Arcane
in Held in contempt
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This chapter begins with a vignette of ‘super Saturday’ in autumn 2019 when the House of Commons held a ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit but hardly anyone – including MPs – understood what actually happened in the House of Commons. It makes the case that parliamentary procedure is excessively complex and arcane and argues that it is detrimental to democracy if the public does not understand what is going on in parliament.

The chapter explains what parliamentary procedure is and how its uncodified nature makes it difficult for MPs, let alone the public, to understand. It considers why procedure is so complicated and argues that complexity should not be an inherent feature of parliamentary rules. It explores what has been done to try to simplify parliamentary procedure and make it easier to understand, and the barriers to democratising the workings of parliament in this way.

The public’s perception is that the House of Commons is a private club, run according to incomprehensible rules which set MPs apart from their constituents. This is damaging and should be addressed by a continuous process of reviewing and simplifying the rules. But this will only happen with government support.

Held in contempt

What’s wrong with the House of Commons?

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