John Bercow on parliamentary reform

John Bercow speaking in Hull. Photo: Mike Park

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow,  last night gave a lecture at the University of Hull, on ‘Parliamentary Reform’.  The lecture was organised as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of the Department of Politics and International Studies at Hull and attracted a large audience of students, members of the public, and local dignatories, including the Lord Mayor of Hull and two of the city’s MPs.

In the lecture, he argued that change is natural, desirable and essential to continuity.  He covered the ways in which the House of Commons had changed in recent years.   He referred to his own willingness to grant Urgent Questions.  In the twelve months before he became Speaker, only two had been granted.  Since he became Speaker, he has allowed 89.  He also covered the reforms implemented as a result of the recommendations of the Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (the Wright Committee), notably the election of select committee chairs and members and the creation of the Backbench Business Committee.

He very kindly took as the basis of his discussion quotations from a number of my books, starting with the first paragraph of the first chapter of The British Polity – he immediately pointed out that he had actually read beyond the first paragraph – but also drawing on other works, including Parliament in British Politics.  He referred to, and concurred in, a number of propositions I had advanced, though at one point, instead of referring to a proposition, referred to ‘Norton’s nostrum’.   One colleague immediately suggested that I should consider renaming The Norton View as Norton’s Nostrum.  It has a certain alliterative appeal…

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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9 Responses to John Bercow on parliamentary reform

  1. ladytizzy says:

    Mr Bercow’s tenure seems to be having an effect on the HoC, some of it positive, some not so. I get the impression that this Gvt doesn’t feel a great need to give the Opposition early sight of statements or reports before presenting them to Parliament. Am I wrong to be wondering if this might be due to the Speaker’s “willingness” to grant Urgent Questions?

    I note that official information on Parliamentary Questions has changed from:

    to pretty pictures:

    The latter’s final page is especially annoying.

    Frank: on Brits and tinned partridges, you might find this amusing:

    Boris is so vieux chapeau de paille.

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      Lady Tizzy,

      It is at least interesting I believe the word has either never of seldom been used on MTV or among the Crips and Bloods of Southern California. However at some point I must say that I too become ( to coin a term) an antifloccinaucinihilipilificationesqueophile in terms of the choice of words in public speeches….

  2. maude elwes says:

    Anyone who has the poor judgment to choose a crazed celebrity seeker, akin to the likes of Kate Price, without the chest bowling balls as eye catchers, and as worn out and disatisfied a wife as can be, is asking for trouble if you expect responsibility. It goes without saying, he has to have a propensity toward the travelling caravan himself, otherwise life would be unbearable holed up so closely to his job with that armful.

    Which, one step further, tells you the caibre of the HoC’s selectors for feeling such a man would be at all suitable as speaker, or anything else in office. Also tells you the disregard they have for the public that they would assume acceptance.

    • Chris K says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Richard Shepherd, far and away the best choice, achieved only a handful of votes.

      Sums the whole bunch up, really.

  3. ladytizzy says:

    “David Cameron is studying plans put forward by his stepfather-in-law, Viscount Astor, for a small number of peers to be elected at the next election in a compromise designed to embrace Nick Clegg’s determination to push through Lords reform.
    A Lords chamber with only a fifth elected would pacify many Tory MPs opposed to two chambers at risk of competing with one another for authority.”


  4. maude elwes says:

    Well, it has to be in Cameron’s interests to have an unelected Lords, doesn’t it? As, when he is thrown out of office, along with Duncan Smith, Fox, Lansley and the rest, he will find he has nowhere to go, won’t he? It would be unlikely he would get into the Lords on a vote after the fiasco they are creating under his watch? So, his Father in Law is looking after his daughter’s interests and making sure, as best a good Daddy can, that she will have more than his legacy to look forward to.

    ‘What ho, Dave, we are looking out for you old boy. Just the way we always look after ourselves. All in it together, eh, what?

    Same Astor family as the Cliveden set. Mind you, I would have been in the dumps had I needed to part with that house. Christmas in that place was heaven sent. So I hear.

  5. maude elwes says:

    PS: And step father in law, wouldn’t mean the old boy didn’t know the steps well would it? Unless of course he’s fell out with the mother.

    I mean members of my family have step grandfathers who raised them from birth. It depends on who, what, where and when!

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