Wednesday 27 January 2010

Liaison Committee Report

The Liaison Committee has today produced its response to the report of the House of Commons Reform Committee, "Rebuilding the House". The Liaison Committee is made up of the Chairs of the Select Committees. In the past it was a driving force for select committee reform. More recently it has been the forum for questioning the Prime Minister. The whole report is available here.

Its conclusions are

1. We support the proposal relating to the division of Chairs between the parties. (Paragraph 6)

2. We endorse the proposal for the election of Chairs by the whole House, and agree that it should be done on the basis of the two-year experiment proposed by the Reform Committee. (Paragraph 7)

3. We support the Reform Committee’s suggestion of the need “to provide for the situation, should it ever arise, of a committee where the members altogether lose confidence in the elected Chair” . (Paragraph 8)

4. We support the recommendation for the election of members of select committees in accordance with the general principles of transparency and democracy advanced by the Reform Committee. (Paragraph 11)

5. We support the aim of seeking to set up the principal select committees within six weeks of the opening of a new Parliament. (Paragraph 12)

6. We support the proposal for the exclusion of Ministers, opposition frontbenchers (except possibly for the smaller parties) and Parliamentary Private Secretaries from eligibility for membership of select committees. (Paragraph 13)

7. It would be a token of good faith in any government’s expressed wish for Parliament to be seen as independent of the executive if the steady spread of patronage were to be halted and reversed. If it does not happen voluntarily, the House should consider taking steps to enforce it. (Paragraph 14)

8. To fit in with the proposed new system of elections, any member of a select committee whose cumulative attendance during a Session is below 60% should be automatically discharged at the end of that Session on the basis of a report made by the Clerk of Committees to the Speaker. The Speaker would have discretion to waive the application of the rule in cases such as ill-health, etc. New elections should be held to fill the vacancies so created within two weeks of the opening of the next Session. (Paragraph 16)

9. We support the proposal to reduce the average size of select committees. (Paragraph 18)

10. We support the proposal to rationalise the number of select committees. (Paragraph 21)

11. We consider that no proposal for changing the Standing Orders relating to select committees should be able to be moved by a Minister unless the Liaison Committee had been consulted and given time to report its views on the proposals to the House. (Paragraph 25)

12. We welcome and endorse the proposals for the creation of “House time” controlled by a backbench business committee as a major opportunity to change the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive. (Paragraph 30)