Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons First Report


The Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons has agreed to the following Report:—


List of recommendations

1. [Paragraph 15]—We recommend that at the start of each Parliament the Committee of Nomination should be set up under the Chairman of Ways. The Chairman of Ways and Means should chair proceedings, but in order to preserve the impartiality of his office have no vote.

2. [Paragraph 16]— We recommend that appointment to the Chairmen's Panel must remain firmly in the hands of the Speaker and not subject to any party interest or lobbying.

3. [Paragraph 17]—We recommend that membership of the Committee of Nomination should be prescribed in Standing Orders. We recommend that the Committee of Nomination should consist of the Chairman of Ways and Means and nine other members:

  • seven Members of the Chairmen's Panel chosen with broad regard to the party balance, reflecting gender balance and based on length of service as members of the Panel. Those seven would consist of:

—    the four most senior Members of the Government party on the Panel including the most senior woman Member of that party;

—    the two most senior Members of the official Opposition on the Panel, including the most senior woman Member of that party; and

—    the most senior Member of the second largest opposition party on the Panel.

  • the most senior back-bencher on the Government side of the House; and

  • the most senior back-bencher on the opposition benches.

The quorum of the Committee when nominating committees afresh at the start of a Parliament should be six, and three when filling subsequent vacancies, not including the Chairman of Ways and Means. In the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Ways and Means the First Deputy Chairman or in his or her absence the Second Deputy Chairman shall act as chairman.

4. [Paragraph 25]— We recommend that the proposed allocation between parties of the posts of chairmen of select committees should be reported to the Committee of Nomination.

5. [Paragraph 28]— We recommend that the House of Commons Commission should make available the necessary funds for a central unit of specialist support staff to be in place in the next financial year.

6. [Paragraph 29]—We recommend that the National Audit Office be invited to help assess the need for specialist and other support staff for select committees and to advise on how this could best be provided, and that the House of Commons Commission should look favourably on funding for staffing increases which may be proposed.

7. [Paragraph 30]—We recommend that within the Committee Office there should be sufficient staff to assist with the function of supporting the administrative workload of the select committee chairmen.

8. [Paragraph 33]—We recommend that there should be an agreed statement of the core tasks of the departmental select committees.

9. [Paragraph 34]—We recommend the following model as an illustration of what we would regard as the principal objectives of departmental select committees:

"It shall be the duty, where appropriate, of each select committee:

  • to consider major policy initiatives
  • to consider the Government's response to major emerging issues
  • to propose changes where evidence persuades the Committee that present policy requires amendment
  • to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills
  • to examine and report on main Estimates, annual expenditure plans and annual resource accounts
  • to monitor performance against targets in the public service agreements
  • to take evidence from each Minister at least annually
  • to take evidence from independent regulators and inspectorates
  • to consider the reports of Executive Agencies
  • to consider, and if appropriate report on, major appointments by a Secretary of State or other senior ministers
  • to examine treaties within their subject areas."

10. [Paragraph 34]—We recommend that select committees should experiment with appointing one of their number as a rapporteur on a specific task, such as for example financial scrutiny.

11. [Paragraph 35]—We recommend that as part of the process of producing an annual report each departmental select committee should submit to the Liaison Committee a statement of how it has met each core task in the scrutiny of its department.

12. [Paragraph 36]—We recommend that, in the light of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, this limitation on the power to require witnesses to give evidence should be reviewed by the appropriate committees of both Houses.

13. [Paragraph 37]—We recommend that the investigative select committees should be named "scrutiny committees".

14. [Paragraph 39]—We recommend that there should be a Scrutiny Liaison Committee including the chairmen of the scrutiny committees, and also the chairmen of those committees which have a legislative or procedural role such as Deregulation and Regulatory Reform, Procedure, and Standards and Privileges.

15. [Paragraph 41]—We recommend that the value of a parliamentary career devoted to scrutiny should be recognised by an additional salary to the chairmen of the principal investigative committees.

16. [Paragraph 43]—We recommend that the House should impose an indicative upper limit of two consecutive Parliaments on service as chairman. We recognise that the House may wish to make special provision in the case of short Parliaments.

17. [Paragraph 47]—We recommend that the standard size of departmental scrutiny committees should be fifteen.

18. [Paragraph 49]—We recommend that the scrutiny committees should have the right to report to the Committee of Nomination any member who has a record of poor attendance without good cause and that the Committee of Nomination should have the right to replace that member.

19. [Paragraph 50] —We recommend a reduction in size of the membership and of the quorum of select committees where there has been a persistent problem securing attendance.

20. [Paragraph 53]—We recommend that the Committee Office procures the services, either on a consultancy or a salaried basis, of experts in design and layout to ensure that reports benefit from the most modern technology and the most attractive design.

21. [Paragraph 56]—We recommend that Notes for Visitors should be prepared, setting out in plain language the nature of the proceedings, and that where practical this should be supplemented on the day with guidance on the topics under discussion.

22. [Paragraph 57]— We recommend that all reports of select committees should be eligible for debate in Westminster Hall after the closure of the two month period within which Government is expected to publish its response, whether or not such a response has been tabled.

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Prepared 12 February 2002