Letter from the Rt Hon Sir George Young
MP to the Chairman of the Committee
PROPOSALS TO CHANGE THE SELECTION PROCESS
FOR SELECT AND STANDING COMMITTEES
During the Debate on 16 July, the Leader of
the House said that the first item of business for the Modernisation
Select Committee would be a review of the process of selecting
Members for Committees that was "more transparent".
(I have repeatedly said that it was my intention to review in
the autumn the system by which nominations to Select Committees
are made. I would be the first to agree that the events of the
past few days have given greater urgency to the search for a more
transparent system. I intend to invite the Modernisation Committee,
when it meets for the first time on Wednesday to make the system
of nominations to Select Committees the first priority for its
1. At its meeting on Wednesday 18 July,
I understand the Select Committee agreed to meet at the end of
September to take evidence on this matter; to have a subsequent
deliberative session; and to produce a report in October.
2. My view is that the objectives of those
seeking reform can be met with relatively few changes to the procedures
of the House. Others may propose ambitious and radical changes
involving the House voting for Members; or parties voting for
members; but I suspect these will be controversial and unlikely
to command general assent.
3. I would leave the Committee of Selection
as it is with nine memberscurrently six Labour, two Conservative
and one LibDem. I personally would leave one Conservative and
one Labour Whip on the Committee. They can perform a useful function
by filtering requests and making suggestions.
4. But their role should not be dominant.
The Father of the House could chair the Committee, and the remaining
members would be senior MP's.
5. Those wishing to serve on any Committee
should write to the Chairman or Clerk, indicating their interest
and qualifications. Their names would be in the public domain
before the Committee met. The Committee would appoint on the basis
of ensuring the House discharged effectively its scrutiny role.
6. If there are insufficient nominationsand
the Committee makes a large number of nominations to committees
that are low-profile and unexcitingthe Committee would
be free to make proposals of its own.
7. A more radical proposal would remove
all the Whips, leaving the clerks with the job of analysing and
filtering requests. I personally would not support that.
8. The changes I have outlined would deal
with the abuses that distressed the House in July; the secrecy,
the patronage, the cynicism of the current process.
9. There remains a residual issue about
the division of Chairmanships. This is important in view of the
higher profile proposed for Select Committee Chairmen by many
commentators, and their membership of the Liaison Committee.
10. At the moment, there is a carve-up amongst
the usual channels which is normally delivered, though there have
been some recent casualties.
11. Under a possible new scenario, the Committee
of Selection, having regard to the balance of parties in the House
and the seniority of particular members on individual committees,
could make recommendations to the Select committees as to who
might chair themleaving the committees free to ignore the
advice if they so wished. But I recognise this is not without
14 September 2001
16 November 2001