Thursday, 23 July 2015

APPGs and Select Committees

Sometimes a media report on Westminster will mention reports "by MPs", or by "committees of MPs". Such phrases don't highlight the nature of the group involved.

Select Committees are set up by the House of Commons. (There are also Select Committees in the House of Lords and Joint Committees). The most well known are the Departmental Select Committees, which are covered by Standing Order 152. Further related Standing Orders are 121-152K (2015 Standing Orders as amended by the Addendum of June 2015). One of the most well known, and influential select committees is the Public Accounts Committee - which I attended on Tuesday.

There is a video on committees - accessible here.

APPGs (All Party Parliamentary Groups) are set up by MPs and Peers themselves. They are wholly unofficial. They can range from APPGs promoting serious policy issues, to ones celebrating a particular leisure or cultural interest of its members (such as the Jazz Appreciation APPG). A register of APPGs is regularly published (the latest - March 2015 - is available here)

The range can be seen from the last 20 entries -

Weight Watchers
Wellbeing Economics
West Coast Main Line
West Midlands
Wine and Spirit
Women and Enterprise
Women in Parliament
Women in the Penal System
Women, Peace and Security
Women’s Sport and Fitness
Wood Panel Industry
World Governance
Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire
Young Disabled People
Youth Affairs
Youth Hostelling
Youth Unemployment
Zoos and Aquariums

A guide to the rules governing APPGs can be found here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Spending Review

This morning's British newspapers & news websites are full of information about the Spending Review which Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced yesterday. (Guardian,  Daily Mail, (how's that for balance!) - BBC, SkyNews).

The document itself is available here.

The results will be announce on 25th November - keep that date for your diary!

Periodic Spending Reviews have become a regular part of the British political scene. The most recent (with links) were in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Health Select Committee

Over the last year I have been attending sessions of the Education Select Committee - and for the last few weeks the Public Bill Committee for the Education & Adoption Bill. Yesterday I attended a Hansard Society event on select committee (which I will post about later this week).

Today, I hope to watch another committee in action - the health Select Committee. Here are the details -

The House of Commons Health Committee will be hearing oral evidence from Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, from 9.30 am.

The Committee is expected to question Mr Stevens on a variety of matters affecting the NHS, including the financial performance of the NHS, prevention and public health, the NHS workforce and staffing, urgent and emergency care, mental health services, and the post-Francis Review progress on changing culture in the NHS.

Ahead of the session, the Committee has received a brief statement from NHS England on progress with the NHS Five Year Forward View, published last October. The text of that statement can be found below.

Overview of progress on the Five Year Forward View

When the NHS came together to produce the Five Year Forward View our ambition was to reframe the terms of debate: to set out a shared view of the challenges ahead and the choices we face about the kind of health and care service we want in 2020. Working with patient groups, clinicians, local government and national partners, we tapped into a widespread consensus on the need for change, and a shared ambition for the future.

It’s a future that empowers patients, their families and carers to take more control over their own care and treatment: a future that dissolves the artificial divide between family doctors and hospitals, between physical and mental health and between health and social care. One that no longer locks expertise into outdated buildings, with services fragmented, patients having to visit multiple professionals for multiple appointments; one organised to support people with multiple conditions not just a single disease.
e now have a consensus about the challenges ahead, a commitment to at least £8bn of additional funding and support for the changes needed to shape the future NHS. Our shared challenge is to close three gaps in health care: the health and wellbeing gap, the care and quality gap, and the funding and efficiency gap. In the months since the Forward View’s publication, we have made progress in all three areas.

Closing the care and quality gap

As a catalyst to create new ways of delivering care that are better suited to modern health needs, we have initiated a ‘Vanguard’ programme to develop, implement and learn how to replicate the new care models outlined in the Forward View. 269 localities came forward with their ideas on how to design new models of care, and following a period of peer assessment, 29 were selected to form the initial cohort. We have since initiated two further Vanguard groups.  The first invites expressions of interest from hospitals across England to develop new ways of collaborating and sharing resources.  The second seeks areas covering five million people to become Urgent and Emergency Care Vanguards. The successful areas will be announced shortly.

Our aim is not just to improve services in the Vanguard areas, but to develop models that can be replicated elsewhere, so that all patients can benefit in the future. However, there are a number of local health and care systems where the conditions for transformation do not yet exist. In these challenged areas, we will implement a ‘Success Regime’. The first cohort includes North Cumbria, Essex and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon. These areas will benefit from short-term improvement in current performance, support for medium and longer term transformation, and a greater focus on leadership capacity and capability.
We have also established independent taskforces on Cancer, Mental Health and Maternity services, to identify further opportunities for improving these specific services.

Closing the health and well-being gap

To meet the needs of patients in a sustainable way, the NHS can no longer simply respond to the forecasts of ill health and increased costs; the NHS must become a pro-active agent of change, taking bold action in partnership with individuals, local government and third sector bodies to ‘bend the curve’ on predicted trends. To drive this increased emphasis on prevention, we have established a national prevention board, chaired by Public Health England, and with an early focus on diabetes prevention.

The Diabetes Prevention Programme, together with Diabetes UK, aims to halt the predicted rise in this disease, by delivering at scale lifestyle interventions that have been shown to help individuals at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Seven local demonstrator sites have been developing the early stages of the programme and over the next few years we roll out the programme out across England.

Closing the funding and efficiency gap

The Forward View highlighted that if we continue with the current model of care and historic trends continue, it is likely we will face a substantial funding gap between projected health spending requirements and available resource. So the NHS needs a combination of new investment and new efficiency to create the headroom to manage increased demand and continue to improve care. To achieve these savings there are three main areas where the NHS is taking action:

Preventing and managing demand – reducing, wherever possible, the need for health care in the first place by supporting people to keep healthy, through actions like the Diabetes Programme.
Maximising the value of our £115bn spend – driving up productivity and reducing inefficiencies so that more of our budget is spent on patients who need our care, with early action to reduce agency spend and consultancy services.

Redesigning services – investing in new ways of providing joined up care in a more clinical and cost-effective way for patients and their carers through the development of New Care Models.

Delivering together

We have established an NHS Five Year Forward View Board to bring together the CEOs of the national NHS bodies to ensure oversight and delivery of the vision. Because the scale of the required changes cannot be driven by the centre nor delivered by the NHS alone, we have also launched a programme of engagement, led by the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and other partners such as the LGA, National Voices, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal College of GPs. The results of our engagement and the Spending Review process will inform the service’s national and local planning processes in autumn, providing the foundation for the next phase of delivery.

Further information

The oral evidence session will be open to the public and will take place in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House. The session will also be broadcast live on www.parliamentlive.tv and on BBC Parliament.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Hansard Society

Today the Hansard Society will hold its AGM in the Palace of Westminster. The Society has been a great advocate and educator about the Westminster Parliament and beyond (and as Parliaments have been established in the other nations of the UK, it has been active within them). It's website states -

"The Hansard Society believes that the health of representative democracy rests on the foundation of a strong Parliament and an informed and engaged citizenry. Founded in 1944, we are a charity working in the UK and around the world to promote democracy and strengthen parliaments. An independent, non-partisan political research and education Society our work is devoted to:

1. Exploring the evolution of representative democracy: offering evidence-based ideas for reform of political and parliamentary institutions, processes and culture to help foster democratic renewal.
2. Educating citizens, particularly young people: so that they have the knowledge and confidence to play an active role in our democracy and be future leaders in civic and political life.
3. Connecting citizens with parliamentarians and policy-makers: through innovative on and off-line initiatives to address the democratic deficit.
4. Convening debate on topical political issues: providing a non-partisan forum for the exchange of ideas about our democratic future.

The website is well worth exploring. It has some excellent resources. Each year they produce their "Audit of Political Engagement", which is taken very seriously by Parliamentarians and academics. Those who don't use it deny themselves much useful information about what is going on in the minds of electors. Can anyone wishing to be an MP afford not to read it?

It has also played a key role in encouraging Parliamentary Reform during its history - and Parliament is all the better for it.

After the AGM some of the newly elected select committee chairs will discuss how committees organise their work, their role in the scrutiny process, the challenges the committees will face over the coming year, as well as their aims for this Parliament and what they would consider a successful outcome.

I'm really looking forward to going.

For further information about the Hansard Society visit http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/


Saturday, 18 July 2015


It's that time of year again - renewal of my subscription to the American Political Science Association. Why does a Brit like myself join APSA? (I am a member of the UK's Political Studies Association). There are some excellent resources for any academic interested in US Politics. There are three journals which are supplied to all members.

The American Political Science Review
Perspectives on Politics
PS: Political Science and Politics

To date I have been receiving the physical versions - and there are regularly articles of interest to me as a researcher into the US Congress; Elections & Political communication. My home though does not have enough storage space - and from now on I'm only going to get the pdfs.
In addition there are Organised Sections -  I'm a member of the Legislative Studies Section - and have had membership in
Political Organizations and Parties
Political Communication
Political Psychology
Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior
Due to pressure of time, I am doing less in those areas now, so leave them at the end of this month.

There are various conferences put on by APSA - and perhaps one day I will get across to attend one.

In my view, if you are serious about studying US Politics, APSA membership is a must!