Offerman Consulting
spacer Zone

Speaker's Commission urges UK House of Commons to open up

Author: Adrian Offerman

The UK parliamentary Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy just published its 'Open Up!' report. This report contains five targets for parliament, with 34 associated recommendations and actions to catalyse participation in politics using digital technology.

Topping it all is a recommendation for the House of Commons to formally adopt the principles set out in the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness. This declaration was launched at the 2012 World e-Parliament Conference and calls upon parliaments and legislative assemblies for an increased commitment to transparency, openness and citizen engagement.

Targets and recommendations

The five targets set by the Speaker's Commission are:

  1. by 2020, the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does;
  2. by 2020, parliament should be fully interactive and digital;
  3. the 2015 newly elected House of Commons should immediately set up a new way for members of the public to have their say during House of Commons debates;
  4. by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters;
  5. by 2016, all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for re-use; parliamentary transcripts (Hansard) should be available as open data by the end of 2015.

In the report the Commission specifically refers to openness in various places:

  • Recommendation 6: Parliament, should introduce, by the end of 2016, a new set of online tools for drafting, amending and publishing legislation which are easier to use and provide open data on bills and amendments.
  • Parliament should open up the law-making process to get people involved in the earlier stages, when the government is still forming its policies and thinking about what it wants to put in draft laws.
  • Recommendation 18: We believe the public want the opportunity to have their say in House of Commons debates; we also believe that this will provide a useful resource for MPs and help to enhance those debates. We therefore recommend a unique experiment: the use of regular digital public discussion forums to inform debates held in Westminster Hall. This innovation might be known as the "Cyber Chamber" or "Open House". If at the end of the next Parliament it has been successful, it could then be extended to debates in the main House of Commons chamber itself.
  • Much parliamentary information is not created in a format that can be made available to the public as open data. It has to be converted into another format in order to do this, which is costly and time-consuming. These kinds of inefficient processes must be reformed so that information is handled more efficiently and a digital-first approach is taken (Recommendation 27).
  • Recommendation 31: All Parliamentary information in the public domain should be made available to the public as downloadable data in formats which make them easy to re-use. Hansard and the register of MPs' interests should be made available as open data by the end of 2015, followed by bills.
  • Recommendation 34: The House of Commons should formally adopt the principles set out in the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness.