By Tim Montgomerie
The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, chaired by Labour MP Graham Allen has complained that it has been given inadequate time to scrutinise the legislation that will fix parliamentary terms, cut the number of MPs to 600 and enable a nationwide referendum on the voting system.
The text of Mr Allen's full letter is below:
"You wrote to me last week about the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, and the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill.
The bills were published on 22 July. Both are to receive their second reading in September. For the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, this gives my committee a grand total of two clear sitting days in which to consider and take evidence on the bill before second reading. The time that we have to scrutinise the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill is only marginally less inadequate.
Both bills are, as you say, “fundamental to this House and to our democracy”. Contrast this with your approach to House of Lords reform, where a draft bill will be published before the end of the year, which will then be subject to full pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint select committee over several months before a bill is formally presented to Parliament. On what principle can you justify this different treatment of legislation affecting the two Houses?
The Leader of the House has told the Liaison Committee that your government remains committed to pre-legislative scrutiny, and that proper pre-legislative scrutiny requires at least twelve weeks. Even though these two bills clearly deserve this degree of proper pre- legislative scrutiny, I have made every effort to adjust the committee’s schedule to meet the government’s legislative timetable, and I have written to you twice, on 25 June and 6 July, to try to find a window, however small, within which some reasonable level of committee scrutiny of the government’s bills could take place. I have had no reply to either of my letters.
Your legislative timetable has put me and my committee in an extremely difficult position. When the House agreed to establish the committee, it did so, in the words of the Deputy Leader of the House, “to ensure that the House is able to scrutinise the work of the Deputy Prime Minister”. In the case of these two bills you have denied us any adequate opportunity to conduct this scrutiny."