Thursday, 18 November 2010

Liaison Committee

Today the Prime Minister appears before the Liaison Committee. This committee brings together the Chairs of the Departmental Select Committees of the House of Commons. When this system was set up in 1979 the Prime Minister was strongly opposed to having the Head of Government submit to questioning by Commons committees. Prime Minister's Question Time was seen as the appropriate forum for holding the Premier to account. The objection was maintained until Tony Blair was persuaded to attend. It has now become an important feature of parliamentary life.

The most important aspect of these sessions is the opportunity to question the Prime Minister at length. The value of PMQs can be doubted. It is a very partisan event with opposing sides of the chamber - and particularly the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition - trying to score political points. Questions - and answers - are short, and the severe time constraints rarely permit a Premier to be challenged in depth. All Prime Ministers have acquired the skills to deal with questions they would rather not face.

Sessions before the Liaison Committee were intended to address that lack of proper scrutiny. There were teething troubles - as every Chair sought to put in a question - and some were less than succinct. Lessons have been learned, but this is a new Parliament, with new Chairs.

The committee website can be accessed here.

The evidence will begin at 2.00 pm on Thursday 18 November, and is expected to last for up to two and a half hours. it will be webcast live on Parliament TV.

It is expected that the questioning will cover the following subjects:

At 2pm: - The Spending Review: the PM’s involvement

The Comprehensive Spending Review process
The Defence settlement
Higher Education and science funding
Transport spending
Housing Benefit and Local Government funding
Police funding
Early intervention

At approximately 3.10pm: “Greenest government ever”

The green agenda
Progress to a low-carbon economy
Defra funding for flood defence
The Forestry Commission

At approximately 3.40pm: Strategic Defence and Security Review

UK National Strategy
UK foreign policy and the National Security Strategy
Counter-Terrorism policy and the role of National Security Council
Development and climate change

At approximately 4pm: Afghanistan and Pakistan

DFID’s programme in Afghanistan
Cross-Government working
UK’s general strategy for the region
Policy on withdrawal

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