Ex-Scottish secretary warns about 'presidential' PM and 'broken' Commons

The Conservative peer claimed unelected special advisers are being used to 'boss around' cabinet ministers.

Ex-Scottish secretary Lord Forsyth warns about ‘presidential’ UK PM and ‘broken’ House of Commons UK Parliament

A former Scottish secretary has sounded a warning about the increasingly “presidential style” of prime ministers in the UK.

Lord Forsyth, a Scottish peer who served in John Major’s cabinet, claimed such a governing style has weakened the UK Parliament’s role in scrutinising laws.

The politician has called for “root and branch” reform to reduce the use of the guillotine which “curtails” debate in the House of Commons.

He said it would also rein in ministers’ use of secondary legislation to enact measures without a vote.

A guillotine, or allocation of time, motion is used by governments to limit the amount of time MPs can spend debating a stage of a bill.

Forsyth said the House of Commons is “failing in its function” to hold the UK Government to account.

Lord Forsyth
Lord Forsyth is calling for reform in the way the UK is governed.

The peer argued that scrutiny now falls largely to the House of Lords where there is no guillotine.

“The House of Commons now, I think, is broken,” he told the Lord Speaker’s Corner podcast.

“The House of Commons is failing in its function. It’s just abandoned its function of considering legislation properly.”

He added: “We’ve moved from a system where the prime minister is first among equals in cabinet to a sort of presidential system where the prime minister is surrounded by special advisors who then boss around cabinet ministers.”

“It is no way to run a country and we’ve seen the consequences of that.

“So we need, I believe, a root and branch reform of the House of Commons and the process of government.”

Forsyth, who was also a member of Margaret Thatcher’s government, said he remains concerned about the quick turnover of ministers.

The UK has seen six chancellors, six home secretaries and a dozen housing ministers since 2016.

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