Tuesday 29 July 2014
Miliband and Question Time
It's a bit rich for Ed Miliband to complain that Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) puts people off politics. After all, he's responsible for almost half of it. His suggestion that that parliamentary PMQs should be supplemented by a citizen's version is yet another example of our politicians, frightened of taking responsibility themselves, trying to slough it of onto someone else - as with the obsession with referendums.
The way to generate seriousness in PMQs and other Questions to Ministers is for parliament itself to reform the procedure. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Stop the silly nonsense of asking the PM for a list of his engagements, as an excuse for asking a supplementary question on any topic and thus hoping to catch him out. We should leave "being quick on your feet" to the stand-up comedians
2. Questions should be genuine requests for information and explanations, except in cases of emergency submitted 24 hours in advance, so that the PM or minister has time to research and give an informed response.
3. The number of supplementaries allocated to the Leader of the Opposition, and, where appropriate, other party leaders, should be greatly reduced.
4. More opportunities should be given for back-benchers to ask questions, with up to two supplementaries.
5. The cringe-making toady questions organised by the Whips should be discouraged.
Something on the above lines has, I believe, been recommended by the Hansard Society. Their adoption would help us approach "government by discussion" which is the essence of democracy.