5 Collaborative working with the US
113. As we have explained in chapter 1, the suggestion
for collaborative working came during our visit to Washington
DC in April 2009, when Representative Bart Gordon, Chairman of
the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee,
suggested that the two Committees might wish to identify a subject
on which they could work together. When drawing up our joint programme
with the House Committee, we took the recommendations in the Royal
Society's report into consideration. The House Committee would
conduct an inquiry on geoengineeringits first exploration
of the topicwhile we would run a complementary short inquiry
on the regulatory aspects of geoengineering. The text of a joint
statement agreed between the Committees is the Annex to this Report.
The House Committee is examining issues regarding the research
and development of geoengineering proposals, focusing its inquiry
on the following questions:
- Under what circumstances would
the US consider initiating research or the actual deployment of
- Which, if any, of the proposed geoengineering
activities warrant further evaluation through coordinated, government-sponsored
research, and which activities should be removed from consideration
due to unacceptable risks or costs?
- Which US Federal Agencies have either the legal
jurisdiction or technical resources to address geoengineering
and, of those, which should lead a coordinated US effort?
- To inform international decision-making processes
regarding the deployment of geoengineering activities, what level
of investment in research is appropriate?
- Which existing international frameworks would
govern research, development and deployment of geoengineering?
And what new models for international cooperation must be developed
to address the unique challenges of geoengineering deployment?
- How could these international frameworks for
research and development serve to inform the regulation of deployment
of geoengineering activities?
Ultimately, the hearings may lead to the formation
of legislation authorising US government agencies to undertake
certain geoengineering research activities and establish intergovernmental
research agreements with other nations.
114. The evidence we have gathered and our Report
will form part of the House Committee's evidence and our Chairman
plans to give oral testimony to the House Committee when it takes
testimony on issues of governance on 18 March 2010. When the US
House Committee publishes its Hearing Record, it will include
our Committee Report.
Arrangements for collaborative
115. The House of Commons has specific procedural
arrangements for joint working with the National Assembly for
Wales but not the national legislatures of foreign countries.
In these circumstances we adopted straightforward arrangements.
We each ran discrete but dovetailed inquiries. We discussed and
agreed areas to cover and an outline timetable with the House
116. The two Committees could not sit or take evidence
togetherwhich would anyway be difficult to arrange in practical
termsbut within the procedural constraints we worked together
sharing publicly available papers and kept in close contact. The
following arrangements were adopted:
- the staff of each Committee
were in regular contact with one another and shared information
- all Commons Committee memoranda and transcripts
were sent to the US Committee once reported to the House of Commons;
- all House Committee papers were sent to the Commons
Committee once reported to the Committee Clerk;
- the Commons Committee's report was to contain
a chapter drawing on the experience of two Committees working
together with, if necessary, recommendations on arrangements for
future coordination; and
- the Chairman of the Commons Committee would testify
in March 2010 on the conclusions and recommendations in the Commons
Committee report to the House Committee, which would be treated
as testimony to the House Committee.
Review of procedural arrangements
117. We have seen the collaborative working with
the House Committee as part of our search for innovative methods
of working. From our point of view, we regard it as a success
and we hope that the House Committee will regard it similarly.
Having seen the way the House Committee organises its business
and with its focus on producing draft federal legislation it is
clear that full joint inquiries and hearings with members from
both Committees sitting together in joint session may not be practicable
at this stage. From our discussions with colleagues on the House
Committee we understand that they feel the same way. That said,
we must put on record that we are enthusiastic supporters of
collaborative working between national legislatures on topics
with international reach such as geoengineering and we consider
that there are a range of measures that could be taken to streamline
the process of collaborative working.
118. In administrative terms, many processes employed
by the House Committee were familiar to us and we found that coordination
of these processes was essential to successful collaborative working.
These "basics" between the two committees include:
a) agreeing terms of reference for inquiries
and hearings along with an indicative timetable and the collaborative
arrangements at the outset;
b) sharing of background papers and submissions
received once made publicly available;
c) regular contact to discuss progress; and
d) once our Report is published the Chairman
conveying its conclusions and recommendations to the House Committee.
119. Beyond the basics, as we have carried out the
inquiry it became clear to us that there was room to employ and,
if necessary, develop House of Commons procedures to improve the
collaborative process. First, one of the processes select committees
can use is the witness who attends all public evidence sessions.
Given the improvements we noted in video communications we see
scope for such a witness being available via video link from the
"collaborating" legislature. It would therefore be possible
for a witness from the collaborating legislature to be available
by video link throughout the oral evidence sessions with other
witnesses. The nature and circumstances of the inquiry would determine
whether such a person was an official, a member of the collaborating
committee or a specialist adviser appointed for the length of
the inquiry. While we were able to draw on the papers available
to the House Committee, it would have given an increased US perspective
to our work if such an arrangement had been in place. Such a person
would have been treated as witness to our inquiry with their contributions
on the published record. We would be content to put in place a
reciprocal arrangement, if the committee with which we were collaborating
wanted it. We conclude that in future collaborative working
between legislatures House of Commons committees should request
the committee with which collaboration is taking place to provide
a "permanent" witnesseither an official or member
of the committeeto provide oral evidence via video link
at all oral evidence sessions.
120. Second, we received enquiries about the possibility
of joint submissions to both committees. We are keen to encourage
such submissions: they reinforce the collaborative nature of the
committees' work and encourage members of both committees to focus
on the same issues. We consider that in future when House of
Commons committees participate in collaborative work they should
include a statement in the call for submissions that, subject
to the appropriate considerations of privilege, memoranda received
may be passed to the committee in the other legislature. Reciprocal
arrangements should be sought from the other committee. It should
also be agreed that the committee receiving the memorandum will
arrange and lead on publication.
121. The third area raises more significant procedural
issues. When considering our Report, the collaborative nature
of the inquiry highlighted the need for an American perspective.
As we have said, the papers supplied by the House Committee went
some way to filling this gap but we would have found it beneficial
to have included a member of the House Committee or a special
adviser based in the USA. This was highlighted when it came to
framing our recommendations to the UK Government to initiate international
action in that we refrained from suggesting similar action to
the US Federal Government. We consider that the House of Commons
should consider procedural changes to the effect that, where a
select committee resolves to carry out collaborative working with
a committee in another national legislature, a member of that
committee attendor communicate via video linkprivate
sessions of the House of Commons committee. Although extending
the power for joint working to the legislatures of foreign states
would be a straightforward step, in many ways the issue of principle
involved has already been taken by the House's decision to allow
joint working of this kind between the Welsh Affairs Committee
and the relevant committees of the National Assembly for Wales.
Conclusion on collaborative working
122. Science, technology and engineering are key
to solving global challenges. Only through international collaboration
will these challenges be met with success. We suggest that the
next Science and Technology Committee should re-establish the
working relationship with the US House of Representatives Science
and Technology Committee. It should also consider making working
connections with other international committees.
189 Used predominately by select committees carrying
out pre-legislative scrutiny where the witness is a Government
official who can assist the committee when requested. Back