Public Reading Stage (Government Bills)

Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock 10:30 am, 22nd March 2012

What progress he has made on establishing a public reading stage for Government Bills.

Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The Government conducted an experiment with a public reading stage on the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Following an evaluation of the experiment, we intend to conduct trials in the second Session to determine the best ways for members of the public to comment on specific details of legislation. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I will update the House on our detailed plans early in the next Session.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he tell the House from whom he will seek advice on how best to push this measure forward?

Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

It is very important that, before we undertake further pilots of public reading stages, we have an opportunity to reflect on any improvements that could be made to the technology and the processes involved. That will involve talking to many people. Hon. Members may have seen the recent announcement that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has agreed to advise the Government on improving open government, and we will want that work to influence how we proceed with public reading stages.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat, East Dunbartonshire

I welcome what my hon. Friend says about improving public engagement, particularly with regard to public reading stages. Does he agree that we need to make it easier for the public to follow Committee stages of Bills, too, once the public reading stage is over? Will he have discussions with Jimmy Wales and others, particularly those involved in social media and online engagement, on how we can demystify the legislative process in this country, so that more members of the public can contribute their views?

Photo of David Heath David Heath The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend highlights the purpose of what we are trying to do, and she rightly says that we are trying to demystify the process. The more that members of the public can interact with the House and understand how we go about our business and how they can influence the progress of legislation, the better. I can certainly give her a commitment that we will be looking at that. We will be looking at a variety of innovative ways to help the public to understand the process of legislation and the legislation itself, when it is presented to the House and to the public.