Review of Management and Services: Report to the House of Commons Commission Part 2



2.1    Resourcing a Parliament effectively is an extremely difficult business. The House of Commons is no exception. The House has no mission statement; Members of Parliament have no job description. The Parliamentary process is to a great extent reactive, and the type and scale of activity is often dictated by external events.

2.2    Yet the effective operation of the House is of enormous constitutional and public importance. The elector (and taxpayer) expects Governments to be held to account; constituents to be represented and their grievances pursued; and historic Parliamentary functions to be extended and adapted to changes in the wider world.

2.3    These things do not come cheap, and no–one should expect them to. Seeking to hold to account a complex, sophisticated and powerful Executive; dealing with an unremitting burden of legislation; and meeting ever–increasing expectations on the part of constituents; all this requires substantial, high quality support. Add to this that the House of Commons is, in proportion to population, one of the largest elected Chambers in the world, and that its centre of operation is not a modern building but an inconvenient and expensive World Heritage Site, and you have some idea of the task.

2.4    There is no shortage of complicating factors. Each Member of Parliament is an expert on what he or she wants from the system, and what the system should provide. With their staffs, Members are in effect 659 small businesses operating independently within one institutional framework. Managers in both the public and private sectors have to meet the needs of demanding customers; but they do not have customers every one of whom can take a complaint to the Floor of the House of Commons — perhaps televised nation–wide.

2.5    At the same time the House and its Members are funded by the taxpayer. This spending is inevitably high–profile, exposed to media interest which is not always friendly and which may not pause to assess the wider value of Parliamentary expenditure. The House must be able to demonstrate proper stewardship of public money, and to show that expenditure is efficient, effective and economical.

2.6    It must also respond to changing expectations in the wider world. Reporting of results and auditing of expenditure used to be enough; but public bodies are now expected to be more transparent than ever before, to demonstrate best practice in governance and to be judged by the achievement of stated aims and objectives.

2.7    In short, the House has to square the circle: there must be strategic planning, effective management and financial control, but in an environment which is sensitive to the needs of Members and of the House as a whole. The "Ibbs settlement" sought to give the House the means to resolve this tension. We now examine whether it succeeded.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 26 July 1999