Letter from Rt Hon Sir George Young MP,
Leader of the House of Commons (P69, 2010-11)|
TABLING OF AMENDMENTS BY SELECT COMMITTEES
Thank you for your letter of 9 December, continuing
discussions on the proposal to allow select committees to table
amendments to bills and motions in their own right. I have had
further discussion within Government on this issue.
I support efforts to increase the greater transparency
and visibility of the very important work undertaken by select
committees. As you are aware, I have been keen to work with the
Liaison Committee, the Backbench Business Committee and your committee
to seek progress in this area, for example, our recent discussions
about improving the procedures for select committee chairs to
have access to the chamber floor to launch important reports.
Your committee, in its report on Tabling of Amendments
by Select Committees, published in November 2009, itself set
out our main concerns in paragraph 6. The report says that proceeding
this way "would have implications for individual members
of a select committee who might disagree with the proposed amendment,
either at the time of its adoption by the committee or afterwards.
A Member cannot be bound to support a motion, even where his signature
has been appended to it". These concerns were also raised
by the former Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, who sought
views on what provisions might be offered to protect individual
members in her letter to you in January 2010. You also mention
in your letter of 28 October 2010 that to protect dissident members
of a committee from association with an amendment, "that
there would be a guarantee that the amendment had been agreed
by the committee under conditions more stringent that those required
to agree a committee report."
This area remains our main concern, but I can see
the benefits of providing greater clarity in this area, where
it is obvious that a proposed amendment has the support of the
entire committee. Your first report raises the possibility of
a symbol being inserted on the amendment paper to signify its
relationship with a committee. While I do not wish to prescribe
exactly what form this should take, I see this as a proportionate
solution to the problem of raising awareness of select committee
work, and their support of certain amendments. I would suggest
that to protect individual members, the symbol should only be
inserted where every member of the committee has signed the amendment.
Further options to improve clarity, grouping of the names together,
for example, could also be considered to help improve understanding.
This is said in the context, as recognised by your
committee, that the House already accepts that Government or Opposition
amendments are tabled in a single name but are understood to have
been tabled on behalf of the Government or a party.
Your letter also raises the proposal that these amendments
are considered favourably for selection under programming. While
matters of selection are a matter for the Chair, I share the concern
of my predecessor that a maximalist interpretation of this recommendation
might undermine the long-established practice of the House, possibly
increasing the number of divisions, at the expense of debate on
other amendments, and moving from the principle that amendments
should be chosen on their merits, to the detriment of other backbench
There are many other avenues open to select committees
to make their own work more visible in this area without necessarily
changing procedure. For example, committees are already able to
publish a report specifying motions that have been tabled and
which have their support, highlighting any relevant previous work
in the area and furthering arguments to gather support for them.
I would encourage select committees in this area. Their work is
fundamental to the effective scrutiny of Government and I look
forward to working with colleagues to strengthen their work in
I am copying this letter to the Chairs of the Liaison
and Backbench Business Committees.