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Sir George Young: New Politics

This session is on the 'new politics'. We have been reading about the old politics. The briefings that never took place. The mobile phones and keyboards that never moved. The chairs whose occupants were never disturbed.

The Prime Minister toured the studios describing Number 10- as "a family". Iain Duncan Smith has written books about families like that.

This morning we will hear about our vision of the new politics - how the next parliament should be different from this one.

The initial tremors of the last, disastrous year may have died down; but the after-shocks remain. More significantly, the tectonic plates have shifted permanently. Parliament cannot go on as it has before. It must adapt, quickly, to the changing landscape.

Yes, putting right the expenses scandal is one half of the equation - and David set the pace on that. But the other is enabling Parliament to do its job better. The first will begin to rebuild trust in politicians. The second will help to restore people's faith in politics.

When we last took over from Labour, in 1979, we didn't just strengthen the economy - we strengthened Parliament. We established a new system of Select Committees, now one of the most effective mechanisms for holding government to account.

In 2010, we're faced with a similar challenge. Not just paying down Labour's debts. But cutting our democratic deficit too. So just as we will rebalance our finances to get growth back into the economy, we will also rebalance the power between government, Parliament and voters to bring confidence back to politics.

So how will we make this happen and what will change?

First, our parliamentary party will be more representative of the country we live in. On May 7 1997, we limped back to the House of Commons having lost half of our members. If we win this year, over half our MPs will be new. We'll have three times the number of women MPs. Eric Pickles, will be introducing some of our most recently selected candidates a little bit later. But here's something to chew over in the meantime.

The average age of candidates  is 43. That's compared with the average age of MPs currently in the House of Commons - which is 51.1 In May, Parliament is going to be a much younger place. And that's to be celebrated. Because in an institution that is often criticised for being out of touch, this new crop will challenge the old orthodoxy and bring a new approach.

And although they may look fresh-faced, on the Conservative benches they won't be untested. Almost two thirds of our candidates have had a background in business - more than double that of Labour candidates. So we'll be a younger party, but also with more experience of the real world.

But it would be a huge missed opportunity to equip new MPs with out-of-date tools. Having gained the confidence of their electorate, MPs should be empowered to speak with confidence on their behalf. And under a Conservative government, they will.

Backbenchers often struggle to make their voice heard. They can speak in debates, ask questions of ministers and cast their vote in the lobbies; but little happens in the Commons without it being initiated by the Government.

People don't understand how their MP can be so powerless. But this is set to change. This week, David Cameron, the Chief Whip and I have given our support to the creation of a new committee in the House of Commons, comprised of backbenchers of all parties, elected by their colleagues, to schedule debates on the issues that really matter to the people they represent. We want that committee to be up and running at the beginning of the next Parliament, choosing the first topical debate on the first Thursday.

That's not just giving backbenchers a voice - it's giving their constituents a loudhailer.

Time and again, this Government has ducked debates on subjects they're not prepared to discuss. So now when there's an issue of national importance that isn't being addressed, MPs will no longer need to queue up to ask the Government for more time; they'll just go and do it. Less Oliver Twist; more Artful Dodger.

As MPs become more self-confident in representing their constituents, they'll also be better able to hold the Government to account. We'll work to strengthen this. Take Select Committees. At the moment, the Government has a strong hand in appointing the people who are meant to be scrutinising the Government. That's completely wrong. Instead, we'll make sure that the chairmen and women are elected by secret ballot, as will be the members of those committees. So they'll be more assertive and speak with greater authority.

Select Committees make great watchdogs; but they're in danger of turning into poodles - so we'll take them off the leash and give these bulldogs stronger teeth.

And when they've got something big to announce, they'll be guaranteed a much bigger splash. At the moment, Select Committee reports are just sent out in a press release. But under a Conservative government, we'll give Select Committee chairmen the chance to launch their report directly to MPs in the Commons. That way, important issues won't just be relegated to a few columns in a newspaper - but broadcast live to the nation in prime time.

Real parliamentary theatre can be as gripping as great TV drama. So why don't we use the Chamber better?

And if we win, that will happen. We will allow the Opposition to trade the time they spend on those debates, when few turn up, to force the Government to give topical statements on the issues of the day - again in prime time. Most politicians enjoy going under the cameras to argue their case - why don't we encourage them to be in the spotlight in Parliament instead?

But we'll go further. If Parliament is slow to respond to an issue of concern, why should people have to wait? We'll reinvigorate the ancient tradition of the public petition and give it greater force than it has ever had in Parliament's history.

That's why we have said that if 100,000 people sign a petition, we'll make the topic eligible for a debate. And if a Bill wins the support of 1 million people, it could have the chance to be debated and voted on in Parliament. Real people power; not online gimmicks.

A more confident, independent and responsive House is already a huge step forward. But MPs aren't just there to talk - they're there to scrutinise Bills and improve the law.

This is a delicate two-way process: Government needs to control the number of bills and MPs need to have enough time to give their input. But it's going wrong at both ends. Labour legislates too much, too often, with too little effect.

Do you know how many pages of law the Government churns out each year? Over 15,000 sheets of A4.  Much of it is a waste of paper.

So let me recycle a pledge. Under a Conservative Government, there will be fewer Bills, more carefully drafted, more efficiently managed and with greater time to scrutinise them.

That's because we're not going to bring down the guillotine on debates that we don't feel like having. And we're not going to block our ears to the protests from the experts on the outside world when they think Government has got it wrong.

There will be no automatic guillotining of Government Bills. Parliament will have the time it needs to make real improvements to the law

But it's not just the Government's legislative agenda that Parliament is supposed to be scrutinising; it's also Europe's. Our membership of the European Union is one of the biggest constitutional shifts in Britain's history - yet it's almost as though the House of Commons hasn't noticed.

Every year, over 1,000 documents from the EU are deposited in Parliament. But we're woefully inadequate at analysing it properly. That must change and under a Conservative government, we will strengthen the power of the European Scrutiny Committee to put Brussels back where it belongs: under the microscope.

Under the Tories, Parliament won't just work more effectively - it'll also be more accountable than it's ever been before. For that, we should thank the leadership that David Cameron has shown at every stage. We've not just voted for greater transparency but we've also consistently taken action to put right the wrongs of the expenses scandal - paying back money, limiting what could be claimed for and putting frontbench expenditure online. And it doesn't stop there.

In the next Parliament, we'll no longer have the unseemly debates in the Commons on the level of our pay. And we'll never again witness MPs voting on their allowances. Instead, our expenses will be determined and administered by an independent body. And just as the light of transparency helped to uncover this scandal, so the online publication of all our expenses - down to the last receipt - will help to prevent such a crisis happening again.

And one word of warning: if you're an MP that gets into trouble with the law, don't even think about claiming parliamentary privilege.

But as we increase accountability of MPs, we'll also reduce their costs. Instead of just talking about savings, Conservative ministers will be leading from the front by taking a 5 per cent pay cut in their salaries, frozen over the next Parliament. And we will bear down on the subsidies to the refreshment department.

Handing over to MPs more control over their agenda. Strengthening their independence. Making the House more responsive. Sharpening the scalpels of scrutiny. Increasing transparency. Cutting the costs of Parliament. All this will make the House of Commons more on the front foot, and Ministers will have to be more on their toes.

Some of my colleagues on the front bench may ask, "George why are you making our lives harder?" The answer is simple. A stronger Parliament makes for a better government. Good governments have nothing to fear from a stronger and more confident House of Commons. If they both raise their game, the citizen is the winner.

I have sat as an MP in nine Parliaments. I don't' want to sit in another one like this one.

I believe the changes that I have outlined today, implemented by the people you are seeing today, led by the man you will see later, will make the next Parliament more effective than any of the previous ones.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we now need your help to make this vision a reality.

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