Nick Clegg: Don't waste our time... bring forward real reform

This rump Parliament, brought to its knees by scandal, has one final chance left to redeem itself

Share
Related Topics

On Wednesday, all the pomp and ceremony that Parliament can muster will be rolled out for the Queen's Speech, setting out the Government's list of new laws for the coming year. But the glitz and glamour will be based on a complete fiction. Parliament will find it difficult to pass any of the bills promised in the Queen's Speech this year – there are just 70 sitting days left before it is dissolved for the general election, too little time to debate and approve the Government's latest legislative shopping list. The current average time taken for laws to make it from first reading to royal assent is 240 days.

Gordon Brown's Government is running out of time. The Queen's Speech will be dressed up as the way to "build Britain's future" when it will be little more than a rehearsal of the next Labour Party manifesto, an attempt to road-test policy gimmicks that might save this Government's skin. It is a waste of everyone's time, and should be cancelled in favour of an emergency programme of reform.

After the expenses scandal, this Parliament has destroyed its own legitimacy. Not in living memory has confidence in politicians, trust in the system, or faith in the Government's capacity to change things been as low as it is today. People are no longer willing to respect the will of this failed Parliament. This Parliament has forfeited the right to do anything but focus on political reform.

The one gift this failed Parliament can give its successor is a fresh start. When you move out of a house, you clean it for the people moving in. Seventy days may not be long, but it is long enough, with strong political will, to clean up politics once and for all. We need an action plan to save Britain's democracy in time for the next general election so that the new parliament commands full support.

The beginnings of change could be in place before Christmas. Next week, a committee led by Labour MP Tony Wright will produce a report on reducing the power of government in Parliament. It should be adopted immediately so that governments can never again use whips to ride roughshod over the views of elected representatives. Then, in December, amendments to introduce fixed-term parliaments and party-funding reform should be tabled – with cross-party support – to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, the only piece of ongoing legislation that should be carried forward. Fixed-term parliaments are vital so that the date of the general election is no longer the plaything of prime ministers. On party funding reform, significant cross-party consensus was achieved under the leadership of Sir Hayden Phillips, but dropped for political expediency. We should return to these proposals, with some significant additions, and introduce them in time for the 2010 general election, ensuring that this election is a competition of ideas not of marketing budgets.

In the early part of next year, the parties should agree a Code of Conduct for candidates, so that everyone standing for public office commands public confidence. The Code should be based on the Nolan Principles of Public Life and it must, as Sir Christopher Kelly recommended, require candidates to publish a declaration of their financial interests so people know about issues that might affect their MP's independence before they decide to vote for them. Then, we should introduce a Bill to allow MPs to be sacked if they are found to have seriously breached the rules.

The final task will be to address our electoral systems. Now is the time to reform the House of Lords. MPs have voted decisively for direct elections of all peers, and there is cross-party agreement on the powers of the upper chamber. Then there is the question of elections to the House of Commons. There is growing consensus that a new electoral system is needed. Given the diversity of opinion but the need for swift action, the time is right for the people to decide. Parliament should establish a Committee on Electoral Reform composed of 100 randomly-chosen citizens, as pioneered in British Columbia. It would be given a year to consult and take evidence, and produce proposals taken to the electorate in a referendum.

These changes would be a tall order but with political will they could transform our threadbare democratic institutions. Instead of being just a sorry footnote to a shameful year at Westminster, these months would become a moment of great change in British political history. This rump Parliament, brought to its knees by scandal, has one final chance left to redeem itself. It must provide a golden legacy to the next Parliament so that we can all be proud of our democracy once again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there