Cynicism about politics

One of the things that really saddens me is the growing cynicism about politics.

The media, social networks and, all too often, the communications I receive from constituents are filled with a sense of pessimism about our political system. A widely shared view is that people and MPs can’t make a difference and that Government can just do what it likes – but that is absolutely not the case. So, in my last-but-one column as a Member of Parliament I want to convince you that our political system is still very effective.

Things have changed and it’s true we do things differently, but Prime Minister’s Questions is not a measure of our success, I’m glad to say! It’s the role of Select Committees in the political process that we should celebrate – they are now by far the most effective part of Parliamentary life.

Select Committees can summon ministers, business leaders and other public figures to give evidence. Even the Prime Minister has to go and be questioned by members of a specific select committee. These questioning sessions give the MPs on the Committee the chance to cross examine policies or plans and ask the tricky questions. As all the sessions are filmed and widely reported, there is no hiding place for those being questioned. That’s the main way government is now held to account by MPs.

Once all the evidence and information has been collected, the committees write a report setting out what they have found and recommending what the Government should do.

Having chaired two committees in my twenty three years as a Member of Parliament, and sat on many more, I know how important it is to get the committee’s reports right. But these reports are often very powerful and can change policy. For example, recommendations from a report from my Business Committee about pubs and pub companies have now been adopted and put into law by this Government.

Most MPs who are not ministers sit on at least one Select Committee – I now serve on the International Development Select Committee – and all of the committees are made up of MPs from all parties. Their cross party nature means that the reports they produce are fair and balanced.

So, my main response to the cynics is that we do have an extremely effective way of keeping a strong eye on the government. They are a big reason for hoping that more and more people will see their vote really does count.


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