From Simon Hughes’ website:
In a letter to Lorely Burt MP, Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, Simon Hughes has set out his proposals on how Liberal Democrats should organise themselves in this parliament in order to provide the best supportive but independent voice in a parliament of coalition government:
As you know, I warmly welcome the review which you proposed and which the parliamentary party agreed on 26th May.
Thank you also for meeting me to discuss the progress of the review. I write this in the hope that it may be helpful ahead of the review group meeting on 7th June.
For me, and as soon as the deputy leadership election is concluded – whatever the outcome – the priority must be for the leader to appoint a team of spokespeople in the Commons, in addition to those already announced and serving in government.
I will set out now what I believe to be the best structure, but obviously wish also to listen to the views and voices of colleagues so the structure eventually agreed on commands the maximum support and participation.
- For those departments where there is no Liberal Democrat minister, we should have a shadow secretary of state in the Commons. By my reckoning these are: Environment Food and Rural Affairs; Culture, Media and Sport; International Development; Wales; Northern Ireland, and the Law Officers.
- For those departments where there is a Liberal Democrat minister and a Conservative Secretary of State, then there should be a Liberal Democrat lead spokesperson in the Commons.
- For those departments where there is a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State, there should be a Liberal Democrat MP outside of government with particular responsibility for that department’s business.
- Immediately after the announcement of the parliamentary team in the Commons, the leader, deputy leader and chief whip should enter into discussions with the Speaker and the other major parties to agree how our spokespeople will be treated in the Commons – at question time, statements, urgent questions and debates. We should seek an arrangement that where a Conservative minister makes a statement, answers an urgent question or opens the debate the Liberal Democrat spokesperson should be the second speaker from the government benches, and where a Liberal Democrat minister makes the statement, answers the question or opens the debate, then a Conservative should be the second speaker from the government benches. We will need to negotiate how and when a Liberal Democrat leads in Prime Ministers questions – obviously without unreasonably fettering the Speaker’s rights or the rights of all colleagues outside government to ask questions when they wish to do so.
- To avoid duplication of responsibility and to maximise the profile of the party and the individuals involved, the lead spokesperson from outside government should also be the Liberal Democrat nominee to the relevant Select Committee. If colleagues are responsible for one subject in the Commons but a different area in a Select Committee, it is highly unlikely that we will avoid clashes of timetable unless we do this – which could mean frequent absences of the relevant individual either from the chamber or the select committee.
- The parliamentary party should ask the leader, in his appointment of spokespeople from outside the ministerial team, to maximise the opportunity for best gender and other balance. The logic of this is that consideration should be given to other colleagues from the Lords being included in the Liberal Democrat team.
- It seems fundamentally important that we should have a team in place as soon as possible after the Queen’s speech debate. Obviously the arrangements – and even if necessary the individuals – can be changed during the summer holiday so that final arrangements can be put in place in time for parliament’s return and the party conference. We should remember that the official opposition finalise their team and shadow cabinet only after the results of the Labour leadership election, due to be announced at their conference in the autumn.
- In relation to all departments, but in particular those departments where there is no Liberal Democrat Secretary of State or minister at all, and learning from the experience in Scotland and Wales, there should be regular meetings between the Secretary of State and spokespeople in both houses.
- To maximise coordination between ministers and other spokespeople in the Commons, Lords, and elsewhere across the party, the party should immediately constitute standing policy groups to mirror government departments. Each policy group should include: the minister (where there is a Liberal Democrat minister in the Commons or Lords), the Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State or spokesperson; the relevant spokesperson from our group in the European Parliament, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly; the lead Liberal Democrat person on this subject area from local government, and a party policy advisor with special responsibility for this area. The press officer with special responsibility for that subject area should also attend these policy meetings.
- It is a priority that the party confirm in post, reappoint or appoint urgently lead policy advisors for each government department.