Select Committee on Liaison Third Report


5. Activity and resources

Select committee activities

110. In this section we give an overview of some of the activity indicators for select committees for which data are collected, such as the number of formal meetings and reports published. These give a broad overview of how active committees have been, but it is important to note that many activities undertaken by committees, such as informal meetings and seminars, are not captured by the statistics currently maintained. Such additional activities can be of great value and in many cases require considerable investment of resources, not least in terms of staff resources and Members' time.

111. In the 2006-07 Session, there were 1,096 select committee meetings, of which 632 (58%) were public. Over the past decade, departmental select committees have held most meetings, while the domestic and administrative committees have had the smallest and a declining share of meetings. Details for each session since 1997-98 are set out in Table 19 below. Table 19: Select committee meetings by session, 1997-98 to 2006-07

112. 345 substantive committee reports were published in the 2006-07 Session, representing almost 10 reports per sitting week, a slight increase on the weekly average in the previous session, as set out in Table 20 and Figure 1 below. The departmental select committees that produced the greatest number of reports in the 2006-07 Session were: Defence (15 reports); Treasury (14); Science and Technology and Trade and Industry (13 each); and Education and Skills and International Development (11 each). Those which held most formal meetings were: Treasury (55); Education and Skills (53 meetings); Defence and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (45); Communities and Local Government and Science and Technology (42 each).[141] The Committee of Public Accounts—the scope of whose inquiries is limited to a particular area of expenditure—published 66 reports and held 53 formal meetings. These figures do not, of course, include the informal meetings held by most committees, which can form a significant part of their work. For instance, the Foreign Affairs Committee held 63 informal meetings at Westminster in 2007, in addition to its formal meetings.[142]Table 20: Substantive committee reports published by session, 1997-98 to 2006-07


Figure 1: Number of committee meetings by type, 1997-98 to 2006-07

Costs of select committees

113. Table 21 below gives details of the costs of committee work, broken down by broad expenditure category. It should be noted that the figures for staff costs relate to financial years, while other costs relate to sessions, which vary in length, thus making direct comparison difficult. The total number of staff supporting select committees in Session 2006-07 was 227.6, of whom 190.1 were in the Committee Office. Not surprisingly, staff costs represented the highest proportion of total select committee costs (about two-thirds in 2006-07). Although total costs for select committees have increased since 1999-2000, some costs within the total have fallen: printing and publication costs have decreased not only absolutely, but also relative to the number of reports published. (The printing costs per report decreased from £8,148 per report in 1997-98 to £5,286 in 2006-07.)Table 21: Approximate select committee costs, 1997-98 to 2006-07


114. Figure 2 below shows the breakdown of committee costs, including staff, along with session length. Figure 2: Session length and committee costs by type, 1999-00 to 2006-07


Resources for select committees

115. In our Report last year, we noted the announcement of a review of select committee resources, to follow up the 2002 review initiated by the House of Commons Commission. The review was led by a Director at the NAO, and reported in November 2007. The key conclusions of the review were:

In response to the review, Committee Office management is taking forward several pieces of work:

  • the development of a new staffing model for researchers and policy analysts which will provide the best and most flexible resources for committees and for individual Members;
  • an analysis of current areas of specialism of research staff across the Committee Office and the Library;
  • establishment of clear development opportunities and training routes for administrative staff of committees, and
  • a fundamental analysis of the current staffing needs of each committee.

116. We welcome the fact that the resource needs of select committees continue to be kept under review, and look forward to the outcome of the work now being carried out by Committee Office management. In this context, we note that improved scrutiny by the House of the Government's financial reporting is likely to require both increased specialist advice and a change in the nature of the advice required.[143]


141   These figures include meetings of sub-committees appointed by the committees concerned. Back

142   Foreign Affairs Committee, The Work of the Committee in 2007, para 2 Back

143   See para 45. Back


 
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