Reform of House could swing vote

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Indy Politics

Family-friendly reforms in the House of Commons such as the setting up of a crÿche could swing the election of Betty Boothroyd's successor, MPs said yesterday.

Family-friendly reforms in the House of Commons such as the setting up of a crÿche could swing the election of Betty Boothroyd's successor, MPs said yesterday.

Ministers and Labour backbenchers are determined to press ahead with modernising Parliament and have made clear that it will be a factor in the contest.

The all-party Childcare Group, chaired by Caroline Flint, the Labour MP for Don Valley, has written to all the candidates asking them about how they feel about "family-friendly" reforms.

Under parliamentary rules, candidates are not allowed to canvass publicly, but the all-party group hopes to establish their positions.

Ms Flint said: "This is an extremely important issue not only for MPs but for staff at the Commons and we want to use this opportunity to see where all the different candidates stand on these issues."

The importance of the "family-friendly" agenda, which includes calls to end all-night sittings of the Commons, will disappoint Miss Boothroyd, who issued a thinly veiled criticism of the modernisation agenda in her retirement speech on Wednesday. She angered some female MPs when she stressed that "effective scrutiny and the democratic process must take priority over the convenience of members".

However, one minister said there was growing frustration on all sides of the Commons about the lack of progress of modernisation. "The family-friendly agenda is an extremely important factor when it comes to the selection of the next Speaker. It's time to move this Parliament into the 21st century."

MPs have continued to voice concerns about the way the Speaker will be elected. Gordon Prentice, the Labour MP for Pendle, suggested during question time that candidates should have to hust for the job. His call followed a demand by 50 MPs from all parties for new, more democratic rules to select Miss Boothroyd's replacement. They wanted open voting for the post, and a requirement for candidates to produce manifestos. The new Speaker will be chosen when MPs return from the long summer break, on 23 October.

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