Bury North MP James Frith launched a book in Parliament this week on the need to reform the institution and its practices to make it more relevant to the lives of the people it serves.
James and 10 MPs from Labour’s 2017 intake contributed essays to the book and the event was launched with the support of the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Valerie Vaz, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
James’s speech at the launch is below.
I’m proud to launch New Brooms, a series of essays by me and 10 of my colleagues who make up almost one third of Labour’s 2017 intake. The essays, brought together in a book produced by the Fabian Society with support from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, lay out some bold and innovative proposals for parliamentary reform. We argue how we might strengthen our democracy; make parliament more effective for those we are sent here to represent; and ensure our place of work resembles a workplace that our voters would recognise.
The book brings together a wide range of dynamic voices who offer a constructive voice on ways to reform our parliament. And not just moan about it. Whilst these contributions come from the left, our ideas are not party political and will require support from across the House if they are to achieve success.
The urgent need for reform has never been starker than in recent months, with a minority Government, knife edge votes and some of the traditional agreements such as pairing to cancel out absent members breaking down. MPs with newborn babies dragged in to vote and others too ill to attend wheeled in from hospital. This has renewed calls for the introduction of proxy voting for MPs, which is one of the reforms argued in this book.
Our book goes further than this, with proposals for reform of PMQ’s; a new select committee of Backbenchers for the PM to attend to allow greater scrutiny; introducing electronic voting; bringing in a new public evidence stage during the passage of a Bill; limiting the use of filibustering; increase the business of the house by running Westminster Hall full time; swapping the parliamentary week every 6 months to allow MP’s to be present in their constituencies at the start of a week; job descriptions for MPs job descriptions; updating parliamentary language to improve wider understanding for public and newly elected MP’s; improving disabled access to Parliament; replacing daily Christian prayers with something for reflective of the diversity of the House and the country and much more.
One year in, we felt it was a perfect time to offer our insights with fresh eyes on how we might rise to the challenge. Not least because it is a constructive and positive voice on an important issue at a time when politics too often feels toxic and parliament gridlocked.
We should use this moment to distil and debate the strongest ideas and arguments for reform. The ideas proposed by my colleagues and I include immediate and longer-term reforms, but all can – we hope – form the basis for the debate and decisions to come.
Listen to James discuss the book on BBC 5 Live and see pictures from the launch below.