Letter from the Chairman of the Education
and Skills Committee to the Chairman of the Committee
I am writing to you in your capacity as Chairman
of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons
to raise the issue of resources for Chairmen of select committees.
You will be well aware of the additional demands
made on those of us who willingly take up the honour of chairing
select committees. The higher profile which select committees
have earned leads to a number of demands for us to write articles,
appear on the broadcast media or make speeches at conferencesfor
example, I was asked at short notice to stand in for Estelle Morris
on 14 November at the Economic and Social Science Research Council
conference on the future of higher education.
The nature of these commitments often tends
to be in party political areas where it would be more appropriate
to ask for briefing from a personal appointee than from the impartial
Committee staff drawn from the Clerk's Department.
While I welcome the recent improvements in the
allowances for Members staff and office costs, those resources
in my view are primarily to enable us to serve our constituents
better. We should not be put in the position of having to divert
into our select committee work resources intended to support our
work on behalf of our constituents.
It is high time that an additional ring-fenced
allowance was made to each Chairman of a select committee to hire
an additional dedicated researcher, probably based at Westminster,
to enable Chairmen to play a fuller role right across the piecein
debates, oral questions, press articles, speeches at conferences,
informal meetings with potential witnesses or experts and generally
being more responsive to all the increasing demands across the
particular sector addressed by each select committee.
Mr Barry Sheerman MP
15 November 2001