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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-217)


18 APRIL 2007

  Q200 Chairman: Colleagues, we now move on to the next distinguished and experienced Members. Thank you very much, Michael, Alan, Tony and Sir George, for accepting the invitation to attend. I know you have sat through the earlier evidence of Sir Alan Haselhurst. Sir George, you have sent us two notes, which are very helpful, and so have you, Michael. All four of you, as well as being experienced and distinguished Members chair select committees as well. I will start with the Father of the House. Do you want to make any opening remarks about how we make the Chamber more effective and how we strengthen the role of the backbencher?

  Mr Williams: I think the suggestion of having a list is sensible. I do not think we are ever going to go back to the illusory days, when the House was jam-packed. Even having come in in 1964, I can remember that as being not the normal occasion. The important thing is that we recognise that the major way this House works effectively in monitoring the executive is through the committees. I will not develop more on that at this point. As far as the individual Members are concerned, I support what Alan said about restoring the private Member's debate, and more use of the emergency debates. I do not see why an emergency debate need be three hours. Three hours is a major deterrent to granting it, as became clear.

  Q201  Chairman: It is a very good point.

  Mr Williams: If the Chair had a discretion to say it could be two hours or one hour, I would suggest to you that this could be a very effective way of opening up completely on emergency access. When I was in opposition and doing the mischief job on the frontbench, I used to meet up with the Whips in the morning, then we would work out who would put in the private notice question and who would back it up with a private, an emergency debate, and we would shuffle all the options. If we were a little more relaxed about the emergency debate, that could solve an enormous amount of problems at a stroke. I am sure there are many occasions when the Chair would say, "yes, this obviously merits an hour, but can I justify taking three hours out of a whole day?"

  Sir George Young: Just to pick up what Alan was saying about the trade-off between topicality and predictability, I just think we have to go down the topicality route much more, just in terms of standing back and trying to reconnect this place with the world outside. We need to be more topical, even if it does become less predictable. In terms of filling the Chamber, you get the Chamber full if you have a topical statement on something; and you get more media coverage of what is going on in the Chamber if you move towards topicality. I am instinctively in favour of the changes that promote topicality, even though there are some consequentials. On that theme, why should ministers be the only people who make statements? Why should not the chairman of a select committee, when he produces an important report like Michael's on the RPA (Rural Payments Agency), or Tony's on the ombudsman, or Edward Leigh on Monday on the NHS, also be able to make a statement in the House of Commons? Why should that be a privilege reserved to ministers? I leave that thought on the table.

  Dr Wright: One unhelpful first comment is just a plea for a certain amount of realism in this. You can endlessly invent good ideas, initiatives for what Parliament might do if Parliament were other than it is. The unreality comes from not being honest about what the place is now, and what drives it; what is in the bloodstream of Members; what is in the career structures of Members of Parliament. Those are the things that make this place how it is. I think there is a gap between devising all kinds of interesting operational scenarios and understanding how the place is. That is why I say you cannot talk about the role of a backbencher, for example. You can talk about roles, in the plural. There was an interesting moment a few years ago when I noticed that for the purpose of making a submission to the SSRB somebody had sat down and done a job description of a Member of Parliament. It was pure fantasy because there is no such Member of Parliament who does the job described; they all do different jobs, depending on their reading of the role. It is a multiplicity of roles done differently, and there is no such thing as "the backbencher". One of the best bits of evidence I thought you had was the survey done by Michael Rush and Philip Giddings. When they asked Members about the most important parts of the job, they said the most interesting finding was the difference made by whether a party was in government or opposition, and gave the figures of Conservative Members in 1994 giving a very low rating to scrutiny; but now it has gone up to 90%. Being a backbencher on the government side and a backbencher on the opposition side are two completely different jobs; so to talk about "the backbencher" is absurd. My conclusion from all that is that we need to focus on making Parliament better at doing the job it has to do. I think that directs you to certain other areas, some of which we are doing at the moment. I think they are the real areas that offer some promise.

  Mr Jack: I start from two points. Does the government of the day really want to be more scrutinised and probed? Does it accept that occasionally the Government might lose, however you define that? Is the question of the time that we have available in the House of Commons for all of our business going to be looked at realistically, because I very much agree with what Tony Wright has said. It is very easy to dream up endless novel changes to the procedures, but you always run up against the most precious commodity we have in the House, which is time. One of the things that, had I thought about it, I would have included in my own submission, was perhaps a further review of the use of time. There is still the tendency that we have X hours for a debate, so that is the amount we use it up. If you could do it in X minus minutes—if we could create surplus time, what would we use it for? My two submissions focused on a revision of the procedure as far as statements are concerned. They recognise that the reality of the world is that most major government announcements are pre-leaked to the media in one way or another, and we go through a charade: a minister goes on to the Today programme and says: "I cannot tell you everything because I must tell the House of Commons first"; but 95% of it has been pre-digested. Under those circumstances, my principal submission suggested a different way entirely of looking at statements to give people the opportunity to go beyond simply asking a question but having some time for a mini debate with limited amounts of time for contributions to the backbenches but where the backbenches would be armed better with the information by having had not just the statement but the White Paper or other relevant documents ahead of time. The submission I put in on select committees was far more radical, and that effectively said that if we really are going to crank up the ability of non-government Members of the House to truly hold the executive to account, then under those circumstances you may have to look at a wholly different way of channelling business through a different type of committee structure, which would be more in parallel with continental practice than is the case with the House of Commons, where our committee structure is very much ad hoc. If you had powerful select committees that were sitting five days a week, fully resourced, probing every piece of business going through there, then the backbenchers who are members of that select committee would undoubtedly have a lot more clout when it comes to holding the Government to account.

  Q202  Chairman: Thank you very much for those very interesting opening statements. On your point, Michael about whether governments want to be more scrutinised and probed, the answer to that is that ministers' views vary. My own view—and I am on the record about this—is that although it is sometimes uncomfortable, the quality of government, as well obviously as the quality of our democracy, benefits from having a greater degree of scrutiny. I often say to my colleagues that it is not a zero sum between Parliament and Government, although sometimes ministers might be forgiven for thinking that it is. On pre-leaked statements—or briefings—although we live in much more of a goldfish bowl outside, it is possible to have disciplines that ensure that Parliament is the first to know about the detail of policy. Some ministers do observe that. I think that, frankly, government has got into bad habits. I do not accept that these habits are unchangeable. There has been a big change between what happened when most of us, the older generation, came into the House, and now, which is the select committees. They are now more powerful than people let on. They do a very effective job, I am told by those who know, compared with committees in the United States. They may not be so dramatic, but they certainly do an important job, and by God, if you are a minister and you are going before a select committee for a grilling for two or three hours, you have to have the answers and cannot rely on rhetorical devices because they get you absolutely nowhere. There is this difficulty about how you link in what the select committees are saying and reporting with the Chamber. I do not think any of us want to get into the position of many other parliaments, where the Chamber becomes irrelevant. There never was a golden age—Alan, you are right. The point about the Chamber is that it is the cockpit of the nation; the numbers in the Chamber determine who forms a government; opinion in the Chamber can wreck a government, and can certainly wreck a minister's career and enhance one also. It is a really important forum. The question we are facing is how to make it more effective, given the current realities, not going back to some non-existent golden age. I think it particularly applies to how you get the input from the committees. Do you have any suggestions?

  Sir George Young: Have you thought of select committee days, when the Chamber does not sit, on the grounds that a lot of select committee business is disruptive?

  Q203  Chairman: So you would have days on which select committees could sit.

  Sir George Young: Yes.

  Dr Wright: Can I again make a plea for realism? One of the things that we all say is how important the work of the select committees has been since 1979—and it has. It is one of the good growth points of the institution, and it is very hard now to imagine a parliament without the system working. However, they are still, I think, not doing what they might do. What was profoundly shocking for me, for example, in the last parliament, was when our party decided that it was more important taking on campaign roles inside the party than being members of a select committee. In fact two members of my select committee were removed to go and be campaign organisers or assistant campaign organisers for different parts of the country. I mention that because perhaps I should not have been shocked by it, but it was a statement about the relative importance of roles. It was a statement that it is less important to be a member of a select committee, scrutinising government, doing that Westminster role, than it is campaigning out in the country. From the point of view of Members who know where careers lay, they also know that they are going to get more brownie points, as it were, from campaigning for their party than being scrutineers in select committees; so it plays to the career structure. We can invent different models, but if they are out of synch with how the place actually is, they will get nowhere. My view is that we should build on developments that are taking place. The idea about developing the select committees is a good one. Perhaps we can have select committee days, with perhaps George's idea about chairs being able to make statements. Having votes on select committee reports is a good thing. Select committees—we did it, uniquely, developing our own bill—it should not only be Government that produces putative legislation. There are a number of things we can do—getting better pre-legislative scrutiny, post legislative scrutiny—I think the new public bill procedure has far more to offer—although I do not know how it is working in detail—in terms of making Parliament matter more than some of the devices that you may be able to think of.

  Q204  Sir Nicholas Winterton: Should there not be less legislation?

  Dr Wright: I think we have all made that speech, Sir Nicholas, have we not?

  Q205  Sir Nicholas Winterton: I ask you.

  Dr Wright: I know, and it goes down very well.

  Q206  Chairman: What is the answer?

  Dr Wright: I have made that speech on Queen's Speech days, and I believe it, and I think there is a very good case for saying we should legislate less but legislate better. Every party has subscribed to that in theory, but no government subscribes to it in practice.

  Q207  Sir Nicholas Winterton: But would you not agree that the only way that parliament can become more relevant is if Parliament itself, rather than the executive, takes more control of what goes on in the House?

  Dr Wright: Yes.

  Q208  Sir Nicholas Winterton: If that is the case, how could that be achieved?

  Dr Wright: Yes. I think this is one of the arguments for trying to think about how non-legislative time might be organised by somebody other than the usual channels. I am not privy to these things, but I have been involved in discussions about how we might have a business committee that was concerned with developing that area of parliamentary business. I have ticked a box! It is certainly worth exploring.

  Mr Williams: Can I throw in one point on something that was touched on earlier, and that is the Thursday and Friday phenomenon? It is a logical consequence of several things. It is natural, as has rightly been said, that Members want to save their own seats and have to give high priority to it; but something that now is regarded as utterly unacceptable and used to be a way of life as far as my generation was concerned, was pairing. With pairing, you could nip away in the week. Someone else would not vote; you could go to a constituency engagement, come back, and you would have your Thursday and Friday. However, now Members are here and they are trapped. The Opposition side think it is a great wheeze not to pair with the Government because it makes it uncomfortable; and from the Government Whips' Office point of view it is control-freakery and gives them an extra hold over all their Members; but something that nobody thinks of nowadays is that pairing would loosen the way in which Members organised their time.

  Q209  Chairman: That is a good point.

  Mr Williams: The other point is—and I am hobby-horsing now—everyone knows my views on devolution so you have to excuse it, but this again is a logical consequence that has not been taken into account. We talk of a decline in attendance, but remember that for eighty of us there are large parts of what goes on here that are irrelevant. We are not affected; it is dealt with in the assembly; it is dealt with in parliament, and we cannot deal with it in relation to our own constituencies. So a huge chunk of, particularly as it happens Labour supporters because of Scotland and Wales, are opting out of the Chamber because the Chamber has opted them out of their constituency, a previous constituency role; and so they want to get back to their constituencies as quickly as they can to try and undo the damage that has been done! You have not had to put up with the floaters, the people who do not represent a seat; they represent an area and can go cherry-picking all around the constituencies; so they are protecting their backs, but eighty Members is a lot of Members to take out.

  Mr Jack: Can I pick up on your first question? One of the important things—again reflecting something George Young said about topicality—is that at the moment if a select committee wants to have a report debated, we have to wait until an estimates day comes along; and then, through Alan's good offices on the Liaison Committee, we have to have an adjudication as to which committee wins the internal debate within the Liaison Committee as to whose report goes forward. That inevitably constrains the number of reports that can be debated; but it also means a great deal of time passes between the point of publication when it is topical, and the ability of the House of Commons to debate it. If you said to me, "Once a month you are going to have Fridays for debate of select committee reports, and we will have two or three debates of X hours", that would be very good. That then moves you, though, into the question of status of members of select committees. I am lucky; I have what I call a hard core of my committee, two-thirds, that are regular attendees. They put in a huge amount of effort, but they do not get very much status back for it, if you like. It is the chair of the committee or sub-committee who does all the media, so that is the glamour bit of it; but the Sherpas do not get much more than having it on their CV that they have been on the committee. If we therefore had more flexibility about the way we set up sub-committees, then you could have more members of the committee in charge of something that was going to get status when their report and their work actually came out. The other side of the coin is that if they also knew that there was some guarantee that they would be part of the debate on the floor of the House of their report, that again adds to the status of the member. The third thing is to ensure that when the Selection Committee decides who goes on to do other work in the House, they take into account the select committee work that people are doing. There is a trade-off between it. You cannot expect Members to do a standing committee and select committee work and do it thoroughly if you are going to enhance the probing role of select committees. It comes back, all the time, to time management.

  Q210  Mr Knight: Have any of you in the last twelve months ever had your committee inquorate or had to wait quite a while for a quorum to arrive? On the point about the value of select committees, would not one way of increasing their value perhaps be to reduce the size? Thirdly, what is your view of our system of European scrutiny? It seems to me to be totally ineffective. What should we do about that?

  Mr Jack: "No", in answer to your first question. Size—please do not diminish it. With a department like Environment Food and Rural Affairs to cover—if you want the Committee to be probing lots of different parts of it, then give me more flexibility in the way that my Committee operates and I will do more probing. Reducing the size reduces my probe rate. As far as the EU scrutiny is concerned, this comes back to a far more fundamental consideration as to what business should go through a select committee. We do not currently have the capacity to take away from the European scrutiny process a blow-by-blow look at all the environmental and food legislation, and agricultural legislation that will come out of the Commission. If we could sit for longer and have more resources and more people, and people could really specialise in that work—yes, we could do it.

  Q211  Chairman: Are there any other comments?

  Dr Wright: Never. Size is not an issue. Getting the permanent commitment of members, in the way that Michael says, is important. The rider I was going to put to his earlier remarks, that is relevant to this is to say that the problem with a lot of the select committee estimate day debates that we have now is that on the whole the only people who come are members of the select committee, so all we are doing is talking to each other again about our report, which is a completely useless enterprise.

  Q212  Chairman: Can I say that part of the problem about that is that when the business is announced it is very obscure what we are going to be debating. It is an internal argument that I have had, but I am then told, "Well, the Liaison Committee has been rather lax in making its mind up about what it is." If I was able to say, "this debate is about this quite important topical issue" and I was able to describe it, rather than saying it is a fourth report of the X select committee—you think, "Oh, fine, I will have a day off."

  Dr Wright: If there was, for example, a vote—

  Q213  Chairman: I am suggesting both; you have a vote but also, subject of course to colleagues and if the government agree—having a vote is an important idea, but also ensuring that what is presented to the House by the select committee is understandable, topical and important.

  Dr Wright: Yes.

  Sir George Young: On size, can I make a plea not to have large select committees. One of your witnesses suggested that every backbencher should be on a select committee. The consequent size I think would make them very difficult to manage, if everybody wants to ask a question and you have 20 or 25 people on a select committee, and then you are trying to get a report together. My select committee is ten, and I am very comfortable with that.

  Q214  Chairman: Alan—inquorate?

  Mr Williams: No problem! All the collective chairmen are very well behaved. The clash between tails on seats, which is what preoccupies the Whips, and the efficacy of the Committee is something that needs to be looked at. Michael's Committee is something of an exception, I think. First of all, they are very hard-working, and Michael, if he will excuse my saying so, is a very imaginative chairman in the way he approaches his work. When I took over the Liaison Committee I met with every individual chairman and I put to them all that they should consider the possibility of sub-committees as a way of widening their investigative capability. Some committees now are larger than they need to be. There are chairmen who complain that there are too many people and it is taking too long. In the committee I love so much, the Public Accounts Committee—I have been on 17 years—we always used to operate at 12 members, and we each had 15 minutes to question. That was your 15 minutes! However, then the Whips decided, because statutorily we are a different committee to the others in nature, we could have a maximum of 15 and therefore we would have 15. Since we have had 15, we have had to drop questioning time from 15 minutes to 10 minutes because meetings were dragging on so long and it was unfair to witnesses. I do not think there is any single rule on size, but I think we need to be more flexible and not preoccupied with just meeting the Whips' whim.

  Q215  Sir Peter Soulsby: Can I just say, as one of the backbench Sherpas on Michael's Committee, I entirely agree with him about the need for flexibility in the way in which they work, and the establishment of a sub-committee is an enormous advantage. I wanted to come to the evidence that others have given us about the impact of constituency duties and expectation of Members in general and backbench Members in particular, and the way the expectations have changed over the years. The amount of e-mails that Members get has grown exponentially. The need for all parties constantly campaigning out in the constituencies has also affected the focus. Is this inevitable? Is it reversible? Is there a way forward other than to be overwhelmed by it?

  Dr Wright: It is congruent with an intelligent response on the part of Members to the job that they do. It is not irrational for them to behave like this because they can control that; that is an area where they have power and can control. There is also direct interest. They can decide. They are big figures in their areas and can decide how to organise their lives and can make some real impact locally. There is no question that the role of the Member of Parliament in the constituency has changed out of recognition over the last generation for all kinds of reasons. I sometimes tease my constituency party. One of my illustrious predecessors was Jennie Lee, and there is a lovely press cutting that stated, "Miss Lee was gracious enough to attend the annual meeting of the Cannock Labour Party". This is a different world. MPs now are community catalysts. I do not underestimate the work that they do in their areas; but it is of an order that is unrecognisable from the previous generation. You can see why they give attention to that: it is valuable; it provides a service to their constituency; and of course there is an interest that comes with it. It is a reflection of some of the difficulties of finding a secure role at Westminster.

  Mr Williams: I think as well there is the technological impact here. I grew up in Parliament under the convention that one Member of Parliament did not deal with another Member's constituents and problems. I think we all observed this with our letters, but now we are flooded not with letters but with correspondence from people we have never heard of, and parts of the country we have never been to, and for some reason we seem to presume that we have to answer them all. Having read the evidence of quite a few people, it has been a brave witness who says he ignores them all. I do not know whether there is any practical way of modifying the convention that made life tolerable for us to meet the conditions of the new technology; but I must say that with the rate of expansion of incoming requests, I am glad I have decided to retire next time.

  Q216  Mrs May: The new public bill committee procedure introduces some of the characteristics of select committees into the public bill committees, and I wondered if our witnesses could comment on whether they think that will have any impact in the longer term on select committees. The second issue is an aspect of the topicality issue. Sir Nicholas has had his bee in his bonnet, so I am going to have mine! It is about freeing up more time, or using more legislative time, to do more cross-cutting debates, more debates on issues. Legislation, by definition, tends to be departmentally based in terms of the debate; but more debates on issues, with free votes at the end of those debates so that there is an opportunity to get the will of Parliament rather than just the will of party.

  Mr Williams: The Liaison Committee in its annual report made it quite clear that in our view, as far as the Public Bill Committee is concerned, we welcome that. I think it is an excellent innovation and will lead to better quality of interrogation and participation by the Members. However, in no circumstances can we accept that it should preclude the rights of a select committee also to carry out pre-legislative inquiry because we do it from a position of expertise very often. This is one of the key points we made in our report. I do not see that it should cause great difficulty as far as government is concerned, but you can see the different nature of an ad hoc group that is going to look over one or two days under the chairmanship of a chair from a chairman list, who knows nothing about the subject, as compared with an ongoing, several-day inquiry by a specialist committee headed by somebody who has probably been chair of the subject for a long time and with a lot of Members who have special interest and special know-how. To run them in tandem is excellent, but one for the other is unacceptable.

  Mr Jack: As far as the Public Bill Committee is concerned, my worry about it is that whilst it is a very good idea to have a probing element to explore some of the technical details of a bill, if I look at the scrutiny we did, for example, on the draft Animal Welfare Bill in pre-legislative terms, we worked intensively for six weeks, two or three times a week, looking in detail at a bill that was work in progress, which, by the time it emerged on the floor of the House, was a much more workman-like piece of legislation. I think the Government benefited from that kind of work. You are never going to get that in the current arrangement. I come back to what I said at the beginning: it is about winning and losing. When it is malleable, it does not matter if the Government says, "Okay, we will change that" because it is not about winning or losing a vote in a committee. When it is for real, the Government has the right to say, "Okay, we want our legislation, thank you very much." Unfortunately, that process often drags on to the statute book because the constraint of time that not every bill is probed for every clause is bad legislation; so it comes back to the question of how you get it right at the drafting end, at the thinking end, before it goes forward. The other side of the coin is that it again comes back to what you want to do with select committees. Do you want to turn them into legislative channels, like they do in foreign legislatures? Do you want all legislation on agriculture, food, fishing, whatever, to come through my Committee, with the risk that in the un-whipped structure of a select committee the Government might lose because it might get its ideas turned over? If you really want to give some power back to the backbenches, if you give the select committees on an un-whipped basis the opportunity to really get stuck in on a bill, then you could see what could be done.

  Mr Williams: The pre-legislative area is one we have identified as one of our areas of weakness that we want to expand, and ministers have accepted this. Unfortunately, while I understand there are operational factors, the number of draft bills coming forward nullifies all good intent. In our annual report on page 79, in 2003 twelve draft bills were published out of 36 Government bills—excellent, one in three. In 2005-06 it was three out of 58, and I think we have had four offered this year so far. If the Government really is serious about developing pre-legislative legislation, we accept and welcome the additional thing they want to offer, but they should fully use the facilities that already exist and co-operate more with the select committees in not only providing the bills but providing them in adequate time to be examined properly.

  Dr Wright: Theresa, if I may say so, has identified some absolutely critical issues. We all know that the way in which we scrutinise legislation has been an embarrassment. It is a good job people did not know what has been going on—and we have all been parties to it; so any attempt to do that better is a good idea. Whether or not we now have the right model I do not know. I think there are more radical models that we might think of, and there would be some sense in thinking about how to fuse the select committee model with the bill scrutiny model. It is daft that you do not build in the expertise that Parliament has in the scrutiny of legislation in that area, as a natural process. It is a start that you build on. Theresa's point about more cross-cutting issues is absolutely right—we are very bad at that. A crucial area is to have cross-party initiatives. There is a mismatch between the kind of tribalism that we bring to our affairs in this place—except when we meet like this in a civilised way—and how the rest of the world operates outside. We are seeing the beginnings of that here, but we have to build on it, and the select committee route will help. Theresa's last point about more free votes is a very good idea. The fact that we do not have them reflects the tribalism. I cannot see why, on a range of measures, for example the current one on the Mental Health Bill, they have to be party measures. In fact the legitimacy of the measure would be greatly improved if Parliament was voting simply as Parliament rather than as tribal blocs.

  Q217  Sir Nicholas Winterton: A brief response from all our four witnesses—and I ask this question positively without any disrespect to our current Chairman: do our witnesses, who are experienced Members of this House, believe that this Committee would be better chaired by a backbencher rather than by a Cabinet minister? Would it not enhance the role and the authority of a backbencher and the House as a whole?

  Mr Williams: I think one has to go by experience of what has happened. Under Robin and Jack is following the same route—it did make great achievements. I think it was an advantage to have this interface. My colleagues may disagree completely with me, but I feel that if it works it is silly to change it.

  Sir George Young: I think there is a big issue about whether Parliament should repatriate some of the powers that have gone to the executive. This is the only select committee that is chaired by a member of the Government, and there is a real question as to whether that exception is justifiable. With respect to the current Chairman, who is a good House of Commons man, I do not think it is justifiable. The chairman's job, as a member of the Cabinet, is to get the Government's legislative programme through the House of Commons. The job of the Modernisation Committee is to define the machinery by which that legislative programme is examined. It seems to me that there is an incontrovertible conflict of interest if you have the same person doing both jobs. My view would be that I would merge the Procedure Committee and the Modernisation Committee together, and I would have it chaired by a backbench Member of Parliament.

  Dr Wright: It is intellectually indefensible but it may be practically useful, especially if we have a reforming Leader of the House.

  Mr Jack: I agree very much with George, but I think George's premise should be predicated by the fact that once this Committee under a different chairmanship had come up with its ideas, that it should have the right of proposing the amendments to the way the House operates on the floor; because the advantage we have at the moment is that at least the current Leader has to do something when this Committee comes to some conclusions.

  Chairman: I am catholic on this. I just say that you have two roles as Leader of the House. One role is to represent Government's interests in Parliament, but the other role is representing Parliament's interests to the Government. It may be difficult but someone once said if you can't ride two horses you should not be in the circus!

  Sir Nicholas Winterton: This is not a circus!

  Chairman: My two pennyworth on this—and at the end it is Parliament that needs to decide, and not me—is that the voice of the Commons, excluding ministers, is strengthened in government if you have a Leader of the House chairing this. I thought it was an odd arrangement and it is, but it may work. Time will tell. Thank you very much indeed for your excellent evidence and for your attendance. We will all do our best.

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