Improving the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny: Various items - Procedure Committee Contents


This report builds on work undertaken in the previous Parliament. It contains three sets of recommendations which share a common aim of improving the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny.

First, we recommend that select committees be allowed to table in their own amendments to bills and motions on the floor of the House. These amendments should be agreed unanimously at a quorate meeting of a committee and notice should be given to all members of that committee that such amendments will be proposed for consideration at that meeting. We also suggest that, subject to the established conventions on selection for debate and decision, the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means might look favourably on a select committee seeking a separate decision on its amendments where business is programmed.

Secondly, we recommend that during this Parliament Members and opposition spokespeople be encouraged to table explanatory statements on amendments to bills and that the Government use this facility to provide explanatory statements to clarify the origin of amendments and new clauses proposed on Report.

Thirdly, the Committee recognises that whilst written parliamentary questions (WPQs) are a vital part of parliamentary scrutiny, there is a danger that their value is being eroded by the record numbers being tabled which also imposes significant costs on the public purse. We propose no restrictions on the current ability of a Member to table questions in person, but in order to reduce the number and to make questions more effective, we propose a three-month trial of applying a daily quota of five and an earlier daily deadline of 6.30 pm from Monday to Thursday and 2.30 pm on sitting Fridays to questions for written answer submitted electronically. We also recommend that, to assist Members, the Government deliver all answers to parliamentary questions to the Member concerned by email at the same time as the answer is delivered to the House.

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Prepared 9 March 2011