Select Committee on Liaison First Report

APPENDIX 3 Core Tasks for Select Committees:

Guidance from the Liaison Committee


1. At its meeting on 23 April, the Liaison Sub-Committee supported the creation of a list of indicative Core Tasks, principally for departmental select committees (DSCs). Following consultation at clerk level, a set of ten core tasks for DSCs has been grouped under four principal objectives (see Annex 1). The first three objectives spring from Standing Order No. 152 under which departmental select committees are established.

Core Tasks: A Template For The Annual Report

2. Each committee is free to decide how best it should carry out its remit from the House. But the Liaison Committee is agreed that DSCs should act with due regard to the expressed view of the House on 14 May (see Annex 2), and commends to DSCs these objectives and core tasks. It will expect them to be reflected in the format of the annual report from each DSC, as indicated in Annex 3.

Duties of Ministers And Their Departments

3. The Liaison Committee also considers that there are duties falling on Ministers and Departments as a result of its adoption of these objectives and associated tasks. These are listed in relation to each task.

Use by Other Committees

4. The Liaison Committee hopes that other select committees will also reflect on how far these objectives and tasks could be applied to make their work more systematic and comprehensive.

Liaison Committee

20 June 2002


Departmental Select Committee Objectives And Tasks: An Illustrative Template


Task 1:   To examine policy proposals from the UK Government and the European Commission in Green Papers, White Papers, draft Guidance etc, and to inquire further where the Committee considers it appropriate

This calls for more systematic scrutiny of proposals made. It is not intended to involve formal written or oral evidence as a matter of course, but to ensure that a Committee is at least apprised of proposals and has the opportunity to consider whether detailed scrutiny of them should form part of their programme of work.

Departments must ensure that Committees are informed directly of policy proposals and provided with the necessary documentation, rather than waiting to be asked.

  * * * * * * * * * *

Task 2:   To identify and examine areas of emerging policy, or where existing policy is deficient, and make proposals

This calls for Committees to identify areas where, based on judgement of Members, views of others etc, a Committee inquiry would be worthwhile.

Ministers must be prepared to give proper consideration to policy proposals from committees. This may involve revision of the practice on instant reaction/rebuttal.

  * * * * * * * * * *

Task 3:   To conduct scrutiny of any published draft bill within the Committee's responsibilities

This calls for Committees to commit time for necessary oral evidence and reporting, subject to its timetable for other inquiries.

Ministers must ensure that committees are warned early on the likely appearance of draft bills: must consult with committee chairmen on how they are to be handled: and must allow a decent time for committee consideration.

  * * * * * * * * * *

Task 4:   To examine specific output from the department expressed in documents or other decisions

This calls for a formal framework for being informed of secondary legislation, circulars and guidance, treaties and previously identified casework decisions, so that they can if needed be drawn to a Committee's attention.

Departments will have to engage in co-operative discussions with committee staff on the best means of ensuring that committees are kept abreast of such outputs.

  * * * * * * * * * *


Task 5:   To examine the expenditure plans and out-turn of the department, its agencies and principal NDPBs

This calls for a systematic framework for committee scrutiny of the Department's Main and Supplementary Estimates: its expenditure plans; and its annual accounts.

Departments will as a matter of course have to produce more explanatory material on financial matters, eg on Supplementary Estimates, underspends etc

* * * * * * * * * *


Task 6:   To examine the department's Public Service Agreements, the associated targets and the statistical measurements employed, and report if appropriate

This calls for an established cycle of written scrutiny and annual reporting of results.

Ministers must be prepared to be genuinely responsive to committee concerns on PSAs etc

  * * * * * * * * * *

Task 7:   To monitor the work of the department's Executive Agencies, NDPBs, regulators and other associated public bodies

This calls for a systematic cycle of scrutiny of annual reports. It does not require either written or oral evidence except where a Committee judges it to be necessary.

The bodies concerned must ensure that their accountability to Parliament is recognised by full and regular provision of information, including annual reports and other publications.

  * * * * * * * * * *

Task 8:   To scrutinise major appointments made by the department

This would call for scrutiny of all major appointments made.

Departments would have to systematically notify committees in advance of all major appointments pending and/or made.


* * * * * * * * * *

Task 9:   To examine the implementation of legislation and major policy initiatives

This would call for a framework of detailed annual progress reports from departments on Acts and major policy initiatives so that committees could decide whether to undertake inquiry

Ministers must be more willing to provide for annual reports on particular pieces of legislation, and departments to provide detailed annual reports on identified policy areas or initiatives.


Task 10:   To produce Reports which are suitable for debate in the House, including Westminster Hall, or debating committees.

This could call for committees to come to an explicit view when deciding on an inquiry as to whether a debate was in due course envisaged.

  * * * * * * * * * *


Extract from the Votes and Proceedings: 14th May 2002

Resolved, That this House approves the First Report of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons relating to Select Committees, House of Commons Paper No. 224-I, and in particular welcomes its commitment to more specialist and support staff for select committees; is of the view that the package as a whole will strengthen the scrutiny role of the House; and invites the Liaison Committee to establish common objectives for select committees, taking into account the illustrative model set out in paragraph 34 of that report, namely:

-   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.



From these model/illustrative objectives, the following headings will be used in the template for annual reports to the Liaison Committee:

Tasks 1 and 2 and 4 and 7 to 9 : Identification of inquiries carried out into (a) Government policy proposals (b) areas seen by the Committee as requiring examination because of deficiencies (c) departmental actions (d) associated public bodies (e) major appointments (f) implementation of legislation and major policy initiatives

Task 3: examination of any draft legislation

Task 5: examination of expenditure

Task 6: examination of PSAs

All tasks: extent to which systematic structure is in place for meeting the indicative tasks listed, and response of department

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