The news has just broken that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has been abolished, following meetings between the party whips.
The Committee was established in 2010, mainly in order to scrutinise the work of the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who had responsibility for a host of reforms – so many, in fact, that he infamously suggested we’d get “the biggest shake-up in our democracy since 1832“.
As it turned out, of course, most of these reforms either failed to materialise, or were rejected. The only one that has remained in place that I can think of is the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, and one can envisage a situation where even that is under threat.
This is not the point, though.
The Committee got through a prodigious amount of work between 2010 and 2015. It was arguably one of the most active and conscientious committees in Parliament.
Now it is being abolished, in the face of an obvious need to retain Parliament’s ability to scrutinise matters of political and constitutional reform. Perhaps the whips from the Conservatives and Labour don’t think it’s worth having such a body in place in order to deal with – oh, I don’t know – Scottish devolution, an EU referendum, and constituency boundary changes to name but three.
The argument might run that these issues would be better dealt with by other Committees. There is a Scottish Affairs Committee, for instance, that will be doing work on devo max and full fiscal autonomy. The Foreign Affairs Committee, too, might suggest it is well placed on European issues.
But the reality is that a committee dedicated to thinking about and suggesting alterations to the fine detail of political and constitutional reform – which will inevitably eventuate from these processes, whether or not we see the seismic shifts that are possible were we to leave the EU – is a very sensible idea.
Moreover, I tend to the view that the more bodies available to challenge government policy and suggest improvements, the better.
The reality seems to be that this is yet another early casualty of the Lib Dems’ lack of Parliamentary representation. How many more times will we have to point to a lack of liberalism within the House of Commons over the next decade?
EDIT: The other thing about this is that it is a direct slap in the face for the 477,000 who signed the Electoral Reform Society petition on voting reform, which was only delivered to Downing Street on Monday, supported by the Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP and others.