MPs returned to the Commons this week to the unusual sight of a major debate with votes on an important Bill.
I say unusual because the past few months has seen little in the way of government legislation leading some to label this a ‘Zombie Government’.
There are many reasons why this government appears to be running out of steam. This is a five-year fixed term so we know the date, barring a political earthquake, of the date of the election.
Traditionallyparliaments lasted four years so there’s extra space to fill. We have a coalition government and the Coalition Agreement is virtually done.
To bring forward new bills risks a big fall out within government. Add to that the Conservative view that Parliament passes too much legislation and the boast that fewer bills will have been passed by this Parliament than for decades before and there’s a vacuum to fill.
The opposition has done our share bringing debates to the House on the more than 19 days we’re allotted.
A further 35 days were given to the Backbench Business Committee to fill with more topical debates. The problem was that having given time for debate on issues like badgers, the effect of welfare reforms and the sell off of forests the government ignored the votes when they went against them. Not surprisingly many MP’s asked what’s the point?
For our part in the new session, following what looks like a thin Queens Speech, we’ll be looking to use every opportunity to debate our ideas like having qualified teachers in state schools and a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people. Ministers may prefer shorter parliamentary weeks, fewer votes, with fewer whipped days. That’s not what Parliament is for and belies the scale of the challenges our country faces.