Bercow: Complete Commons revolution

Ealing Times: Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has urged MPs to complete the "revolution" in Parliament triggered by the expenses scandal five years ago.

In a speech at Westminster, Mr Bercow said that reforms passed after the public outcry over MPs' expense claims had had a "transformative" effect on the work of the House.

He highlighted in particular select committees, which had adopted a more confident, "gladiatorial" approach since their members were elected in a secret ballot of party colleagues, with the chairmen elected by the whole House, rather than chosen by party whips.

He suggested they should go further, extending the system of "confirmation" hearings for important public appointments, following up their reports more vigorously and employing in-house researchers.

He said they could also experiment with their methods of taking evidence from witnesses, possibly allowing just one or two members to do the bulk of the questioning as the most effective way of extracting "embarrassing or inconvenient" facts.

Alternatively, he said they could try using European-style "rapporteurs" to quiz witnesses.

He also proposed that the system of MPs electing select committees could be extended to the public bill committees which carry out the line-by-line examination of legislation going through Parliament.

"I favour an ambitious agenda because I am convinced that the House has been transformed in this Parliament by the changes embraced at the very end of the last one. Ours is, however, a revolution which is only two-thirds complete, there is more yet to do," he said.

"We should not want to wait for another generation for Parliament again to empower itself."

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