Report by Mr Michael
Martin, Chairman of the Committee
1. The Domestic Committee
structure which resulted from the recommendations of Sir Robin
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.
(See paragraphs 23 and 24 below for details of concurrent meetings,
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]".
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,
- Contract for the
provision of travel services and oversight of the Travel Office
- Use of Committee and
- All Party and Parliamentary
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.
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.
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
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",
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'
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
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.
All Party and Parliamentary
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",
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.
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
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
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
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,
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."
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
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.
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