Task 10: Debates in Westminster
Hall and the Chamber
45. The Committee secured two Westminster Hall debates
during the Session. On 29 November 2007 there was a very well
attended debate on restructuring the Post Office network, based
on the work of the Trade and Industry Committee in the previous
session. The Report
on Jobs for the Girls: Two Years On was also the subject
of a lively and thorough debate on 16 October 2008. The Committee's
report on the Post Office Card Account appeared on the day the
Liberal Democrats motion on the Post Office Card Account was debated;
although it was not formally tagged, it informed the debate. On
16 December, our Report on Energy Prices, Fuel Poverty and
Ofgem was the subject of an Estimates Day debate on the floor
of the House.
46. We have also drawn attention to the way in which
the ability of the House as a whole to scrutinise BERR's work
has been reduced by the composition of its ministerial team. This
is not because of any fault of individual ministers, but because
half the team is in the Lords. Unless some procedural solution
is found, opposition front benches and individual back benchers
will find it impossible to question ministers responsible for
significant parts of BERR's portfolio directly.
It is only fair to add that the Secretary of State has offered
to come before us more frequently than usual. Until more satisfactory
arrangements are made, we will attempt to draw evidence from Lords'
ministers to the House's attention whenever it is relevant.
47. Finally, our expertise on Post Office matters
has been recognised by the Government- the Secretary of State
has asked us to identify new services which post offices could
offer. We thought carefully before accepting this invitation:
we think it is very important that the Committee should be completely
independent of the Government. Ultimately, and as we had already
been considering a similar inquiry ourselves, we agreed to do
this as part of a wider inquiry into the future of the post office
network. We have now set the terms of reference in the normal
way and will report to the House as usual.