Thursday, 20 July 2017

Parliament is more than the debating chamber, it's a 10,0000 strong village

A version of this letters was published in The Guardian on 19 July:

Simon Jenkins  'Journal' article ("A parliament that listens has to get out of London," Guardian,  17 July; repeats arguments he has made before that Parliament should relocate outside of London.

This argument would only make sense if all MPs did at Westminster was to  occasionally make speeches and ask ministers questions in the House of Commons chamber. But they don't!

The Palace of Westminster is a community of  some 10,000 people, from reporters, Hansard recorders and editors, MPs' secretaries and researchers, canteen and restaurant staff, librarians, IT and digital media networking staff, select committee administrators and researchers, excellent librarians, as well as administrative and security officials, cleaners, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, etc

Many of these staff  live in, or within travel distance of,  London; it is simply not practical for all of these people to upsticks and move to live, albeit temporarily in a regional city, however  nice it may be. The same applies to many national organizations who lobby  Parliament. They are located in London partly  to  take advantage of this ease of access to our lawmakers and policy formulators.

Additionally, Parliament at Westminster works synergistically with Whitehall, around the corner, as governmental officials and ministers  go back and forth, sometimes at  very short notice, to appear before MPs in committees or in the case of ministers, answering urgent last minute questions  from MPs in the House of Commons chamber. Such scrutiny by our  elected representatives would not be possible  if ministers were based in London, but Parliament was hundreds of  miles - and several hours - away.

Sir Simon has clearly not thought through the full implications of his proposals.

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