Beyond the Commons: John Bercow calls for new age of e-democracy

Speaker flouts convention with public claim that Parliamentary politics is becoming ‘irrelevant’

Parliament must be reformed to end centuries of “arrogant” control by ministers and make Britain’s democracy fit for the 21st Century, the Speaker of the Commons has said.

John Bercow said in future ministers should not have control over what the House of Commons debated. The idea of MPs being elected to constituencies based on geography would become “increasingly hard to sustain”, he added. Mr Bercow also suggested the UK should follow the model of recent democratic elections in Estonia which allowed voters to cast their ballot on the internet or secure mobile phones. He said that unless Parliament was able to adapt to changing world brought about by mass communication “we may go the way of Bebo or MySpace” and become increasingly irrelevant to people’s lives.

The Speaker, who by convention is not expected to stay into controversial areas of public life, made his remarks during a speech to Parliamentarians in New Zealand. But his implicit criticisms of the way the current system of Parliamentary democracy works led to a withering put-down from one senior minister – who told The Independent it was “very bad manners to offer a criticism of one’s own Parliament when abroad”.

However his comments were welcomed by other MPs including the chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Graham Allen who said he had raised “very important ideas which needed to be addressed”.

In his speech on the “Future of Parliaments” Mr Bercow said that while he had tried to make the House of Commons more relevant to the public by calling ministers to answer the question of the day, there was a case for going much further.

“The single biggest change at Westminster with which I have been linked is the revival of the Urgent Question,” he said. “In my time in the Chair I have allowed numerous Urgent Questions and Parliament is much the more topical and hence more relevant for it. In the Parliaments of the Future, the issue will be not whether but what new should be discussed.

“The historic concept of departmental questions held at fixed, often lengthy intervals will be antiquated. We will have to be far, far more flexible about what is debated and when across our whole timetable. And the dictum that the Government of the day should have control over virtually the whole of that business will seem astonishingly arrogant.” He added: “Deference is not a quality which will have much purchase in the democracy to come.” Mr Bercow also suggested the old idea of constituencies based upon geography needed to be re-assessed and MPs must be given more resources to deal with communications coming not just from their constituents but other interest groups as well.

“The level of e-dialogue between representatives and the represented is staggering,” he said. “The traditional notion of there being but one concept of a constituency, based on geography, will become increasingly hard to sustain. Issue or cause constituencies will matter just as much as territorial constituencies.”

Mr Bercow said he believed elections would have to be reformed to make them more relevant to people’s lives. “Estonia became the first nation in the world to permit online voting for its 2007 national parliamentary elections,” he said. “In 2011 almost one quarter of all votes were cast via the internet or chip-secure mobile phones. Whereas most European countries have a problem with participation in elections, particularly amongst younger adult citizens, Estonia is in a much stronger position.”

While Mr Bercow has won plaudits for some MPs for attempting to make Parliament more relevant he is disliked by many in his own party. They accuse him of favouring the Labour opposition and using the chair to grandstand and harangue ministers.

But Mr Allen said he supported Mr Bercow ideas and would go further – completely removing the control of Parliament from Government.

“What we need is a genuine separation of powers. If Parliament is to reform it needs to free itself from the shackles of Government.”

House moves: Bercow’s plan

* Introduce electronic voting via the internet and mobile phones for Parliamentary elections.

* Bring in a regular daily slot for MPs to debate pressing issues or question ministers.

* Re-think the traditional geographical constituency boundaries.

* Provide much more administrative support for MPs to deal with growing case work – and the rise of electronic communications.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone