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


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 conferences—for 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 piece—in 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

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