Select Committee on Liaison First Report



Report by Rt Hon Paul Channon, Chairman of the Committee

  1. The work of the Finance and Services Committee needs to be seen against the background of the reform of House of Commons administration which followed the Ibbs report of 1990.

  2. Broadly, those reforms encouraged the House's increasing independence in organising and regulating its own administrative and financial affairs, already suggested in the House of Commons Administration Act of 1978. In the wake of the post-Ibbs reform, the existing system of Domestic Select Committees (Finance and Services, Accommodation and Works, Administration, Catering and Information) was set up, with responsibility to consider and advise the House of Commons Commission on discrete matters of House administration, all of which affect the ability of Members of the House to perform their functions effectively. Later the Select Committee on Broadcasting was attached, albeit indirectly, to the group of Domestic Committees.

  3. The Finance and Services Committee acts as the financial filter between the other Domestic Committees on the one hand, and the Commission on the other. Its main function is to prepare, for submission to the Commission, the two House of Commons Votes viz the Administration and Works Votes respectively. Currently the combined total of these two Votes nears £200m per annum.

  4. The Finance and Services Committee is assisted in that task by the Board of Management from whom policy recommendations are submitted as written memoranda. In carrying out the Committee's second main task, that of monitoring the financial performance of the Departments of the House, it has the assistance of the Director of Finance and Services and the Director of Works.

  5. The Committee's third remit is to receive advice and information on matters of House administration dealt with by the Domestic Committees, including matters such as access to the precincts, groups, accommodation for Members and staff, refreshment services, and information technology. It considers the advice sent from the Domestic Committees in the broad financial context. Senior officials of the House attend Committee meetings to advise on detailed matters. Meetings are almost always of a deliberative type. At the end of the Committee's deliberations, recommendations are made to the House of Commons Commission or matters are referred back to the other Domestic Committees for further comment or to the responsible officials for action. The Committee also commissions special Value for Money audits on parliamentary matters within the House's administration.

  6. The Chairman of the Finance and Services Committee answers Parliamentary Questions in the House on all aspects of the Committee's responsibilities. At present, the `slot' for this Question Time (and that of the House of Commons Commission) occurs once every four weeks.

  7. The Committee occasionally takes evidence in private and for the first time in the Session 1995-96 reported its evidence to the House[71] so that it could be taken into account in a debate on the privatisation of HMSO.

  8. Normally, however, the Committee's work is done in the form of deliberative sessions. Since its nomination, the main subjects considered by the Committee have included:-

Session 1992-93Session 1993-94
Administration VoteAdministration Vote
Works VoteWorks Vote
Refreshment Department (Finance)PDVN
Phase II (New Building)Refreshment Department
Childcare Provisions (Modernisation)
Broadcasting (Archives)

Session 1994-95Session 1995-96
Administration VoteAdministration Vote
Works VoteWorks Vote
Communications and InternetPrivatisation of HMSO
Select Committee TravelLocation of PDVN
Phase II (New Building)Phase II (New Building)

Session 1996-97

Administration Vote
Works Vote
Phase II (New Building)
Communications Technology

  9. While there has been some informal discussion about the evolution of the Ibbs system, it is felt that after only one Parliament of running the existing system, further radical changes may not be productive. It is therefore expected that the present system will continue, largely unchanged, in the new Parliament.


71   Minutes of Evidence: Printing Services for Parliament and Proposed Privatisation of HMSO, HC (1995-96) 97. Back

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Prepared 13 March 1997