Select Committee on Liaison First Report


APPENDIX 3

ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE 1992-97

Report by Mr Michael Martin, Chairman of the Committee

  1. The Domestic Committee structure which resulted from the recommendations of Sir Robin Ibbs[33] is relatively new and the 1992 Parliament is the first Parliament in which the Administration Committee and the other Domestic Committees have operated throughout.

  2. The Committee has the normal powers of select committees and some additional powers to exchange information and meet concurrently with other committees and with Committees of the House of Lords.[34] (See paragraphs 23 and 24 below for details of concurrent meetings, etc)

  3. The Committee's remit is the provision of general services for Members, "a wide spectrum of matters not dealt with by the other three [Committees]".[35] Some matters discussed most often include:

     - Provision, publication and pricing of House documents

     - Access to the Parliamentary Estate and areas within it

     - Regulations for filming, photography etc

     - Contract for the provision of travel services and oversight of the Travel Office

     - Telecommunications

     - Use of Committee and Conference Rooms

     - All Party and Parliamentary Groups

     - Stationery

  4. The Committee has maintained a pragmatic approach to the provision of services for Members. It has had to bear in mind whether any new service proposed could justify the possible extra public expenditure; similarly, certain existing services may have had to be rationalised in order to reduce bureaucracy and/or public expenditure, possibly to the inconvenience of a few Members.

  5. Even with services with no financial implications, the Committee has constantly sought to maintain a balance between sometimes conflicting requirements.

  6. Below are a few of the decisions reached, or actions taken, in respect of matters listed in paragraph 3 above.

Provision, publication and printing of House documents

  7. In 1995 the Committee endorsed certain principles proposed by the Printing and Publishing Management Group (comprised of senior Officers of the House) as a guide to negotiations with the then HMSO for the printing of the Official Report.[36] These negotiations led to a reduction in the cover price of the Weekly Hansard from £22 to £12, at no additional cost to the House.

  8. In 1996 the Committee considered whether it would be acceptable to the House for the Appendices to the Scott Report to be deposited in CD-ROM form. It was deemed to be appropriate subject to certain provisos.[37] However, the experiment could not be considered a total success, as the Scott inquiry team did not liaise with all the relevant House officials. Any further requests of this type will therefore need to be considered even more rigorously.

Access to the Parliamentary Estate and areas within it

  9. The Committee's advice has been sought on several occasion as to whether, for example, certain organisations should be permitted passes (usually on a temporary basis to facilitate access during debates in Standing Committee) or whether additional or new passes should be issued allowing access to the Press Gallery or Lobby.

  10. The Committee also initiated, or endorsed, reviews of the number of photopasses issued, in particular to the number of passes issued to contractors.

Regulations for filming, photography etc

  11. A major review was carried out between 1995-96, resulting in the Committee recommending more stringent penalties for the surreptitious sound recording of Members and others, producing (for the first time) regulations on the use of mobile telephones on the Parliamentary Estate and relaxing certain regulations on filmed interviews with individual Members and televising select committee press conferences. The Committee has, however, consistently rejected requests to allow filming in Members' offices, as it does not consider this would be of benefit to the House as a whole.

Contract for the provision of travel services and oversight of the Travel Office

  12. In 1993 the Committee produced its Report "Review of Travel Services for Parliament",[38] which recommended that Thomas Cook should continue to run the Transport (now the Travel) Office. Following the sale of Thomas Cook's Business Travel section to American Express, it was agreed that American Express could operate the Travel Office. On behalf of both Houses, the Committee has continued to keep the operation of the Travel Office under close review, either directly or through the Travel Office Consumers' Panel, which is chaired by a member of the Committee (currently its Chairman).

  13. Following negotiations by the then Director of Finance and Administration, the Committee approved rebate agreements reached with both British Airways and British Midland Airways, resulting in savings for both Houses' travel budgets.

Telecommunications

  14. Many important decisions have been taken in respect of telecommunication matters, including the endorsement of proposals to upgrade the Private Automated Branch Exchanges telephone system serving the Parliamentary Estate and approving the re-introduction of a telephone traffic management system. The latter should prove to be an invaluable aid to management and may result in substantial savings for the House. The Committee has also endorsed recently a comprehensive proposal to provide an enhanced messaging system, the benefits of which will not be seen until the new Parliament.

Use of Committee and Conference Rooms

  15. Following confusion over appropriate uses for Committee and Conference Rooms, the Committee produced recommendations which were endorsed by Madam Speaker. In particular, the Committee agreed a clearer definition of what could be classed as a "Parliamentary subject" in an effort to reduce such confusion.[39]

All Party and Parliamentary Groups

  16. In response to growing concern over the proliferation of All Party and Parliamentary Groups and their use of House facilities, the Committee held an inquiry into the matter, including formal evidence (although it was agreed that this evidence would not be reported to the House).

  17. The Committee produced a Report, "All Party and Parliamentary Groups",[40] which recommends an overhaul of the existing rules concerning the registration and operation of such groups.

  18. At the time of writing, the Committee still awaits the House's approval for the implementation of its recommendations.

Stationery

  19. Following a request by the Committee, the Serjeant at Arms conducted a review of all stationery items held in stock. The Committee agreed that some fifteen examples of writing paper, envelopes etc could be phased out without undue inconvenience to Members, but with great benefit in terms of reduced expenditure (and storage space needed). The Committee proposed that one further item could also be phased out.

  20. The Committee was also concerned about possible abuse of photocopying paper; at its request the Serjeant at Arms considered various ways to prevent this. The preferred option was to introduce an overprinted copy paper, and, after encouraging results following a trial in 7 Millbank, the Committee agreed that the overprinted paper should be introduced House-wide.

  21. A new contract to provide House stationery items will be introduced in April; it will, of course, be for the Committee's successor to keep the effects under review.

Other matters

  22. Other important matters which the Committee has kept under review during the Parliament include: medical services to Members and the Occupational Health Service; car parking facilities; postal services; aid for disabled Members; induction training for new Members and their staff; and the use of the Crowned Portcullis.

Relations with other Committees and the House of Lords

  23. The Committee held two concurrent meetings with the Catering Committee during the Parliament to discuss the matter of access to the Terrace and the Terrace Pavilion. The Committees agreed that members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and Lobby Correspondents should no longer be permitted access to the Terrace, except as a guest of a Member.

  24. Although the Committee has not held any concurrent meetings with the House of Lords Administration and Works Sub-Committee, there has been close co-operation between the two Committees on matters of mutual concern; the most recent example was over the redrafting of the regulations on filming, photography etc.

Committee responsibilities, etc

  25. Although the Committee does not seek to change any of its responsibilities, it is worth recalling that the Ibbs Report stated that "It should be possible within a few years to incorporate the broadcasting of proceedings into the remit of the Administration Committee."[41] It may be worth reconsidering this suggestion when the responsibilities of the Domestic Committees are re-assessed in the new Parliament.

  26. There have been no significant problems of overlap between the Committee and other Domestic Committees. By mutual consent, it was agreed that the Committee's responsibility for annunciator services and the distribution of television and radio channels should be transferred to the Information Committee. The Committee was, however, not able to agree to the Information Committee's request that telecommunication matters should also be transferred.

  27. The relationship between the number of Members (7) and the quorum (3) has occasionally given rise to difficulties of obtaining a quorum at meetings and on visits; it should perhaps be considered whether the number of Members appointed should be increased - perhaps to 9, as originally envisaged by the Ibbs Report.[42]

Committee Staff

  28. The Committee is supported by its Clerk and two (part-time) Personal Secretaries. All have other responsibilities. Assistance with the registration of All Party and Parliamentary Groups is provided by the Assistant Registrar of Members' Interests, who also has other duties. The Committee has not appointed any Specialist Advisers. Despite the minimal level of support it is not proposed, given the continuation of the present workload, that staffing levels should be increased.


33  Report on House of Commons Services, HC (1990-91) 38. Back

34  SO No 125. Back

35  Report on House of Commons Services, op cit, p 23, para 2. Back

36  Minutes of Proceedings of the Administration Committee, 7 February 1995, HC (1994-95) 833, p ix. Back

37  Official Report, 15 May 1996, c 473-4. Back

38  First Report from the Administration Committee, Session 1992-93, HC (1992-93) 606. Back

39  Official Report, 18 December 1995, c 845-6. Back

40  First Report from the Administration Committee, Session 1995-96, HC (1995-96) 494. Back

41  Report on House of Commons Services, op cit, p 23, para 2. Back

42  ibid, para 3(a). Back


 
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Prepared 13 March 1997