» Tuesday, June 9, 2009

National Democratic Renewal Council (DRC)

The Prime Minister s Spokesman (PMS) began by telling the assembled press that the Prime Minister would give a statement to Parliament tomorrow to update the Government s position on the modernisation of Parliament and democratic renewal.

Asked for a flavour of what kind of announcements and what proposals would be made, the PMS advised people to wait until tomorrow. As we had been saying for some time, there were a number of issues where we needed to push forward, for example introducing primary legislation in relation to the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, taking forward proposals on a code of conduct for MPs, looking at issues such as how to strengthen the role of Select Committees and so on, as well as looking at some of the wider debates around the House of Lords and electoral reform.

Asked how appointing six out of eleven Ministers in the Business Department from the House of Lords fitted in with democratic renewal, the PMS said that that was about making sure we had the best people in Government to serve the people of the country. The Prime Minister had always been very open about the fact that he wanted to have a Government of all of the talents.

The Prime Minister had always been open-minded about bringing in people from the outside. What he had also done was strengthened the role of Parliament with respect to the Executive. What we had to do now was to take action in order to modernise Parliament, make it more transparent and more accountable. Asked if the best people in Government were in the House of Lords, the PMS said we were not saying that; what we were saying was that the Prime Minister wanted to have a Government of all of the talents and that was why where appropriate, he was willing to bring in people from the outside.

These included people who had done outstanding work, such as Lord Darzi, who was widely acknowledged to be a world expert in his field and had completed a very highly regarded review and was taking forward the reform of the National Health Service.

Asked what kind of timescale the Prime Minister had in mind for these changes, the PMS advised people to wait for the statement tomorrow. The priority issues would be taking action to clean up Parliament and introducing the independent regulator of Parliament, ending the days of self-regulation and moving to independent statutory regulation. This was where we needed to move as quickly as possible.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would call this a fresh start, the PMS replied that what the Prime Minister would say was that we had to clean up politics. That was a priority for this Government; it was not the only priority as he had also talked about the other priority areas such as the economy and taking the country through the recession and the reform and delivery of public services. This was about building on the work we had already set in train and intensifying it in relation to the clean up of politics.

Asked if the urgent issues would come under the Constitutional Reform Bill, while some of the other issues could be addressed in a White Paper, the PMS said that we could get into those kind of process questions after the statement perhaps, but clearly there was a particular urgency about the need to set up independent regulation of the house of Commons.

Asked what the Prime Minister thought about strengthening Select Committees and taking the whips out of the process, the PMS said there were many issues that would need to be debated. There was some discussion about this at Cabinet and a lengthy discussion at the meeting of the DRC this afternoon. The Prime Minister would set out the Government s current position on these issues tomorrow and we would be able to say more about it then.

Asked if the independent body for MPs expenses would be voted on by MPs themselves, the PMS said that when we first made the proposal following discussion with the opposition parties to move to statutory regulation of the House of Commons. it was widely welcomed. It required statutory legislation to set it up, as the whole point was to put the regulation on a statutory basis.

Put that the fact the Prime Minister was making a statement on this tomorrow meant that the work of the DRC was effectively done, the PMS said that it had only just begun. There would be a further meeting next week and it would meet regularly. The statement tomorrow would be more of an update about where we were and it was by no means the final word.

Put that the Government had said that the DRC would consult people over the summer and what would that entail, the PMS said that the DRC was the mechanism by which the Government formulated its position and drove forward its agenda. It was by no means exclusive and we were not suggesting that the DRC was the single source of wisdom on this subject. Just as the National Economic Council was the way in which we were able to drive forward the Government s economic agenda, so the DRC was the means by which we would take forward the Government s agenda on this front.

We would want to be as open and consultative as possible and we planned to say more about that in the next few weeks. That did not necessarily involve the DRC as there would be other means and other forum for the Government to take forward consultation on these matters. Asked if there would be a role for Citizens Juries, the PMS said that there would be a whole range of ways in which the Government would communicate and consult with the public on the subject.

Asked what the Prime Minister s current position was on changing the Westminster voting system, the PMS said that the Prime Minister s view was that there were arguments for and arguments against, but he was certainly open-minded about having a debate on this issue.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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