Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further letter from the Rt Hon Sir George Young MP to the Chairman of the Committee


  I am not writing as chairman of my Select Committee, but simply expressing a personal view. I have grave reservations about increasing the size of Select Committees.

  In the last Parliament, there was a real problem in finding enough Members to serve on the Select Committees, and a few Select Committees had difficulties with their quorums. I expect the same difficulties will manifest themselves in the current Parliament, and they would of course be made worse if the average size of Select Committees were increased.

  My own view is that Select Committees hit the law of diminishing returns, as their size increases. In other words, the additional value of adding one more member decreases, as the size of the Committee increases. We can debate what the best size is, but I believe it is below 17. Also, given the premium on reaching unanimity in Select Committee Reports, it clearly becomes more difficult the more Members you have. There are also the practical problems of chairing a Committee and making sure that all Members have an adequate opportunity to express their view, within the time available for the meeting.

  It would be wrong to generalise, but I believe that a Select Committee of round about 12 Members is the right size. I would be very cautious indeed about encouraging Select Committees to become larger, and I am not aware of any evidential research that would support the view that increasing the size makes them more effective.

16 November 2001

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