As this first long session of Parliament ends it is a good time to reflect on what the Coalition Government has tried to do over the 290 sitting days since the beginning of this first session. The Government has passed 31 main programme Bills since May 2010: implementing reforms to our public services, reducing the UK’s record budget deficit and making important changes to our constitutional architecture.
As the Prime Minister set out at the start of the session, our first legislative programme has been guided by three core values: responsibility, fairness and freedom.
While introducing a full programme of reforms, the Government has also tried to do better than the last government in how laws are passed through Parliament. Under Labour, bills were too often used as a way of generating news rather than seeking to change behaviour; policy was not properly prepared in Whitehall, often forcing the government to make major amendments to redraft ill-considered clauses; and inadequate time was given to debate.
In contrast, the Coalition has aimed to legislate less but more effectively. We have ensured that there has been better scrutiny of legislation. The Government has provided multiple days at Report stage for 9 bills: more than in any session in the previous parliament; indeed our record in two years matches Labour’s efforts over the full five years! In addition, 18 public bill committees have finished their work early. At the same time, we have shown our strong commitment to proper pre-legislative scrutiny: publishing 11 Bills wholly or partly in draft.
As well as introducing Bills implementing a wide range of coalition policy, we have also provided 58 days for the Backbench Business Committee, with over 40 of these taken as debates on the floor of the House. This enables a much greater range of issues of public concern to be discussed in the Chamber.
It is clear that the Government has hit mid-term with a vengeance over the last month and the results of last night’s Local Election reflect that. But if we are to avoid the failure of many countries in Europe whose economies are in deep turmoil, we must stick to the Coalition’s economic strategy.