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Administration Committee publishes recommendations on parliamentary communications, highlighting potential for increased engagement with the public

23 November 2023

Sir Charles Walker MP, the Chair of the Administration Committee, today launched the Committee’s report focusing on how the House of Commons can improve the way it communicates with the public about Parliament.

In launching the report, Sir Charles said: “This was the first time the Committee has investigated the House's communications and engagement services, and we can see that that its capability is now well-established and seen as a leader in the sector. However, we remain all too aware of the challenges to the House’s reputation in recent years. The time has come to think bigger. What is the role of the House Administration in upholding the reputation of Parliament through its official communications? How can the House improve the public’s understanding of parliamentary procedure, and why it matters? And how can MPs be involved in the storytelling of Parliament?

“Governments may indeed come and go – but Parliament remains a constant. Our approach to how we communicate about the institution of Parliament should reflect that.”

The report makes several recommendations to the House Administration. Key actions include:

  • The need for an overarching strategy, developed and delivered by the House Administration, that promotes the institution of Parliament and its democratic proceedings. The strategy should be presented to the Committee annually for review.
  • Capitalise on the networks and reach of individual MPs, equipping them with the tools to explain how Parliament works.
  • Continue to improve accessibility on the Parliamentary website, and make the vast amount of information that is already available easier for the public to find.
  • Harness the potential of and provide more real-time information about Chamber and Committee proceedings.
  • Develop flagship video content, helping the public to understand more about the procedure which binds Parliament.

The Committee took evidence from a range of experts, including academics in the fields of parliamentary studies and political communications, and a number of media outlets. Communications experts from the UK’s devolved Parliaments provided an important perspective on how other institutions in the UK communicate with their respective constituencies, with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association giving insight into international attitudes towards the House and its services. Private, informal discussions with communications and engagement leads from across the House were held to gain an understanding of the current offer.

Parliament is, as the report states, ‘a place that conducts serious business’ - with a House Administration employing thousands of experts across different fields to facilitate the work of MPs. That work has become increasingly nuanced and has developed over time. Clearly, ‘communicating the Commons’ has never been more complex. However, new opportunities to widen access and participation are emerging – and building on the successes of the past twenty years, the Administration should not be afraid to speak positively of its own work as well as that of the MPs it supports.

Comment from the Chair

“The Administration must work with Members to communicate the Commons more effectively - countering the narratives of dysfunction and distrust. It is clear that there must be a greater emphasis on equipping MPs with the tools to better explain the work they do and demonstrate the value of Parliament’s ability to hold the Government to account.

“Our inquiry demonstrated the opportunities which lie in improving the tools we already have - like the website and - both of which make the Commons more accessible to our constituents. But we also need a clear strategy that can promote Parliament as an institution, explain how it works and celebrate the expertise within the Administration as well as its democratic proceedings – both of which have influenced countless legislatures across the world.

“As someone who has chaired a select committee for eleven years, this inquiry has led me to think beyond work that can be done by the House Administration. How can broadcasters be better equipped? What is the role of external institutes in considering and explaining the complexities of procedure and Parliament? While we have completed this inquiry, we have committed to continue exploring these questions in the coming months”.

Further information

Image credit: Elspeth Keep/UK Parliament