The announcement earlier this week that George Osborne wants all Government departments to identify 40% savings across their budgets is something of a smokescreen. Some Departments will come up with savings that are real and achievable, others will struggle to do so, and a few will probably either largely ignore the request or offer such crazy suggestions that all concerned will know they are not serious. The further away from the office of the Minister concerned, the more likely that a ruthless set of cuts will be made. This is why local government is an easy target, along with the Police, Fire and Rescue. One of the places that the Chancellor has not looked as yet, has escaped the first round of cuts under the coalition, has just had a 10% increase in its budget and will soon spend even more on its premises and is not expected to be part of the 40% cuts. This is in the Houses of Commons and Houses of Lords. It is clearly time for leadership to be shown by these men and women.
In most bicameral Parliaments, the second House is smaller, not larger than the first House. Here in the UK we have nearly twice as many Lords as we do MPs. That clearly needs to change. The House of Commons Chamber is designed for 270 people to be accommodated. If the number of MPs was reduced to this number, there would be a 60% cut in their direct costs. Even if the cut was limited to 40% we would see the Commons reduce to 390 MPs. Clearly to make this sort of reduction would demand a change to the electoral system. First Past the Post is not used by any of the Political Parties for selecting their own representatives for any committee or for Party leader. It becomes less representative the larger the constituencies concerned. We need that to change. We also need to see the Lords reduce, perhaps to 200-250 Peers. Some form of system that prevents the Political Parties dominating any election or selection process needs to be found. We need to severely limit the number of MPs and Civil Servants who can join this exclusive club.
The impact of reducing the Houses of Commons and Lords to this extent would mean that the Cabinet and hence Government Departments would need to change, forcing a totally different way of doing business as a nation. The nature of Parliamentary discourse needs to change too. We need to see an end to debates where one or two MPs or Lords are debating an issue, only for their colleagues who are hard at work in their offices, or in the bars to come in and vote. There is no point holding a debate if minds are already made up. The speed with which legislation is enacted would increase. Inevitably there would be far fewer Committees, but Parliament itself would need to play a much stronger scrutiny role. It is time for us to shape our Parliament they are clearly not intending to reform themselves.