The Backbench Business Committee was one of the most innovatory ideas to emanate in the last Parliament from the Committee on Commons Reform – widely known as the Wright Committee, after its chairman the former Labour MP Tony Wright, rightly seen as one of the patron saints of parliamentary reform.
It must have been particularly disappointing for him that it was the last Labour Government who used every procedural device in the book to block this idea from coming to fruition before the election; something that the Coalition Government is proud of having put right immediately we came to office.
The creation of a new committee may not seem in itself a particularly radical move; indeed, some may say it seems like the opposite. But in this case, what was important was not so much its structure or membership; it was its remit and powers. In addition to setting up the Committee, the Government handed over a significant chunk of parliamentary time during a session – more than that afforded to opposition parties – to schedule debates on matters of genuine interest to backbenchers and their constituents. Before these reforms, backbenchers have not been able to bring forward substantive motions regularly to the floor of the House since the late 19th century. The government has helped to liberate the legislature from 100 years of executive control.