Membership of the Committee on Standards
and Privileges |
3. The CSPL has recommended that "There
should be at least two lay members who have never been Parliamentarians
on the Standards and Privileges Committee
be chosen through the official public appointments process and
formally approved by the House."
The lay members "should have full voting rights."
4. With the support of this Committee as a whole,
our former Chairman proposed the appointment of lay members to
the Committee in his evidence to the CSPL.
We welcome the CSPL's endorsement of this recommendation and we
have suggestions for how it might work in practice.
5. The term "full voting rights" as
it appears in the CSPL's recommendation 52 is not defined. It
is, however, used by the CSPL solely in the context of a discussion
of standards issues. We interpret "full voting rights"
in the context of the CSPL's report as a whole as meaning that
the lay members will be able to vote on any matter relating to
a standards case that is before the Committeeincluding
proceedings on a draft Reportand on any matter that relates
to standards in general, such as a proposal to amend the Code
of Conduct or the Rules regarding registration of interests. We
would not see it as conferring on the lay members the right to
vote on any matter relating to privilege.
6. The current membership of the Committee is
ten (half of whom are drawn from opposition parties) and the quorum
is five. We propose that there should in future be two lay
members on the Committee in addition to the ten elected Members.
We recommend that the quorum should consist of five elected members
and one lay member. In practice, this would mean that no decision
on a standards matter could be taken without direct input from
one of the lay members. In addition, it would mean that at least
two elected Members would be required to support a proposition
in order for it to be carried against opposition from the other
elected Members present. If one or more Members were to decline
to vote, this threshold would be altered, depending on the numbers
7. We are confident that the formula outlined
above is fully in line with both the letter and the spirit of
the CSPL's recommendation, while maintaining an important constitutional
principlethat the outcome of proceedings in a Committee
of the House should be in the hands of those who are directly
accountable to the electorate.
8. The CSPL's report does not refer to the possibility
that a lay member could chair the Committee. However, the CSPL
has previously recommended, and the House has accepted, that the
Committee should be chaired by an Opposition Member of Parliament.
We would expect this to continue to be the case.
9. In its report, the CSPL notes concerns expressed
by the Clerk of the House that the direct participation of lay
persons in the taking of decisions by a committee of the House
may not be covered by privilege.
The report concludes that "If the House authorities are of
the opinion that clarifying the question of parliamentary privilege
in that regard requires an amendment to the Parliamentary Standards
Act, the Government should facilitate this."
While recognising the force of the concerns expressed by the
Clerk, we agree that a means of bringing participation of lay
members in this Committee's work within the ambit of privilege
must be found, and we are ready to work with the Government and
with the House authorities to that end. We would expect lay
members of the Committee, like other members, to be fully bound
by the rules regarding confidentiality of committee proceedings.
10. There is, however, another matter relating
to privilege which we understand was raised by the Clerk. This
concerns participation by the Committee's lay members in its work
on matters involving privilege, which is entirely separate from
its work on standards issues. We are strongly of the viewwhich
we believe is shared by the CSPLthat participation in the
Committee's proceedings by lay members must be confined to the
standards issues which lie within the scope of the CSPL's report.
Privilege must remain a matter for the House and its Members.
We suggest that a clear distinction will need to be drawn between
matters relating to privilege and the other work of the Committee,
once the lay members have been appointed. To that end, we recommend
that the existing restriction in Standing Order No 149 which limits
the size of a sub-committee to seven be removed, allowing the
Committee to appoint a Privileges sub-Committee consisting of
the ten elected Members.
11. There is also nothing in the CSPL's report
about remuneration of lay members of the Committee, or payment
of their expenses. However, an analogue is available in the form
of provision for the specialist advisers who already assist committees
of the House. Specialist advisers are reimbursed for their
expenses and are paid a modest per diem for the work they carry
out for committees. We understand that the members of the CSPL
are also remunerated in this way. In our view, a similar arrangement
should be made for payments to the lay members.
- Finally, we note the CSPL's recommendation that
the lay members of the Committee should be "chosen through
the official public appointments process".
It is far from clear what is meant by this phrase. In our view,
it would not be right for the ministerial appointments process
to be used for these purposesand in any case, such a move
would require legislation. We do, however, believe that there
should be independent, external involvement in the appointment
of the lay members. And whichever body is to administer this process,
we suggest that it should not be the Committee on which the lay
members are to serve. Our colleagues on the Public Administration
Committee have carried out much useful work on public appointments
and may wish to offer their views on how these particular appointments
should be made.
2 CSPL 12th Report, recommendations 51 and 48 Back
CSPL 12th Report, recommendation 52 Back
Letter from Sir George Young Bt MP to Sir Christopher Kelly, 2
June 2009 Back
CSPL 12th Report, paragraph 13.68 Back
CSPL 12th Report, recommendation 52 Back
CSPL 12th Report, recommendation 48 Back