Monday, 10 January 2022

Does Parliament need to be in London?


For a couple of weeks now I have been writing about changes to the layout of parliament that I believe will make for a more effective chamber to fulfil their primary role of holding the executive to account.


So, it was interesting to come across four letters to the press last week in and around this topic, which I include below with my own comments beneath each.


1.Renovating the Houses of Parliamentary may take 20 years and costs £14billion.Surely the time has come to ask if we need parliament to conduct its business in London. Why not take this opportunity for a brand new building with up-to-date infrastructure, security and technology, It could be located near the M62 between Manchester and Leeds, close to the motorway and rail networks. A new government complex could also provide accommodation for MPs to avoid renting expensive second homes. The cost might be covered by selling the Houses of Parliament to private developers to be converted into a museum, hotel or apartments. Stuart Bower Hove E. Sussex


I haven’t yet mentioned the cost of renovating the House of Commons which at £14 billion is considerable but would need to spent even if a new building was built in new central location. While Mr Bower suggests the existing building could become a museum, hotel or apartments I believe the ‘Mother of all Museums’, based on the history of democracy, would be the best option and a world class attraction.

2.Why not build new Houses of Parliament designed to look not at the past but to show our people and the world we are looking to the future with drive and creativity. Instead of the SE corner of the country, it might be more sensible to locate Parliament in amore central position or the North of England to help regenerate the industrial heartlands. It would also demonstrate that the Government is committed to levelling up. A step further could be to rearrange the seating by constituencies rather than two opposing sides. The Prime Minister, Cabinet and Speaker could sit on a platform. Ted Wisedale, Bolton.


Again Mr Wisedale mention a building being in a central location, as I did, he also suggests a new seating arrangement but does not go as far as a hemisphere chamber that I believe would be essential to set the seal on the new workings of the chamber.  

3.The Queen spends most of her time at Windsor Castle, so why not turn Buckingham Palace into Government House. It's big enough for a reduced Commons to sit in. The Lords could be scrapped and an upper elected senate of 50 could meet in the ballroom. The other rooms could be offices and a block of rooms built for MPs who need to stay overnight. Simples! S. Shepley, Sevenoaks, Kent.


I don’t think this idea would be practical and of course would keep parliament as London centric. However, Mr Shepley’s idea for a reduced House of Lords is spot on although we suggest a ‘Senate ‘ of 300 with 100 each elected, appointed and selected by sortition.   

4.Spending £14 billion on refurbishment is excellent opportunity to sort out the Houses of Parliament by reducing the number of MPs to 150 and the Lords to 50, with no hereditary peers, no bishops, no subsidised restaurants and no bar. In most occupations, drinking during working time is a sackable offence. J Davies, Portsmouth.


Again, THA totally agrees with the reduction in the number of MPs and members of a second chamber but believe the House of Commons of around 500 and a second chamber of around 300 would be about right.


These reforms are covered in our second and third demands for ‘Real Local Democracy’ and ‘A Separation of Power’ and along with the other four come as a complete package albeit could be introduced in stages. However, if they are ever to become a reality, they will need the support of the majority of the people. Currently the people have other pressing considerations before thinking about reform of our governance but I do sense that they are very aware that the current system is no longer fit for purpose.  


As Benjamin Disraeli said – “Change is Inevitable Change is Constant”

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