Rebuilding the House - House of Commons Reform Committee Contents


Option 1: Parties elect Members; Committee elects Chair

This would be a revised version of current practice. The division of seats on each committee between the parties would be agreed. Then each party would elect the requisite number of members for each committee. At the first meeting of each committee, the committee would, as now, elect its own Chair from amongst the membership, following the central guidance as to which party the Chair should be drawn from, but unlike now using a secret ballot.

Relevant considerations include

  • whips might be able to manipulate a party election with slates, which might also effect the choice the committee then goes on to make for its Chair; but
  • candidates would be better known by those voting than in a whole House election, especially at the start of a Parliament.
  • The absence of any sense that Chairs are responsible to, or speak for, the House on a certain matter; but
  • the Chair would command support and confidence of at least a majority of their colleagues on the committee.
  • The continuing association of select committee membership with party affiliation; but
  • The relative ease with which elections within parties can be organised.

Option 2: House elects Chair; Parties elect Members [ Recommended Option]

Chairs would be elected first, by secret ballot of the House. The share-out of chairs would have been agreed in advance. After the Chairs have been elected, the parties would then elect members to the committees as in Option 1.

In addition to those mentioned under Option 1 above, relevant considerations include:

  • Chairs would represent the whole House, and have a clear mandate and accountability; but
  • direct election might result in candidates who did not command the confidence of their committees;
  • some Members may feel uncomfortable voting for members of other political parties and a governing party majority could decide the outcome of elections of all Chairs; but
  • Chair elections are transparent, minimise the use by whips of committee chairs as a form of patronage and would encourage cross-party working.

Option 3: House elects Members, Committee elects Chair

The first stage would be a whole House election to choose committee members. Once committee members have been chosen the committees would meet and elect their own Chair from amongst their number, as in Option 1.

In addition to those mentioned under Option 1 and 2 above, relevant considerations include:

  • a whole House election for so many positions would be complex; but
  • a whole House election is the most transparently democratic means of choosing committee members and would emphasise the cross-party nature of select committee working.

Option 4: House elects Chair; House elects Members

The first stage would be the election by the whole House of committee chairs, as in Option 2. Following this (either immediately or on a subsequent day) the remaining members of committees are also elected by the whole House, as in Option 3.

The relevant considerations are as set out under Options 1, 2 and 3.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 24 November 2009