British and Yemeni MPs Compare Notes [Archives:1998/47/Law & Diplomacy]

November 23 1998

A group of British parliamentarians has recently visited Yemen. The main aim is to look into the prospects and possibilities of cooperation between the Yemeni parliament and the British House of Commons.
Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor, interviewed three members of the delegation.
1. Jim Cousins, Labor MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central:
Q: What is the purpose of your visit?
A: I’ve been in Yemen for three days. We were invited by the British Council to come here. The purpose of our visit is to discuss with our colleagues in Yemen’s parliament how their parliamentary committees work. We want to see the work of the government. We have both members in the parliamentary Committees in the British Parliament. Their job is looking into what the government is doing in the British parliament. So, we’ll be sharing ideas and experiences that we’ve had.
Q: How did you deal with the Yemenis? Were you lecturing them?
A: No, we weren’t. We came to talk about the British Parliament, the way we run committees in the parliament, the changes we’ve made to the committees’ system in the last few years. In our discussions with our friends here, we leave them with some ideas from our experience that they could adapt to the procedures in the Yemeni parliament.
It was also valuable to us because it makes us think about the way we do our work. Many of our procedures are new because we have had to deal with the kind of problems of the modern age, the complexity of government and the mass of information available. This makes parliamentary life different everywhere in the world.
Q: What have you talked about?
A: I think there was a theme running through most of the questions. It was how does one conduct the business of committees in parliament to enable parliament to make its voice effective? how can it influence government? how can it do its job of representing the people properly?
2. Sir Peter Lloyd, Conservative MP for Fareham:
Q: Do you think that Yemeni parliamentarians will benefit from this gathering with you?
A: Yes, I think so. We were able to compare different systems. In Yemen, it is sort of a young democracy. Our parliament has more resources, more traditions, and more ability to carry out work on behalf of the people. So, there are some ideas for Yemeni parliamentarians to pick up and, perhaps start to apply in Yemen.
There were a great many interesting topics, for example the connection between parliament and logo government, parliament and human rights, parliament and the economic work of the government.
3. Dr. Andrew Buxton, Parliamentary Library Expert, information systems manager at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex:
Q: What was the purpose of your visit?
A: My role was to give some technical assistance to the Parliament library, in particular the cataloging system. I’m to implement a database package which came from UNESCO called City Assizes. So, I have been installing it and conducting training by using Arabic in the database system.
Q: Are you going to follow up this issue?
A: Yes, we hope to. We hope that this might be the beginning of, perhaps a number of exchanges between the Yemeni Parliament and the British Parliament. Both the government of Yemen and the Parliament have indicated certain problems to us that they would like us to take up with our own government.
There is clearly a great deal of technical work to support our colleagues in the Yemeni Parliament that we can do. I mean we are linked into the Parliamentary computer system through our own computers. There are also practical things that we can do. We recognize that the economy of Yemen has been effected by the falling of prices which are, of course, beyond the control of the Yemeni government.
This seriously effects what the Yemeni government can do inside Yemen. This is something that we’ll be taking back to our own government and to our European colleague governments to see what assistance we can give.
Q: Why you were chosen from the members of the British Government to present the European Parliament?
A: I’m not sure because I haven’t enquired. But, I have a pretty good idea that it is because both of us are on the Treasury Select Committee. It was primarily regarding budget control that they wanted to talk to us.
I’m Vice-Chairman of the House of Commons, old party, Human Rights Committee. I used to be minister at the Department of the Interior which enables me to give a view of committees from both sides having served on my committee and having been on the receiving end under committees when I was a minister.