https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2017/09/25/starting-work-on-a-parliamentary-procedure-guide/

Starting work on a procedure guide for MPs

Copies of Erskine May on a shelf

I’m a product manager at PDS and I want to share the findings from a recent discovery phase into a guide on Parliamentary procedure.

What Parliamentary procedure is

Parliamentary procedure is the set of rules and customs that govern how Parliament works. Procedural advice currently exists in different forms such as Erskine May and standing orders. However some practices haven't been documented despite being passed down over centuries.

Creating a guide could help people have a better understanding of how to scrutinise government, debate a topical issue or make a new law.

Why we did this work

We had a lot of evidence that there was confusion around Parliamentary procedure. MPs and staff reported that:

  • guidance on procedure was hard to find
  • the language used wasn’t clear
  • users didn’t know all the procedures available to them

Method for investigation

We formed a product team and started investigating who the users are and what they would need from this guide. We interviewed MPs and their staff, looked into what's currently available and researched how others had solved problems in the past.

Findings

The team discovered:

  1. current guidance is fragmented in many places
  2. there’s no single source of guidance that users can trust
  3. the vast majority of users rely on their colleagues. They chatted, called or emailed each other when seeking guidance on how to do a task that involved Parliamentary procedure
  4. MPs’ staff have a tremendous amount of responsibility in helping MPs to navigate Parliamentary procedures
  5. MPs are extremely busy. Learning about procedure is not their top priority. They want to achieve certain outcomes (table an urgent question for example) and not know all the intricate details of specific procedures
  6. if written guidance was to be produced then it needs to be outcome-focused. It should be succinct and practical

Next steps

As the investigation phase was ending, the team suggested a minimal viable product which would meet the needs of users. Since then we've formed a new team to carry on this work, build a prototype and continue research on helping to make Parliament easier to navigate.

Find out more about the work we do by following us on Twitter

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