Select Committee on Procedure Fourth Report

1 Introduction

1. Last autumn we decided to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into several of the core areas of the House's work which are of concern to many Members. We have covered:

—  procedures for debates, including the pressure on time, the way in which Members are called to speak, some of the conventions of debate; the role of the Opposition and private Members in initiating debates;

—  private Members' bills;

—  the powers of the Speaker, concentrating on the Speaker's role in recalling the House in an emergency.

2. Members were invited to contribute by an announcement in the All-Party Notices and a letter from our Chairman to all Members first elected in 1997 and later. Many Members wrote to us, and their letters appear among the written evidence; and fifteen gave us oral evidence, including members of the all-party Parliament First Group and the Leader and (then) Shadow Leader of the House (Mr Peter Hain and Mr Eric Forth). We also heard from the Hansard Society, the Clerk of the House and his colleagues and witnesses from the House of Lords. In addition, we had the benefit of private discussions with the Speaker and with Sir Alan Haselhurst, Chairman of Ways and Means.[1] To everyone who helped with this inquiry, we express our thanks.

3. Several witnesses raised matters which were of considerable interest but fell outside the areas on which we have eventually decided to concentrate for this Report. These included the House's scrutiny of the Government's use of powers under the Royal Prerogative.[2]

1   For written evidence from Sir Alan and from Sir Nicolas Bevan, Speaker's Secretary till June 2003, see Ev 136, 138-9. Back

2   We considered parliamentary scrutiny of treaties in our Second Report of Session 1999-2000 (HC 210). For evidence relating to prerogative powers, see Qq 16-21 (Parliament First group), 256-67 (Mr Dalyell, Dr Richard Taylor, Peter Bradley). Back

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Prepared 27 November 2003