Tom Brake MP writes…Being Deputy Leader of the Commons

In September waiting by the phone finally paid off, I was given my first ministerial position: Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. If I am perfectly honest, when the position was offered to me, I wasn’t exactly sure what it would entail.  I had to phone a friend (David Heath in case you are wondering) to find out!

I have since learnt that my lack of awareness was at least partially excusable; much of what the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons does goes unseen, with its principal task, one of managing the precious resource that is Government debating or law-making time.

Most of my work takes place behind the scenes, in the very heart of the Government machine, helping to secure smooth passage of the Government’s legislative programme through the House of Commons. This means that I have been involved in the preparations for the Queen’s speech.

I thought that today, with the newspapers full of pundits dissecting the Queen’s Speech, would be a good opportunity to explain the role further.

I am a member of the Parliamentary Business and Legislation (PBL) committee.  PBL, very ably chaired by Andrew Lansley (with whom I have a very good working relationship) is key to ensuring the implementation of the Government’s legislative programme.

PBL essentially acts as a clearing house for all Government legislation including Bills, consultation responses, significant amendments to Bills and Private Members Bills.  PBL traditionally provides a forum in which the state of Bills, the impact on Scotland, Wales and NI, ECHR considerations, the merits of starting Bills in one House or the other and the requirement to balance the workload between the two Houses are carefully analysed.

The work of the Office, the Leader and the Deputy Leader have become more significant since the Coalition Government was formed. Having a position at the centre of Government, with oversight of upcoming Bills and other Government business, provides a last line of defence against Government plans which might not be totally coalition-proofed.

The final aspect of my job within Government, which Nick asked me to take on, was political reform.  The Coalition Agreement was strong on the need for political reform, but delivery to date has been weaker.  There is still the potential and the will to deliver both lobbying reform and recall of MPs in this Parliament.  I will not lose sight of that commitment.

I can appreciate that these are fairly niche topics for most people, but if you would be interested in hearing more about how Parliament can be reformed to make it more effective, I will be hosting a discussion at a future party Conference. To find out more, email me at [email protected]

* Tom Brake was the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington from 1997 to 2019.

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