account properly, so for this tiny constitutional symbolic gesture; we applaud Clegg.

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