I returned last night from Switzerland, having given the keynote speech at an international conference on capacity building in parliaments. It was organised by the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP) and Monash University and attracted a good number of Speakers of Parliaments as well as parliamentarians and parliamentary officials. The focus was on how to improve the capacity of parliamentarians to do their jobs.
I was concerned to go beyond looking at the mechanisms of how members do their job and stress the need to craft capacity building programmes specific to each nation: they need to be tailor made and not off-the-peg. I sought to generate a framework for analysing needs, distinguishing between what members do collectively and what they do individually, and between their tasks in relation to the executive and their tasks in relation to the citizen. I also stressed that without political will there was little point in generating programmes and resources. I emphasised that this needed to be generated not only at the level of the member but also at the level of the executive. Governments need to grasp that a legislature that delivers what people expect of it is not a threat but rather an essential means of underpinning the legitimacy of the political system.
That gives you a flavour of what I said. Travelling by train proved ideal. Not only was I able to get on with work but the scenery was stunning. I opted to go via Geneva and the train from Geneva runs along the length of Lake Geneva, going through Lausanne and on to Bern.
Got back in time for today’s debate in the Lords on the Steel Bill. Despite demonstrating our capacity at times to get in a procedural muddle, we actually made good progress and got through committee stage.