Slash number of MPs and give them a seat

BLAIR'S modernising tendency, having swept through the House of Lords, Scotland, Wales, Ulster, Greater London and the English regions, is about to assault the House of Commons itself.

BLAIR'S modernising tendency, having swept through the House of Lords, Scotland, Wales, Ulster, Greater London and the English regions, is about to assault the House of Commons itself.

MPs have already seen a change in working hours and a shorter summer break – now their quaint customs are on the line as tradition prepares to make way for the 21st century.

And the public is to be involved. Commons Leader Peter Hain announced this week that the Commons Modernisation Committee would hold three seminars, both inside and outside London, "with interested people, with local activists and with young people."

Mr Hain added: "During the winter the committee will travel outside of London and take evidence from the public, in public and on-line. It will hold three seminars, inside and outside London with interested people, with local activists and with young people.


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"We want to find new ways in which the public's voice can be heard more directly in the Commons."

The Commons Leader also said: "It is not just the building that makes this place seem like a private club. Too often we look and sound like one with our outdated jargon."

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Speaking of the protocol whereby each MP refers to another as an Honourable Member and to a barrister MP as an Honourable and Learned Member, Mr Hain added: "Members of the public may just about understand the `Honourable Member' protocol of the Commons. But what about an `Honourable and Learned Member'? Or referring to the House of Lords as `the other place.'

Tradition demands that if the Speaker gets to his feet and names an MP, that person must be removed from the Chamber and face a lengthy suspension.

I have no problems with MPs tearing up their own book of Commons etiquette and modernising itself, but why invoke "local activists and young people," whatever that means.

The proper modernisation would be to question the need for 659 MPs in the first place. Reduce the number by 400 would make sense and ensure that all MPs have a seat to themselves in the less than adequate Commons chamber.

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