I already noted the maiden speech delivered last night in the Commons by Glyn Davies, during the first ever debate initiated by the newly-created Backbench Business Committee.
The motion up for discussion was:
"That this House commends the Speaker on the action he has taken over the past year to reassert the principle that Ministers ought to make statements to the House before they are made elsewhere; notes that paragraph 9.1 of the Ministerial Code says that when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance in Parliament; believes that compliance with this principle is essential for backbenchers to be able to represent the interests of their constituents and hold the Government to account; and invites the Procedure Committee to consider how the rules of the House could be better used or, if necessary, changed to ensure compliance with this principle and to develop a protocol for the release of information."
"It is a rare privilege and honour for me to open this, the first of the Backbench Business Committee debates on the Floor of the House. We are honoured by your presence in the Chair this evening, Mr. Speaker. In this motion we do some important things. First, we commend you for the action that you have taken in ensuring that the Government get the message that important policy announcements should be made to Members of this House first and not to the wider media.
"In the motion, we draw attention to paragraph 9.1 of the ministerial code, which says exactly that. It says: “when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of
Government policy should be made in the first instance in Parliament”. It also says that we believe that compliance with this principle is essential for Back Benchers to be able to best represent the interests of our constituents and hold the Government of the day to account. Constructively, we suggest that the Procedure Committee—I see the Chairman in his place—be invited to consider how the rules of the House could be better used, and if necessary changed, to ensure compliance with this principle and to develop a protocol for the release of information.
"The Chamber of the House of Commons should be the centre of political public life in our country. It should not be an inconvenience for Ministers to come here and tell the country about important policy: it should be an honour and privilege to keep the information to themselves until they have told Members of this House. It should be a matter of professional pride, so to speak, that information is not put out into the wider ether until the representatives of the people are told first, in this Chamber. This is not a criticism only of the present Government, but a criticism of all Governments, Labour, Conservative and coalition, going back for some time.
"The purpose of the motion tonight is not only to make the point that this Chamber should be considered first and foremost in the minds of Ministers, but to be helpful to the Government so that the coalition sets a precedent by putting in place a set of procedures that will avoid the confusion that has obtained down the ages and, worryingly, has already been seen in the present Session. We need to get the system right to help all of us to represent the concerns of our constituents better."
The motion went on to be passed without a vote.