The second day of the Westminster Seminar 2018 focused on the roles of parliamentarians and clerks in two separate programmes.
The first session of the clerk programme started with a discussion about the importance of the role of clerks and optimising their interaction with parliaments and parliamentarians. The next session explored how clerks balance the need to be politically sensitive with the principle of impartiality. Later in the day, the visiting clerks spent time looking at the use of technology in communicating their work and used virtual reality glasses to explore how technology can be effectively used by committees. Finally, Sir David Natzler KCB, Clerk of the House of Commons, recounted his experiences as the principal constitutional adviser to the House, of the challenges facing clerks and of the use of parliamentary privilege.
The first session of the programme for parliamentarians kicked off with group work exploring the most pressurised aspects of being a parliamentarian. Alex Norris MP, Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and Adam Holloway MP asked the groups to share their own personal experiences and work through solutions together. Balancing constituents’ expectations with parliamentary work was a common issue. Delegates spent time with UK parliamentarian Justin Madders MP and Hon Anna Watson, Acting Opposition Whip from the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in Australia, discussing courtesy and consideration in the debating chamber and parliamentary privilege.
Following this, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, spoke about keeping order in the House of Commons as a referee but not a player over the last nine years. The Speaker has to find a way of accommodating increasing numbers of parliamentarians wishing to speak on the floor of the House and has to stand up for the rights of the House of Commons. He spoke about his efforts to modernise the parliamentary estate by introducing a nursery and education centre, and of keeping the customs that matter.
Clerks and parliamentarians came together to share their expertise during a joint discussion about the influence of committees and their role in policy scrutiny. Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the International Development Committee, spoke about the evolution of select committees in the UK and seeking cross-party consensus on key thematic and country-specific issues. Hon Audrey Vidot of the Seychelles presented information about the committee structure in the Seychelles, and how committees address key issues by going out to visit and meet people. Dr Hannah White, Deputy Director of the Institute for Government, spoke about the importance of the select committee system in counteracting party politics.
Finally, delegates participated in a session about parliamentary security and education outreach, and a session with the former Presidents of Boswana and Mozambique, HE Festus Mogae and HE Joaquim Chissano, on working towards an Aids-Free Generation.
Please click to read about Day 1, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5 of the Westminster Seminar 2018.