Lib Dems urge curb on powers of Queen

Click to follow
MPs could be moved from Westminster, where the Commons has met for centuries, under wide-ranging plans for parliamentary reform proposed yesterday by the Liberal Democrats.

The traditional Commons chamber, based on the chapel pews where MPs used to sit, could be replaced by a chamber-in-the-round, to end the confrontational clashes between the two main parties across the despatch boxes.

The Liberal Democrats propose cutting the number of junior ministers, in order to reduce the Government's power of patronage and return some power to the backbenches

The Queen would no longer have the power to call a party leader to form a Government. It would be for Parliament to decide which party commanded the confidence of the Commons to form a Government.

MPs would be given a pay increase but would be expected to limit their earnings outside Parliament. The number of MPs could be cut from 650 to 450, with larger constituencies.

The aim of the changes is to make Parliament more relevant to the people that the MPs are supposed to represent. Legislation should be written in simpler language, and the Commons should be put on the internet.

The Liberal Democrats say the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Poll Tax legislation are examples of how bad laws are being passed by Parliament owing to inadequate checks on the power of the executive.

"MPs are used to being ignored. Under these proposals, the Commons would cease to be an antechamber of ministerial offices," said Bob Maclennan, a member of the review team.

One of the most worrying aspects of Parliament was the alienation of the public.

"It is to some extent because of the partisanship and the procedures, such as Prime Minister's Questions, which we propose to change," Mr Maclennan added.

The Liberal Democrats would make Question Time less adversarial, so that it was more informative. Other proposals include fixed-term parliaments, changes to procedure to stop filibustering of legislation and more consultation on legislation before Bills are passed.

The idea of moving out of Westminster is too controversial to permit the Liberal Democrats to propose a change of location. However, the review team, led by Michael Ryle, a former senior clerk of the Commons, said it could be considered in the long term.

In the meantime, MPs will enter the millennium still meeting in a mock- Gothic Royal Palace with Victorian modes of dress, including clerks who wear wigs, and a Serjeant at Arms who carries a sword in case the MPs become too unruly.

9 A Parliament for the People, Liberal Democrat policy paper 20, pounds 3.50

Save the Queen, page 13