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The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Stephen Twigg): Improvements have already been made. Not only is there a new forum in Westminster Hall, but the Standing Order changes agreed by the House on 5 July should make it easier for Select Committees to work together and with their counterparts in the Lords to scrutinise Government.
The Government have experimented with Second Reading Committees and Special Standing Committees and brought forward Bills for pre-legislative scrutiny, as my right hon. Friend the President of the Council said. We will continue to do so.
Fiona Mactaggart: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and welcome him to his new post. Over the past 24 hours, we have spoken a lot about pre-legislative scrutiny. It is my view that, in the debate yesterday, there was a certain amount of complacency about the great respect in which Select Committees are held. Our right hon. Friend the President of the Council has given an undertaking to arrange for an inquiry into Select Committee membership. Will he ensure that the Modernisation Committee follows that up with a good look at other ways to improve the powers of Select Committees, in order that they can more effectively scrutinise the Executive? Unless they have the power
Mr. Twigg: I thank my hon. Friend for her kind remarks in welcoming me to my post. My right hon. Friend the President of the Council made it clear yesterday that the methods for the appointment of Members to Select Committees would be at the top of the agenda of the new Modernisation Committee, which is convened tomorrow. That does not preclude our looking at broader issues about the powers and role of Select Committees. That will form part of the work of the Modernisation Committee, and be raised in broader debates involving other Committees.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Speaking as one who has been recently re-elected to the House, one of my observations is that, in the past four years, all too often Ministers have made statements on radio programmes or in arenas other than the House, whereas they should have come to the House to explain their actions to hon. Members. What will the Minister do to put that right?
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): I have already responded to recommendations of the Liaison Committee to give greater freedom to Select Committees to decide for themselves to appoint Sub-Committees or Joint Committees. There are further proposals in the reports of the Liaison Committee and of the Hansard Society on which I want to consult, such as the proposal for a weekly slot of a half hour after Question Time to consider topical reports. I have given the House an undertaking that, tomorrow, I shall ask the Modernisation Committee to review the process of nominations to Select Committees to ensure their independence. If we reach agreement, I would intend to report to the House in the autumn.
Helen Jackson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a tendency in the House for every hon. Member100 per cent. of usto mouth the platitude that it is absolutely crucial that we enhance Parliament's role of scrutinising the Executive? However, do we not also tend to vote to leave the House's procedures largely unchanged? Does he agree that keeping our procedures as they are will neither modernise Committees nor enhance their powers? Does he also agree that every hon. Member should be allocated work on a Committee to enhance their role as a Member of Parliament?
Mr. Cook: I very much welcome the momentum for reform that was gathered last night, and I hope that we shall be able to take that forward to achieve real reforms both in the ways in which Select Committees are set up and the ways in which they are able to exercise their powers of scrutiny.
My hon. Friend raised the possibility of all hon. Members being members of Select Committees. In the final analysis, it is for hon. Members themselves to decide whether they wish to serve. However, I would not resist the conclusion reached from yesterday's debate that the House might benefit from having larger numbers on Select Committees. It is an issue to which I would wish to return in the autumn.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which affects the Leader of the House. Yesterday, he made a short statement on the arrangements that will be made in relation to membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, saying that he would be asking the House to set aside part of Standing Order No. 121 so that those membership arrangements can be considered at shorter notice. As you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, although there are probably serious problems with the Northern Ireland peace process, the House has not yet been made aware of the names of members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee.
My point of order is to inquire whether the motion that the Leader of the House will be tabling for the House to consider on Thursday will be constructed in a manner that makes it possible to sort out the details of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, as we intend to sort out the details of the other two Select Committees. Do you, Mr. Speaker, have any means of influencing the situation to ensure that that Select Committee is sorted out before the House rises for the summer recess?
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. In the first instance, under Standing Order No. 152, the nomination of members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee is a matter for the Committee of Selection. As for the contents of the Leader of the House's proposed motion under Standing Order No. 121 and the notice required before the House may consider motions for the nomination of Select Committees, those are not matters for me. However, I am sure that those on the Government Front Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman's point.
Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would welcome your help in setting the record straight. Last Tuesday, in an Adjournment debate that I raised about a school sports accident that happened to my constituent, I unwittingly misled the House. I said at the time that the teacher who started the race could not see what happened, but I have now seen clear evidence that that was not the case and that the teacher, Mr. Day, tried to cover up his own culpability by lying to my constituent.
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), let me assure the House that it is our intention on Thursday to bring before the House any nominations for whatever Committee that are cleared by the Committee of Selection.
Amendment proposed [11 July]: No. 40, in page 1, line 9, after "(i)", insert
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 1),.'[Mr. John Wilkinson.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 2),'.
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 3),'.
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 4),'.
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 5),'.
'Article 1 (other than paragraph 6),'.