The UK government has allowed the “bible” of parliamentary procedure, Erskine May, to be published online – fully and freely accessible for the first time in the 175-year history of the book.
Anyone with an internet connection can now explore the full intricacies of everything that goes on in Westminster, from “Absence, leave of” to “Zircon” (an intelligence satellite which caused a stir in parliamentary privilege in 1988), without shelling out £329.99 for the print edition or trying to track it down in a library.
Expect it to go viral. With the rules properly in the public domain for the first time, teens will be sharing Ways and Means memes, online quizzes will finally tell you which standing order you are, and Tinder dates will tap you up for “nemine contradicente and chill”.
Or more likely, the most diligent political journalists will save a few hundred quid, and few else will notice.
The audience may be limited, but the publishing of this information in an accessible format is a big step forward for parliamentary democracy.
For our institutions to be properly held to account, it is essential that they can be understood. Parliamentary procedure is often arcane and convoluted, evolving to cope with different challenges of the day. That the one guide to this hodgepodge of precedence was essentially off-limits to the ordinary observer was absurd.
The constitutional growing pains that we have experienced over Brexit in the last few months only serve to highlight this. At every turn, the powers set out in Erskine May have been hugely important.
The selection of amendments, the ability to bring bills back to the House, and above all the range of discretion held by the speaker of the House of Commons, are all informed by this weighty tome. So too will any attempt to prorogue parliament or force an early election.
It is right and proper that the public is able to properly assess the decisions made, with the rules there for reference. It is also important that we can question how our institutions work and if they are serving both their constitutional purpose and the needs of the nation. This can only be done if those beyond the bubble are informed.
When the speaker, the Commons, and the Lords collide, it is vital to know what rules govern whom and how they operate. Without this, shenanigans can become precedent without anyone really realising, undermining parliament and democracy itself.
The ability of those playing along at home to follow the rules can be a real check on the system. It may only be a peculiarly interested few, but these watchdogs of Westminster can highlight egregious behaviour and try to ensure that it has electoral consequencesRead More – Source