E-democracy

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons Commission – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 4th February 2003.

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Photo of Margaret Moran Margaret Moran Labour, Luton South 11:30 am, 4th February 2003

What measures he intends to take to implement the recommendations of the Information Committee report on e-democracy.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

The Commission has accepted the advice of the Finance and Services Committee on the priorities for implementing the Committee's recommendations on matters that fall to the Commission. Work is already under way on a number of those issues and the Finance and Services Committee will monitor progress.

It may be of interest to the House to be reminded that one of the main objectives of the strategic plan for House administration is to improve public understanding and knowledge of the House and to increase accessibility to it. I think that the Information Committee's report certainly helps in that.

Photo of Margaret Moran Margaret Moran Labour, Luton South

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. He will be aware that the excellent report by the Information Committee suggests that we use technology to engage electronically with citizens to ensure that the usually unheard voices are heard in this place and to enable individual MPs to engage in e-participation. Will he consider whether moneys could be set aside for such experiments, not just to enable us to use technology in pre-legislative scrutiny, but to enable individual MPs to participate in pilot schemes to ensure that we can use e-consultation to engage citizens and to reconnect them to politics in this place?

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for that suggestion. Her advocacy of information and communications technology in this place is admirable and I encourage her to continue in her attempts to get the House facilities improved in that way. Certainly, the Liaison Committee is looking at ways of promoting online consultations for those Select Committees that want to go in that direction. Any specific plans that she has for engaging individual Members in online consultations would be considered positively.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour/Co-operative, North West Leicestershire

May I ask the hon. Gentleman how he expects the growing campaign, led so effectively by the Back Bencher of the year, my hon. Friend Mr. Allen, for the wider public to be involved in the consultation process on draft legislation to take effect? Is it not high time that we were doing much more in that respect?

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

It is possible that we should be putting more facilities in place for online consultations. As the Information Committee realised at recommendation (p), a good deal needs to be done to set up an online consultation. It needs someone to act as a moderator and those who participate need to be led clearly into an understanding of what they will get out of it. It also requires hon. Members who contribute to the online process to put in quite a bit of time. All those things need to be carefully worked out to ensure that the consultation process is successful for those who participate in it. We are actively pursuing, in every way we can, the promotion of such consultations for those hon. Members and Select Committee that wish to pursue them.