HC Deb 06 November 2001 vol 374 cc107-8
46. Margaret Moran (Luton, South)

What plans he has to allow online consultation on draft Bills. [10356]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Stephen Twigg)

New forms of information and communications technology provide important opportunities for widening public participation in the democratic process. It is for individual Committees investigating draft Bills to decide how to conduct their investigations, but I welcome the fact that Committees are making greater use of the internet. On the Government side, draft Bills are now routinely published on the internet, and consultations invite e-mail responses.

Margaret Moran

Is my hon. Friend aware of the online interactive dialogue called Women Speak, which was held by the all-party group on domestic violence with survivors of domestic violence? It involved voices largely unheard by hon. Members, including Irish women travellers and Bangladeshi women. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that the House, when considering legislation, should hear the voices of those who usually go unheard? Will he actively encourage more online interactive consultation on draft Bills?

Mr. Twigg

Yes. I pay tribute to the excellent work that my hon. Friend has done on domestic violence and in pioneering e-democracy. I also pay tribute to her ingenuity in raising the matter twice in different sets of questions this afternoon. It is clearly vital that we use all the forms of technology available to us to encourage an interactive approach for members of the public. Important lessons can be learned from the Women Speak pilot that my hon. Friend mentioned. As of January 2001, all Government documents have routinely been published on the internet. That is an important first step, but we have a long way to go to ensure that we use all these forms of technology properly.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Are the Minister and his right hon. Friend aware that this proposal has been given its current impetus by early-day motion 347, led by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), who is not in his place this afternoon? Is the Minister aware that the context for this is that hon. Member's splendid diatribe on the growth of presidential power in No. 10, and that this is an attempt somewhat to redress the balance of power by bringing back to the House of Commons the opportunity to scrutinise legislation and Executive actions more effectively? Have the Minister and his right hon. Friend had the opportunity to see an advance copy of their hon. Friend's book? If so, perhaps the Minister would like to give us his reaction?

Mr. Twigg

I am tempted to say that my hon. Friend is not here because he is working on his computer. I have not had a chance to see his book either online or on paper, but I look forward to doing so. It demonstrates that there is a continuing and important debate to be had about constitutional reform and about how we can strengthen this Parliament. The task of the Modernisation Committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, is very much concerned with strengthening Parliament and its ability to serve as an effective forum for national political debate.