New Communications Come To Aid Of Much Loved UK Institution -

Writing in his capacity as Chairman of the Business and Enterprise Committee Peter explains how engaging with new media can help improve the openess of the parliamentary process.

Parliamentary reform – the sleeping dog which always keeps one eye open – has come crashing back onto the agenda this week, with questions being raised about the House of Lords. Of course that issue needs addressing, but with all the furore over the Lords, it’s easy to forget the Commons still needs dragging and kicking into the 21st century itself.

I’ve been arguing for some time now that we need to make Select Committees more effective and more accountable. As chairman of one and a former chairman of another, I know just how effective and useful they have the potential to be.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary since the establishment of the departmental Select Committee system. However, since they were introduced they have ballooned in size and seen their effectiveness blunted. If they are to do the job they were intended to do – that is, to scrutinise Government departments and departmental policies – they need to be given a new lease of life, and a new set of teeth.

Select Committees can be hugely influential, but there is still relatively little engagement with the general public. That is why I am proud that the Committee I chair – the Business and Enterprise Committee – has launched an innovative web-forum to make sure we hear the public’s views so that we can feed them in to our inquiry on the future of the Post Office network.

The Government asked us to look at how best to secure the future of the Post Office network. Practically every British citizen uses the Post Office regularly, and therefore it is only right that we extend the opportunity for as many people as possible to submit their views on how the network could be improved, and its future secured. This important issue shouldn’t be one just for Parliament, but for the people we serve.

Of course, Select Committee web forums like these are also a way to increase public participation in the political process. Not nearly enough is done by British politicians to take advantage of the communication tools new media and the Internet offer. We lag so far behind the US on this subject that we should be thoroughly embarrassed.

It’s my hope that the Committee’s web forum will be a success, and that it will become an integral part of the Select Committee evidence-gathering process. And if this article hasn’t been a big enough plug for it, can I implore anyone reading with a view on Post Offices to visit the web forum and give us your views.

Parliament needs to open its ears more to the public. I strongly recommend the public start bending them.

***This article was origianlly published on The web forum can be viewed by visiting this link:,1

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