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


The Commission

The Commission should remain the overall supervisory and policy–making body. Commissioners should, as at present, have real and extensive knowledge of the House (15.2 and 15.3)

Items must be thoroughly prepared for Commission consideration; there should be tough notice periods, and consistent filtering of less important business (15.4)

Authority to approve variations to plans and estimates should be delegated to the Finance and Services Committee, or to the Clerk, on a case-by-case basis (15.4)

Valid costed options should be provided where possible (15.4)

The Commission should agree a longer-term programme of meeting dates to encourage more orderly preparation of business (15.4)

The Secretary to the Commission should retain his present role, and be supported by the Office of the Clerk; but he should not be part of that Office (15.5)

The Commission should approve a strategic plan, covering overall policies for the provision of services, long-term resource priorities, development priorities, approach to House-wide issues, the extent to which elastic demand should be met, and response to factors outside the control of the House administration. This should be in place for the next Parliament, and should be updated annually in the context of the 4-year review of financial plans (12.8 and 15.7 to 15.10)

Better and more comprehensive information on the likely effects of changes in the level and pattern of use of the OCA will be needed to inform strategic judgements both by the Commission and the Board of Management (12.16)

The Commission should have a high-level version of the Board of Management monthly report (15.11) (see also 5.46)

The Commission’s Annual Report should reflect improvements in financial and other information, and should set out the main elements of the strategic plan (15.15)

The Commission should be able to instruct domestic committees as well as delegating matters to them (15.34)

The Commission should review the operation of the domestic committees towards the end of this Parliament or early in the next (15.35)

Finance and Services Committee (F&S)

F&S should be smaller, and act as an Executive Committee of the Commission (15.18)

It should have 7 members: 2 Commissioners, the Government and Opposition Deputy Chief Whips, and 3 back-benchers, with a quorum of 3. It will be for consideration whether the nomination Motion should be made on behalf of the Commission (15.19)

F&S’s Orders of Reference should be simplified, and include the possibility of directions from the Commission (15.20). It should act in an exclusively deliberative role but continue to have all the normal powers of a Select Committee (15.26)

It should monitor progress towards performance targets (15.27)

It should have the monthly high-level report prepared for the Commission, expanded as necessary (15.27)

F&S and the Board of Management should meet jointly from time to time (15.21 and 15.51)

F&S minutes should go to the Commission, the Board of Management and to other managers and budget holders as necessary (15.29)

The Chairman of F&S should play a wider role, but without formal executive powers. The possibility of a salary attaching to this post should be considered by the Review Body on Senior Salaries (15.23 to 15.25)

The Secretary to the Commission should continue to be Clerk of F&S (15.30)

Domestic committees

The domestic committees should be retained as select committees (15.33)

The committees must operate according to the Ibbs prescription, making policy recommendations but not exercising executive authority except as authorised to do so by the Commission (15.34)

A detailed statement of the committees’ role and method of operation should be authorised by the Commission (15.34)

The committees should co-operate with Officers of the House in the style of non-executive and executive directors of boards (15.34)

The committees should no longer have the power to appoint specialist advisers (15.34)

The Commission should be able to instruct domestic committees in addition to delegating matters to them (15.34)

No Departmental paper should be submitted to a domestic committee without being approved by the Board of Management, or under arrangements made by the Board (15.34)

Any recommendation from a domestic committee to the Commission or F&S should be accompanied by a formal statement of costs and benefits (15.34)

Members and staff could be made generally aware of the work of the domestic committees through the Whip and the Intranet (11.18 to 11.21 and 15.34)

The operation of the domestic committees should be reviewed by the Commission towards the end of this Parliament or early in the next (15.35)

The responsibilities of the Broadcasting Committee should be taken over by the Administration Committee, and the Broadcasting Committee abolished (15.36 and 15.37)

House Departments

A possible reorganisation of Departments should be considered by the Commission in time for implementation early in the next Parliament if necessary (15.68)

The momentum of one-a-year strategic reviews of each House Department needs to be maintained (4.71)

The Clerk of the House

The Clerk should have formal line responsibility for the other Heads of Department (15.44), reflected in an Instrument of Delegation made by the Commission. Heads of Department should retain a right of access to the Commission on matters which are of vital importance to their Departments and which cannot be solved in any other way (15.45)

An Office of the Clerk should be established to support the work of the Clerk of the House (and the Chairman of F&S in administration business), to help co-ordinate the work of the Board of Management and F&S in serving the Commission, co-ordinate submissions, chase progress, provide support for the Commission if required, and to provide a secretariat for the Board of Management (15.47)

The Office of the Clerk might consist of 3 administrative and 2 support staff selected by the Clerk, and should be located close to the Clerk (15.48)

There should be a central point where media inquiries affecting the Commission and the House administration could be dealt with (15.50)

The Board of Management

The Board needs a strategic framework, with politically approved priorities, in order to operate effectively (4.72)

The Board should continue to perform the role foreseen by Ibbs, but making its methods of operation more flexible, continuing its use of working groups and outside advice, and co-opting others when required (15.51 and 15.52)

A revised Instrument of Delegation will need to reflect the developing role of the Board (15.61)

The Board should develop and extend its use of preparatory and supporting committees The present “cross-cutting” groups should have greater equivalence with PMC and PMC(F) (15.53) and the Information Working Party should become permanent, possibly adding information within the organisation to its remit (15.54)

The work of the groups should be reported in the Commission Annual Report, but as part of the Board’s contribution (15.57)

Other bodies established by the Board should be subject to “sunset clauses” (15.58)

The Board should make greater use of cross-Departmental project structures and processes (15.59)

The Board should review capital expenditure regularly, making recommendations via F&S to the Commission (15.60)

The Board of Management must fully adopt corporate behaviour (4.72)

Members of the Board of Management, and senior Officers in Departments, need additional training in financial and management skills (4.63) and in the handling of issues within a corporate framework (4.72). This should extend downwards into Departments to improve the quality of management and to aid succession planning (15.65)

The Clerk and the Board of Management need better corporate information reported to them monthly (5.46)

The Board of Management should have a close relationship with F&S and meet jointly from time to time (15.21 and 15.51)

No Departmental paper should be submitted to a domestic committee without being approved by the Board, or under arrangements made by the Board (15.34)

The Board should be supported by the Office of the Clerk, and a member of that Office should be its Secretary (15.62; see also 4.72)

The Department of the Clerk of the House should be separately represented on the Board (15.63)

Financial management and information

Techniques of performance measurement should be further developed, with greater consistency between measurements applied to similar activities (5.18)

More comprehensive performance measures are needed in the context of resource accounting and budgeting (5.20)

Cost information needs extensive development, both to assist performance measurement and to inform decisions on possible outsourcing, and relocation or multiple use of facilities. It should lead to comparison with best practice elsewhere, and benchmarking of similar activities (5.48 to 5.54)

Corporate information should be reported monthly to the Board of Management (5.46) with higher-level abstracts for the Commission (15.11) and the Finance and Services Committee (15.27). Improved lower-level information should go to Departments and individual managers (5.47)

Accounting systems should be converged; there should be better coverage, with less duplication; and Departments should have better access. The ability of the PDVN to handle business-critical systems of this kind should be evaluated (5.56)

The Board of Management should review capital expenditure regularly on the basis of a report from DoFA, making recommendations via F&S to the Commission. The timing should allow any decisions to be taken into account in the preparation of Departments’ business plans and of the Estimates (15.60)


There should be greater emphasis on VFM work (15.70)

An Audit Committee should be established, with a membership of: two members of the Commission (neither to be members of F&S); the Clerk of the House; the Director of Finance and Administration; and someone with appropriate qualifications from outside the House (15.73)

The Audit Committee should report to the Commission (15.75)

The Audit Committee should produce an annual report, which would be published with that of the Commission (15.74)

Department of Finance and Administration

Departments must be explicit about the services they need from the DFA, using two-way Service Level Agreements to supplement a spirit of co-operation. SLAs should be simple, quantitative where possible, and have mechanisms for review. They should be formulated on a corporate basis and be approved by the Board of Management (6.5 and 6.6)

The DFA needs to gain greater credibility and acceptance amongst other Departments if it is to play an effective role in the new arrangements. It should maintain and increase emphasis on customer satisfaction and quality of service, explain and support initiatives effectively, and be realistic about the ability of the House organisation to change (6.7)

It should improve its knowledge of the business of other Departments through training and familiarisation, supplemented by shadowing, mentoring and some cross-posting (6.7)

Options for the future division of the finance and personnel functions between the centre and Departments should be kept under review. A model should be developed for the personnel function (6.10)

There is a strong case for the next Director of Finance and Administration also to come from outside the House service, probably from Whitehall. Mentoring should be used to help the process of adjustment to the House environment (6.13)


The Works programme should be an integral part of plans for the provision of services. It should be submitted to the Board of Management, who should be aware of the views of the Accommodation and Works Committee, and then forwarded to F&S and then to the Commission (7.22 and 7.23). “Neglect” works should be distinguished (7.12)

The phasing of the process must ensure that the necessary Estimates provision is not a foregone conclusion. The Board should establish priorities, approved by F&S and the Commission, for the Director’s planning of the next edition of the programme (7.24)

The works client and supplier functions should be re-examined, possibly distinguishing more sharply between formulating and fulfilling requirements, with the aim of making the House a tougher commercial customer (7.26)

There should be an early and rapid review of the role and structure of the Parliamentary Works Directorate, drawing on work already under way. The review should take into account the inter-relationship of the different elements of the Department of the Serjeant at Arms, and our recommendations on information technology. Close consultation with the authorities of the House of Lords will be necessary (7.27 and 7.28)

Information technology

There must be a move to a corporate structure and approach, and central control of infrastructure and standards by the Parliamentary Communications Directorate. PCD should be able to help Departments with particular applications for their own businesses (8.24)

Two–way service level agreements should be negotiated between Departments and PCD. These should be simple, quantitative where possible, and have mechanisms for review (8.24)

There must be more accurate identification of costs, measurement of benefits, and development and reporting of performance measures (8.24)

Strategic planning for IT should be closely linked with the overall planning of House services, and co-ordinated primarily at Board of Management level (8.24)

The House should monitor the implications of technological innovation for its own infrastructure and business processes (8.24)

PCD should take advantage of opportunities for outsourcing when business cases demonstrate likely benefits (8.24)

IT recommendations should be taken forward in close consultation with the authorities of the House of Lords (8.25)

Sharing of services with the House of Lords

Progress on implementation of the Joint Internal Audit Review recommendations should be maintained. It will be important to maintain the effectiveness of the annual reviews (10.3)

Communications and culture

Implementation of the Board of Management’s action plan in response to the customer survey should be followed by further survey work at apropriate intervals to confirm progress (11.10)

Staff of the House (11.10) and Members’ staff (12.18) should be fully consulted in future surveys

There should be a House-wide approach to the provision of information about services, with common standards and presentation (11.14)

Information should concentrate on how to achieve outcomes rather than simply describe a service. Information and contact numbers for related services should be given and hard copy should be paralleled by Intranet availability (11.13 to 11.15)

Questions on information provision should be included in follow-up customer surveys (11.16)

Helpdesks should be co-ordinated as far as possible. The long–term aim should be to minimise the number through amalgamation (11.17)

The level of House knowledge among Palace telephone operators needs to be improved. High priority need to be given to briefing and rapid updating of information (11.17)

Information about the management and direction of House services should be made available in the Whip and on the Intranet. It should include the agenda and conclusions of domestic committees, relevant decisions of the Commission and F&S, and appropriate information from the Board of Management, all in as short a form as possible. Release of information would be at the discretion of the originating body. Contact points for criticisms and suggestions should also be included (11.21, 15.14)

A “mugshot board” of photographs of senior managers, perhaps linked to organisation charts, might be posted in key places around the House (11.22)

Better understanding amongst Departments could be increased by some cross-posting, supplemented by shadowing and mentoring (11.28). A “foundation period” for House staff early in their careers should include attachments to other Departments (11.29)

Talks and seminars on aspects of business should be given on a House-wide basis, by people with operational responsibility for the subjects concerned (11.32)

Although designed initially for House staff, such talks should be open to Members and their staff (also to complement induction courses) (11.33)

“Broadly in line”

Interpretation of the terms of the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 should not inhibit policies best fitted to a Parliamentary service (15.79)


The recommendations of this Review should be seen as an integrated package (15.80)

A change manager should be appointed, to report through the Clerk of the House to the Commission, and lead a group of senior officials of all Departments to implement change (16.3)

Milestones, regular reporting, and measurement of performance should be elements of the change process (16.2)

The change manager should keep the Board of Management closely informed, and should have the right of access to them (16.3)

As a matter of good practice, a review similar to this should take place in about 5 years’ time (16.8)

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Prepared 26 July 1999