Select Committee on Liaison First Report



Memorandum to the Liaison Committee

1.  The Liaison Committee has asked for an annual report from select committees. The Home Affairs Committee met for the first time on 18 July and started taking oral evidence on 16 October, so there is not yet much to report.

2.  We have published one report, the result of some pre-legislative scrutiny of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. Before the Bill was published we took written and oral evidence on the policy proposals already announced. After the Bill was published we took further evidence and published a report in time for second reading on 19 November. I tabled amendments to implement some of our conclusions and two of these were accepted by the Government - a sunset clause ensuring that the power of detention would expire after five years and provision for a statutory annual review of the powers in the Bill. The Committee is interested in scrutiny of legislation and in our First Report we said:

We express the hope that, in time, all Government departments will acquire the habit of making Bills available in draft form far enough in advance for evidence to be taken from interested parties and assessed by the relevant select committee.

3.  The Home Office is due to produce a bill on police reform early in the new year and we shall be hoping to conduct some pre-legislative scrutiny of those proposals. We have also started an inquiry into drugs policy which has attracted over 170 written submissions and a considerable degree of interest. We hope to report in the spring. We have conducted single evidence sessions with the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor on their priorities for the Parliament. We followed up a report of the previous Committee in a single evidence session with the Prisons Minister and Director General of the Prison Service.

4.  Members of the Committee attended a briefing on the terrorist situation by the Prime Minister in Downing Street on 24 September, together with Members of the Select Committees on Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The chairmen of the four committees met later that day and subsequently to ensure close cooperation on this subject.

5.  At our first meeting we set objectives as set out in the attached table, but at this early stage of our work we have not assessed delivery. We also adopted a proforma for choosing inquiries which is aimed to ensure we select subjects on which the Committee can make a difference.

Oral evidence from Home Secretary on current policy issues and legislative plans general session every autumn
Oral evidence from Lord Chancellor on current policy issues and legislative plans general session every autumn
Consider any draft bills publishedwhen required (possible draft bill on criminal courts structure later in 2001-02 session)
visit one major prison annually (for a current inquiry)
visit one major police forceannually (for a current inquiry)
monitor EU Justice & Home Affairs developments annual oral evidence session; Brussels visit once every two years
single evidence sessions on work of departments from two permanent secretaries and Director of Public Prosecutions annual
single evidence session with non-departmental bodies or quangos one from each department a year; aim to cover all over four years
hold short inquiry into one emerging policy issue annually
take note of any treaties referred to the Committee as required
take note of any significant statutory instruments laid as required
seek debate in House or Westminster Hall on committee report one per year
consider any significant public appointments (especially of Inspectors etc) as required
meet equivalent committees of other EU Parliaments; offer meeting and working lunch to visiting committees one a year from major EU countries, others as required
monitor results on public service (delivery) agreements annually


In recent years, the Committee has sought to identify key issues to be addressed at the start of an inquiry and to choose subjects on which the Committee's report can 'make a difference'. This form aims to assist that process. The example is drawn mainly from a recent inquiry.
Proposed subject: Physical controls at UK ports of entry
Key issues to be addressed:1 Why has the demand for asylum in the UK risen? How does this compare with demand in other European countries?

2 How effective are current controls at UK borders by the responsible agencies?

3 Would border controls be enhanced by the creation of a single agency?

4 What investment is made in the use of modern technology?

5 Are there more efficient ways of the UK meeting its international obligations to those who apply for asylum?

Likely number of oral evidence sessions: one two to threefour to six more
Key witnesses (who should not be missed): 1 Port operators

2 Migration expert


Any recent or pending reports by other bodies? yes/noif so, by ...NAO study on immigration controls in 1996
Any critical dates for starting or finishing inquiry? yes/noif so, why? Asylum and Immigration Act fully in force by April 2001
Any other considerations?
What difference could a select committee inquiry make? Might draw Ministers' attention to lack of joint working between different government agencies and relatively poor use of technology.
Name of Member:

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