Liaison Committee - Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers Papers and briefing produced for the Liaison Committee’s Working Group on Committee resources and support

1. Terms of Reference

On 3 March 2011, The Liaison Committee agreed to establish a working group to consider how select committees might use House services more effectively. The group would consider:

staffing arrangements;


committee budgets; and

use of external resources.

2. Membership

The group comprised the Chair, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Mr Bernard Jenkin, Andrew Miller, Mr Andrew Tyrie and Keith Vaz.

3. Meetings

The group met on 4 April 2011, 29 June 2011, 21 November 2011, 23 February 2012 and 22 May 2012.

4. Background Information on the Committee Directorate (Department of Chamber & Committee Services): Note by the Committee Office

This note contains some basic data on Committee Directorate (usually referred to as the Committee Office) staffing structures and costs:

(A)Staffing costs in the context of the 2011–12 budgets.

(B)Staff numbers by grade.

(C)Entry routes to posts as Committee Clerks and 2nd Clerks.

(D)Sources for extra external support provided to select committee teams.

The figures, except where stated, cover 24 committees: the 19 “departmentally-related committees” established under SO No 152, plus: Administration; Environmental Audit; PAC; PASC; Political & Constitutional Reform. Other committees managed from within the Committee Office—eg the Jt Cttee on National Security, ad hoc committees on draft bills, Liaison Committee—are generally staffed from within these resources.

[An additional four committees (European Scrutiny, JCHR, Regulatory Reform & Statutory Instruments) are staffed on a somewhat different basis from the Legislation Service. Similarly, the Procedure and Standards & Privileges Committees and the Speaker’s Committees on the Electoral Commission and for IPSA are staffed from the Journal Office. For greater clarity, they are omitted from the figures below except where otherwise indicated.]

A. Committee Office costs (FY 2011/12 budgets)


10,439 k

Overseas visits

925 k

UK visits/conferences & entertainment

217 k


2,217 k

Witness expenses

36 k

Information, Specialist Advisers & research



19 k


14,226 k

nb: costs other than staffing costs cover the additional eight committees referred to above staffed and managed by other Offices

B. Committee Office staff numbers (by grade)


Numbers (inc. current vacancies)

Based with

functions inc.
Scrutiny Unit


Principal Clerks (SCS1A and above)—overall management of the Office and of its staff, quality control, clerking of the Liaison Committee and of the Commission and Finance & Services Cttees and other House duties




Clerks of Committee (Deputy Principal Clerks (SCS1) & Senior Clerks (A2))—overall responsibility for resource management of the committee’s support from all sources; for managing relationships between Committee and (a) its staff (b) Govt Departments etc (c) the House and (d) its other client groups; for advice to Chair/Committee on programme, achievement of tasks set down by the House, delivery of programme, and compliance with House rules and practice; for quality of service to Committee.




Second Clerks (Senior Clerks (A2) or Assistant Clerks (A3))—deputising for Clerk and leading on certain inquiries under direction of the Clerk




Committee Specialists & Inquiry Managers (B1&A2)*
Leading on certain inquiries, under direction of the Clerk, providing (particularly in case of Specialists) certain subject expertise




Media Officers (B1)
Media and publication advice for a group of committees




Senior Committee Assistants & Managers (B2 & B1)
Head of administrative team for committee, eg arranging meetings, visits, publications etc, line management of junior staff; and Office-wide leads




Committee Assistants (C)
Support for the SCA and committee team, document preparation, circulation, printing, websites etc




Support Assistants (D1 & D2)
General support to groups of committees or whole Office







Associated salary ranges (£k): SCS1A— 67.6–105.6k; SCS1— 58.2–93.4k; A2— 46.1–61.3k; A3— 27.2–38.8k; B1— 34.6–42.4k; B2— 28.4–35.7k; C— 22.6–29.3k; D1— 18.0–24.8k

* Note: most Committee Specialists & Inquiry managers are graded at B1, with some at A2: a grading review instigated under House-wide procedures to assess comparability with work carried out in other parts of the House and the public service requires the case to be examined for more of these posts to be graded at A2 (with significant budgetary consequences).

C. Entry routes to Committee Office clerk posts

Historically, virtually all Clerks and 2nd Clerks of Committees would have been recruited through the equivalent to the civil service “Fast Stream” graduate recruitment scheme. Over recent years, the pattern has been more varied, with Clerks being drawn from a wider pool, including:

Internal promotions and transfers from House staff (DCCS & other).

Civil Service secondees.

Committee Specialists.

The proportion coming through other routes—either on a temporary or permanent basis—is growing, but time lags mean that the proportion who have reached Clerk of Committee (42%) is lower than the proportion at 2nd Clerk (58%). (Conversely, all Clerks—ie not just those currently in the Committee Office–are encouraged to broaden their experience in the other direction, by seeking outward secondments, eg to the civil service or to other House departments.)

The current position is as follows (figures exclude committees not staffed from either Committee Office or Delegated Legislation Office, and exclude Scrutiny Unit; note that five committees do not currently have two Clerks):

“Fast stream”
graduate entry


Other Civil Service

Other House
(inc Library)

Clerks of Cttee (24)





2nd Clerks of Cttee (19)





Since 2003 the Office and the Library have sought to increase Library placements with Committees, with an increase in Library staffing put in place for this purpose. Currently there are two posts held by current Library staff on secondment, with some other posts held by former Library Clerks.

D. Extra support provided to or available to Committee Office

The Committee Office has sought to tap into a range of sources of additional support of various kinds, ranging from full-time secondments of qualified people paid for by the sending organisation (eg NAO) through to sandwich students. The principal sources in recent years have included:


Hansard Scholars.

POST (Parliamentary Office of S&T) “fellows”.

ESRC interns.

Sandwich students.

LSE post-graduate student placements.

The NAO has a special position in relation to the Committee Office. In addition to its readiness to supply an occasional staff person on secondment on its own budget (as noted above), it is also a regular source of supply for secondments (on the Committee Office’s budget) to the Scrutiny Unit and to the Environmental Audit and defence Committees. The Office has of course a particular role as the providers of reports, briefing and analysis to the Public Accounts Committee (which has no “policy” staff of its own).

June 2011

5. Committee OfficeComparative Models: Note by the House of Commons Library

This note summarises research into differing models of committee office provision, gleaned from earlier research and recent email contact.


Committee offices in both the Senate and the House of Representatives do not use the circulation model. Staff prefer either a procedural or committee career and there is only limited voluntary rotation. There are management initiatives to promote rotation to break down internal silos, and staff are asked at the end of each Parliament to indicate if they would like to move. Senior committee staff (Committee secretaries) are also able to serve as clerks at the table in House of Representatives Main Committee and chamber. The advantages are that staff become deeply engaged and interested in their chosen career, and the disadvantages are that committee staff may fail to grasp procedural opportunities to follow up reports for the benefit of their committees, due to lack of integration into the core processes of the House/Senate.

Inquiry secretaries manage the individual committees, organising inquiries and drafting reports and are a mixture of new graduates or transfers from the mainstream public service. Specialist support is often acquired from secondments from the relevant government department. The Library provides assistance but is not integrated into committee research. Committee secretaries (the clerk equivalent) manage two or more committees providing specialist advice and an overall management function. There is a separate recruitment process for these clerks. Budgetary constraints in the mid 1990s led to this model. Previously, committee secretaries worked for individual committees.

The Senate Table Office has 17 full time equivalent staff and the Committee Office 57. The House of Representatives Committee Office has 69 fte as at 2011.

Following a parliamentary reform agreement stemming from the minority government elected in Australia in 2010, an external review of committee services for the House of Representatives was commissioned and published early 2011. This recommended extra resources for an expected number of committees to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny and recommended limiting the Committee Secretary to a maximum of two committees. It also recommended resources for committees to access independent external advice.

New Zealand

There are 13 subject committees, headed by a clerk of committee which advises on parliamentary procedure, manages the work programme and notes proceedings. A report writer carries out research and drafts its reports. A management tier of senior parliamentary officers provide operational management and expertise and move staff as required to busy committees. The office recruits generalists, both as report writers and clerks, who usually have prior parliamentary or public sector experience. Before each new parliament, committee staff are sent on attachment to the relevant government department or agency to learn more and establish key contacts. There is a budget for accessing specialist advice, and assistance from the Auditor General and House legal staff. There are 50 fte staff in the Committee Office.


Each committee in the House of Commons has a clerk from the procedural services who is the procedural and administrative officer, and is also responsible for financial management. It also has between one and two analysts from the Library of Parliament responsible for assessing evidence and drafting reports. A formal decision is taken at the establishment of each committee to require the services of an analyst. The Library has 80 analysts from various professional backgrounds. There are 70 procedural clerks assigned to different directorates or a rotational basis. 30 of these work on committees for an average period of two to three years. The analyst is an appropriate subject specialist, who provides briefing material and identifies witnesses. Committee clerks and analysts generally collaborate very closely on their services to the committee and work as a team, although their roles and responsibilities are distinct. However, analysts report to the Library for management purposes. Library analysts also work for individual members and produce 80 briefings annually. There is a Parliamentary Budget Officer situated within the Library who provides independent advice to parliament on public finances and the state of the economy.

There is no formal career structure whereby analysts move across into the career structure of committee clerks. The Senate, the House and the Library of Parliament (a bicameral service) are separate employers and go through unique competition processes to hire committee clerks and analysts. Rotation of staff in the procedural offices is practised to develop flexible staffing models and build careers.


Useful comparisons are difficult given the US separation of powers model and the much wider remit of committees. Congressional committees tend to be partisan both in staffing and in membership. Two-thirds of the committee staff are selected by a majority vote of the majority committee members and one-third of the committee staff are selected by a majority vote of minority committee members. Each committee may have 30 plus staff, a mixture of subject specialists and counsel. Staff are appointed on merit within these parameters.

Scotland and Wales

Committees in the Scottish Parliament are typically headed by a clerk team leader, with specialist support from SPICe, which can commission external advice where necessary. The Research Service for the National Assembly for Wales undertakes similar work for committees there. Again, there is capacity to commission external advice if necessary.

Oonagh Gay

24 June 2011

6. Committee Office Reviews since 2000: Note by the House of Commons Library

This note summarises the most recent reviews into the Committee Office function within the Commons.

2003 review

In 2002 the House recommended an increase in the resources available to select committees, to strengthen scrutiny work, following reports from the Modernisation and Liaison Committees.1

There followed a review of select committee resources conducted by the Commons Internal Review Service with the NAO which was published in February 2003. The review provided some comparative overseas material, conducted interviews with selected staff and costed its recommendations. The review recommended substantial increases in capacity of between 30 and 40 new posts to fill perceived gaps in scrutiny. There were specific proposals as follows:

a Scrutiny Unit to provide more specialist financial and pre-legislative support for committees.

a new post of Inquiry Manager and extra research capacity by the appointment of more Committee Specialists.

more structured placements of Library specialists on secondment in the Committee Office and more use of NAO staff.

merging of committee assistant and secretarial roles.

new media posts to promote committee work.

a further review within five years.

Following the review, there was a major increase in specialist inquiry staff of 20 or so, roughly one for each departmental committee, composed of Committee Specialists on fixed terms contracts of two plus two years, and a small number of Inquiry Manager posts filled by internal recruitment as well as from up to five Library Clerks who undertook secondments to individual committees. The Library gained two posts and recruited additional Library Clerks to backfill. The Scrutiny Unit was established in November 2002, gaining a complement of 18 by 2003. Second clerk posts in committees were filled by those who had joined the House service earlier as fast streamers. By 2005–06 there were 175 full time equivalent staff in the Committee Office, compared with 87 in 1995–96.

2007 review

Rob Prideaux, an NAO Director, led this review designed to assess progress since 2003. It was published on the staff intranet in November 2007. An annex examined each 2003 proposal, concluding that there had been partial implementation. The 2007 review found that there was no argument for a further substantial increase in resources for the Committee Office. Its two main conclusions were as follows:

more could be done to develop the potential and raise the productivity of resources within the Committee Office by using the skills of its specialist and administrative staff, whose contribution was often confined by role on a particular committee; and

better use should be made of expert advice from the Library, NAO and other external sources.

More detailed recommendations included:

more proactive management by the Committee Office Management Team (COMG) to deliver a more strategic use of resources. In particular a Director of Research, and Directors of Resource Planning and Corporate Services to develop a suitable staffing model for the Committee Office;

changes in the culture and working practices of the Committee Office to promote sharing of knowledge and resources;

a clearer focus for the Scrutiny Unit, with incorporation into a central Research Unit which would facilitate more diverse loans and attachments between the Committee Office and the Library, creating flexibility and collaboration; and

a review of the media function.

The report found that Committee Chairs were in general happy with the level of support on offer, and valued the high quality of the work provided. Staff surveys undertaken for the report found evidence of two classes of staff co–existing within the Committee Office, with dissatisfaction among non-clerks about the possibilities of career progression. The survey evidence also found increasing blurring of the distinction between the roles of Second Clerks, Inquiry Managers and Committee Specialists. Annexes provided some comparative material, recommendations for achieving the appropriate mix of skills, proposals for more external support and the role of COMG, among other topics.

Following the 2007 review, Committee Specialists on fixed term contracts were made permanent and the number of internally promoted Inquiry Managers expanded. Library secondments of more than a year to individual committees declined, but more informal assistance was provided, and each committee has a distinct Library specialist link, who can advise on aspects of inquiries. The proposal for a research service spanning both the Library and Committee Office was not implemented, following work by both DIS and DCCS. The Library Director of Research joined COMG as a full member.

Oonagh Gay

24 June 2011

7. Staffing Arrangements: Note by the Clerk of Committees

Leave arrangements

Staff are entitled to 28 days leave in their first full year of service. This increases annually to a maximum of 40 days leave.

Staff in the Committee Office are not allowed to take annual leave when the House is sitting.

Staff are occasionally permitted to work from home, when this would bring business benefit (for example, quiet drafting of reports).

Committee teams are normally also expected to be fully operational in the week immediately before the House returns from the recess.

Staff leave has to be fitted into the remainder of the recess. This means that there may be only skeleton staffing at times. However, we expect teams to ensure that there is always at least one member of staff available in the office or on call at home to answer urgent queries. And, of course, staff will be available if Committee business requires it (for publication of reports, for example).

In addition to taking their leave entitlement, staff may be permitted to work from home in the recess, when business allows it, or to take additional days leave in lieu of pay for additional hours worked during sitting times.

Clerks have been asked to discuss recess staffing arrangements with their Chair to ensure there is no misunderstanding about the arrangements made.

Leave arrangements across the House Service are currently being examined as part of the HR Policies, Processes and Practices Programme to ensure that they are fair, justifiable and meet business need. The Management Board is concerned, however, that staff morale—already affected by worries about the Savings Programme and by the pay freeze—should not be damaged by unnecessary changes to established terms and conditions.


There is a House-wide system of performance appraisal. The reporting year runs from 1 April to 31 March. The satisfaction of the Chair and Members is a key performance indicator for committee staff. When preparing for annual staff reporting at the end of the financial year, Principal Clerks will talk to committee Chairs to obtain their views on their staff team’s performance. The Principal Clerks are also available to discuss any concerns which arise in-year. The opinion of other committee members is canvassed in the annual Survey of Members and through receipt of informal feedback.

Circulation of staff

Our aim is to nurture talent and produce the range of knowledge, skills and experience that are required to provide the House Service at all levels with staff who are able to help make the House effective in all its parliamentary functions. Committee clerks—apart from secondees from outside DCCS—and administrative staff are subject to “circulation” between Committee postings and roles in the Procedural Offices (Legislation Service, Table Office, Journal Office etc) and other parts of the House Service, to extend their professional competence and management experience.

Career development planning is one of the mechanisms we use to secure these objectives. Select committee staff may move every few years to meet overall House needs as well as to extend their experience. Junior staff are moved more frequently for training and career reasons. Factors outside our direct control also drive the circulation of staff. While our retention rates are good, staff sometimes leave or take up external opportunities, and others take maternity leave or career breaks, or are successful in applying for promotion: this means that we have to reallocate staff to fill vacancies, sometimes at quite short notice.

Career progression

The staff of committees are recruited by fair and open competition either as permanent members of the House service or on a fixed term contract. Permanent staff may apply for promotion within the DCCS or other parts of the House service or for level transfer to posts in other departments of the House. Historically most clerks entered through the civil service fast-stream process, but the pattern is changing with a number of clerks having been recruited through the administrative streams or as committee specialists and subsequently promoted to their present grades.

Jacqy Sharpe, Clerk of Committees

June 2011

8. Committee Staffing: Note by the Clerk of Committees

1. This note is based on my initial impressions returning to the Committee Office after five years absence in other posts. I have had meetings with many chairs and have taken their views into account in preparing this note.

How is the Committee Office staffed?

2. The Committee Office has some 185 staff supporting about 30 select committees. It includes the Scrutiny Unit which serves all committees as well as providing staff for temporary joint committees on draft bills. The staff can be categorised in different ways:


Number of staff

Administrative (includes 4 BSG and 1 Exec Officer at band B1)


Specialist/Inquiry Manager (Includes 5 Media Officers)


Clerks (includes all A3, A2 and SCS)




B—Gender breakdown

Number of staff







C—Age breakdown

Number of staff

Under 25












D—Nature of employment

Number of staff

Permanent (includes 5 on loan, 21 part time and 1 unpaid maternity)

Headcount 166,
FTE 157.93

Secondment out


Secondment in


Temporary contract (includes casual, fixed term and sandwich students)


Career break




Total FTE


E—Starting salaries


Band C (committee assistants)


Band B2 (senior committee assistants)


Band B1 (specialists and inquiry managers)


Band A2 (some clerks and second clerks)


SCS1 (more senior clerks)


3. Clerks serving in the Committee Office are far less homogenous in background than those working there 15 years ago, when most clerks were fast-streamers arriving straight from university. Currently almost half of the clerks in the Committee Office were not recruited directly into the House of Commons fast stream. At least five clerks of departmental committees joined the House service first at junior administrative grades and three of them are now SCS1s. At least two others joined as specialists and have been appointed as clerks after competitive internal competition.

4. We have rewarded talent amongst those working in administrative roles and those working as specialists or inquiry managers; we have chosen to second able people from elsewhere in the House service or from the Civil Service into our Department; and we have also benefited from staff taking up secondments outside the House before returning. Among second clerks there are at least five who were previously specialists. To illustrate the variety of routes into clerking, there are second clerks on select committees who arrived in four ways:

Fast stream career entry.

Promotion from non fast stream grades.

Secondment from civil service.

Loan from other House departments.

Support for chairs

5. My first priority is to promote effective scrutiny—to ensure that we continue to make a positive impact on Whitehall. It is clear that almost all chairs carry a significant workload in making speeches, receiving visitors and making media appearances beyond the immediate scope of their committee’s current inquiries. I believe that this daily wider role is an important part of the committee’s standing and influence with government departments and others.

6. Some chairs are content with the level of support they receive from the media officers, but others believe that more assistance would be helpful. This would involve increasing the number of media officers. Are there other ways in which media support for chairs could be improved?

7. From my conversations with chairs of committees, it does not seem that many make direct use of the Library as individual Members. Maybe this could be explored further.

8. I suggest attention needs to be given to whether chairs can be given more support from committee teams, from the Library or from extra staff in their own offices. Possibilities include:

(a)A chair needing research for an external speech or media appearance (not related to a current committee inquiry) could turn first to the relevant Library research team for assistance, where there will probably be broader knowledge of the subject issues than in the Committee team.

(b)A member of the committee staff, perhaps the second clerk, being explicitly recognised as the chair’s chief of staff—though not all chairs will necessarily want to mix their personal and committee staffs or relinquish control over their diary.

(c)Chairs of Committees are allocated an additional staff post in their personal office funded by IPSA to reflect the additional and wider duties they have to undertake.

Why do staff moves occur?

9. Staff are not moved to and from committees at whim. The major drivers of moves are promotion, secondment or loan to another post and maternity leave. I cannot prevent individual staff taking the steps which lead to these moves; I can only try to fill the ensuing vacancies.

10. Circulation for career progression is rarely the sole reason for moving a member of staff, but it is a factor in selecting people to fill vacancies. People returning from maternity leave can often be fitted conveniently into current gaps but often want to work only part-time. There are currently six clerks at A2 on maternity leave. Some Clerks with young children are reluctant to work for committees which travel often.

11. The House service is currently going through a second voluntary exit scheme under the savings programme and this may lead to some further departures from the Committee Office—two committee clerks left earlier in the year under the first voluntary exit scheme.

Why do we need generalist committee clerks?

12. Under the House of Commons Administration Act 1978, the terms and conditions of staff have to be kept broadly in line with those of the Civil Service. The House deliberately recruits a small number of graduates each year through the same process as the Civil Service, FCO etc. The aim is to ensure that the House is served at all levels by staff of at least the same calibre as those working for the Government. They have a career separate from the Civil Service to ensure that their first loyalty is to the legislature rather than the Executive. Clerks appointed in other ways, largely through internal promotion from specialist and administrative grades or secondment, are expected to demonstrate similar skills and competences. It is not uncommon for Clerks of Committees to have to stand up to pressures from Whitehall which could not easily be borne if staff were not of the same ability and calibre as senior civil servants. I can give the Liaison Committee actual examples of this during my career.

Does a committee clerk need to have any procedural experience?

13. Clerks are recruited on the basis that they will have a mixed career of committee and procedural work. This is both to ensure that the House is served at a senior level by people of broad experience—comparable to their opposite numbers in the Civil Service—and to provide job satisfaction and variety to individuals comparable to the Civil Service. Procedural experience is not an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Standing Orders—it is a mixture of understanding of the competing pressures within the House and between the House and Whitehall and the principles by which those are resolved. It requires good political understanding and the ability to work with Members and others in a challenging environment. Being a Clerk of a committee also requires skills in project management, leading people and drafting documents.

14. Generally someone will only become a clerk of a committee if they have about 10 years’ experience in the House. Any individual Clerk would be very disappointed if that period had not included at least one post in a procedural office. Indeed I would not want to appoint someone as a Clerk of a Committee unless I was sure they had a good understanding of the wider work of the House and the links between committee work and the Chamber. There are however two clerks of committees (one at SCS1) who have not yet worked in a procedural office—and both of them joined the House first as specialists.

Can chairs play more of a role in choosing committee clerks?

15. All chairs I have spoken to have asked to be consulted more about the allocation of staff to their committees. This is certainly what my predecessors have sought to do. I apologise for the fact this does not seem to have been satisfactory recently. One factor was the number of changes which were made at the start of the new Parliament when there were also many changes of chair. In the past year quite a number of staff changes had to be made just as the House rose for the summer recess consequential on the retirement of the Clerk of the House in September.

16. I will certainly try and meet the expectations of one chair who said “I would like to be consulted or at least given an explanation of the options considered and the reasons for a staffing decision”. It might be possible to go further and offer some degree of choice. It is difficult to see how we could offer chairs a wide choice without allowing any interested Clerks to apply. In some government departments posts are filled by application rather than management decision. This may or may not be practical in a small organisation like the House, where the number of suitable people available to be clerk of a specific committee will always be limited.

17. The Liaison Committee needs to be aware that if we moved to a system of open application and gave chairs a formal role in appointment of clerks, there would have to be a formal process subject to HR rules. There might also be a number of chains—if half a dozen clerks of other committees applied for a vacancy on committee A, there might have to be several consequential appointment boards over the following weeks. This might increase the turnover of clerks throughout the Committee Office and reduce the time each spent in post. If several vacancies arose at the same time—as is often the case—the Liaison Committee might have to establish a pecking order of committees to see who gets first choice. It is unlikely that this would be straightforward.

Should committee chairs be involved in staff appraisal?

18. It has long been the practice for all Committee Chairs to be consulted annually by the responsible Principal Clerks on the performance of the committee clerk. More feedback from chairs and members of committees—both positive and negative—would be helpful in managing performance of all staff. There may be a case for formalising this and asking chairs to fill in a short form every six months on the performance of the clerk and other committee staff. It might make sense for other committee members to be consulted from time to time. These responses might be disclosable in any employment proceedings.


19. It is often difficult to predict which committees will be under most pressure in future. A committee with a sensible plan of inquiries, matched to the amount of Members’ time and staff resources available, may suddenly find itself engulfed in a major topical inquiry. This has happened to me several times in the past. I would like to retain sufficient flexibility to move staff to the committee of greatest need at short notice to ensure that that committee is as effective in its scrutiny as possible. This inevitably means that staff may have to be moved temporarily away from other committees.

Quality of committee papers

20. I have been struck over the last couple of months, reading the papers circulated to Members by committee staff, by the quality of the briefs for oral evidence sessions. They seem to me more comprehensive and better laid out than five years ago. What I cannot judge is how well they are used by Members of committees in questioning witnesses. Although much of this material will eventually be recycled into the draft report, I wonder if it would be worthwhile publishing these briefs on the website after the evidence session? Are there other documents on which staff spend time which are less useful and could be dispensed with? One chair has recently pointed out that we still send out too much material, often duplicate, on paper.

What use do we make of specialists?

21. Until about five years ago committee specialists were recruited on short-term contracts to work for specific committees for a maximum of four years. This meant that the House attracted bright young people with good contacts in their subject area who then moved on to other jobs and were replaced by someone with more recent outside experience. In 2008, a controversial decision was taken to offer committee specialists permanent contracts. This has meant that while some of the most able still move on, others have tenure. In practice, we have relatively few who have been with the House longer than five years.

22. Over the last two years a regrading exercise recommended that all 40 committee specialists and inquiry managers be advanced from B1 to A2. This recommendation has not been accepted and is unaffordable. A smaller scheme, covering six lawyers and economists and six others, is now being implemented, which will provide an element of career progression. While this should bring benefits in the long-term, this process has demoralised many staff.

23. There is a debate about whether committees need subject specialists (such as transport, health or education) or skill specialists (such as economists, lawyers, statisticians, accountants) who can operate across all committees as required. The Scrutiny Unit comprises the latter, working on demand for any committee and concentrating in particular on the scrutiny of draft bills. I have been impressed by the transcripts of recent evidence sessions in which committees have taken evidence from ministers and permanent secretaries on their department’s annual report. Much of the briefing for these has come from the Scrutiny Unit.

24. Committees continue to appoint specialist advisers either for specific inquiries or for general use. They work for a few days a month, as required by the Committee. Is there scope to make more use of this source of advice for particular inquires? There is also a modest budget for commissioned research, used most recently by the Transport Committee for its inquiry into High Speed Rail.

25. The National Audit Office has long been willing to extend its support for the PAC to some other committees. The Environmental Audit Committee and some of the Departmental Select Committees have also made some use of NAO support.

26. Ideally I would like more flexibility in pay systems to recruit, reward and retain individual specialists according to their abilities and the market rate for their skills. This is particularly true of economists. Realistically, current employment law, House-wide HR arrangements and the economic situation make it unlikely that I will gain more flexibility in the short-term. Provision is being made to upgrade two of the economist posts to A2 early next year.

27. Recently some committees have made imaginative use of other sources of external assistance. For instance the Treasury Committee has two staff working as committee specialists on loan without charge to the House from outside bodies. This example could be followed further, with people being lent from think-tanks, NGOs etc, provided there is complete transparency about their involvement. Although there may be no salary costs to the House, there are additional costs in terms of accommodation, training etc.

Could we make better use of the Library?

28. When the staffing of the Committee Office was last reviewed in 2007—by a team led by an NAO official—the issue of closer integration with the Library was considered. Some of us argued for much closer integration on the model used in the Scottish Parliament—where work for committees is given priority over work for individual Members—but that view did not prevail. A large number of Library Clerks have now worked in the Committee Office for a period of several years. Currently there are several Library clerks working directly for committees.

29. The Library provides a number of committee specialists on loan and committee staffs are encouraged to keep in contact with Library colleagues. Thus the Library provides significant informal advice for committees. There have been several attempts in recent years to accommodate the Library specialists in the same building as committee staffs but other considerations affecting the parliamentary estate have not yet made this possible. A senior member of the Library staff meets Committee Office Principal Clerks at least once fortnight to ensure close cooperation. The Library’s capacity to give further assistance to Committees is limited, unless it is agreed to that it should have priority over work for individual Members (from whom enquiries to the Library have risen some 60% since 2010).

What impact will the savings programme have?

30. The Committee Office costs about £14 million a year. Printing of documents accounts for about £2 million of this, with travel and other costs taking another £2 million. The remaining £10 million covers the staff costs.

31. In an ideal world I would like the Committee Office to be exempt from the savings programme under which the House is having to reduce its costs by 17 % from 2011–11 to 2014–15. But I cannot be sure that we really are using our existing resources as well as we could be in support of effective scrutiny of Whitehall. Nor would I want to put any committee in the position where its criticism of a government department’s spending plans could be deflected by reference to select committees not keeping their own house in good financial order. It is too easy to say that current funding must remain unchanged without further examination.

32. I have not been given a specific target for reducing costs in the Committee Office but it is reasonable to expect that the House of Commons Commission and the Management Board will at some stage ask for further cost reductions and it is inevitable that these will touch on staff costs.

33. As posts in the Committee Office fall vacant, I will expect Clerks at least to consider whether they need to be filled in the same way, whether the same service can be provided in other ways or from other sources, whether greater sharing of support staff between committees is possible.

34. Hitherto we have not produced costs for individual committees though much information on printing and travel costs is published annually. I intend to produce cost figures for individual committees to encourage clerks and chairs to discuss whether resources are being used as effectively as possible. One chair recently suggested that his committee could forswear an overseas visit if it could be allocated an additional member of staff.

35. Faced with a number of upward pressures, increasing activity levels and changing demands, in circumstances in which responding simply by increasing resources is not a realistic proposition, it is necessary for the Committee Office to examine searchingly how to make the best use of the resources at its disposal to enable committees to perform their scrutiny functions as effectively as possible. This is an environment in which I think we will have to be more imaginative in providing advice for committees from a range of outside sources.

What is wrong with morale?

36. A recent staff survey shows that morale in the Committee Office is relatively low, compared with the rest of the House service. A general factor affecting all staff in bands A-E is that their pay has been frozen, pay progression has been stopped, the performance award scheme has been withdrawn and promotion prospects are limited. The unhappiness of committee specialists and inquiry managers about their grading review is assumed to be another major factor.

37. My colleagues and I are tackling this by putting a greater emphasis on learning and development, bringing the SIMS review to a conclusion and pushing for greater delegation of responsibility. My second priority as Clerk of Committees is to improve training for staff—both for the immediate needs of select committees and for the personal development of individuals. A number of organisational changes over the past few years have led to us taking our eye off the ball in this area. I have re-introduced the practice of learning and development in the Committee Office being led by a Principal Clerk. I am encouraging a culture in which achievement is praised, innovation supported and poor performance challenged. It will take some time for any improvements to be noticed.

Andrew Kennon
Clerk of Committees

November 2011

9. Survey of Committee Chairs: Note by House of Commons Scrutiny Unit

Text of questionnaire sent to Chairs in September 2011, with responses collated per question.

Questionnaire from the Liaison Committee Working Group on Committee Resources

The Working Group is looking at getting the best use of resources for select committee Members and Chairs. We are looking primarily at parliamentary staff resources: clerks, specialists, and Library specialists especially.

Options for improvement include more meaningful consultation with Chairs before staff changes and enabling specialists further to develop their careers, for example by leading committee teams with procedural support from a clerk in the committee staff team. A more unified staff service could be considered, where staff recruited to different departments would be able to progress to senior positions without prior procedural experience.

Background Staffing Information

There is no standard committee staffing model—and different committees have different needs. Most departmental committees are led by a clerk, with specialists and inquiry managers working to them. Clerks and administrative staff are moved to new posts at regular intervals, specialists usually do not. While staff are increasingly moving between Departments of the House in the course of their careers, the Committee Office is still managed entirely separately from the research service in the Library and integrated with the procedural offices; senior positions in the Committee Office have till now been limited to those with procedural as well as committee experience; and opportunities for specialists to progress, as specialists, are limited.

Please note that a total of 13 responses were received. Not all questions were answered and so the totals for each question do not always match.

(1) Does your Committee have the specialist knowledge it needs?








It is much better—partly as a consequence of secondments. More to do.

Yes and no. We do enjoy the knowledge of NAO officials and warmly appreciate that. However we have no independent advice as a committee and that limits our independence from the NAO.

In most areas, but we cover a wide range and some issues require additional expertise. We currently have one of our key specialists on maternity leave.

We could do with more knowledgeable research assistance (as opposed to drafting ability and military advice, where we are well served).

Through the ability to appoint specialist advisers.

However both specialists who have 13 years combined experience are leaving (maternity and secondment) which is a cause for concern.

Overall, yes. As well as our Committee Specialist we have a number of specialist advisers and have access to the transport specialist in the Library.

While the Committee generally has the expertise it needs, it could benefit from someone with experience in disability and special educational needs policy.

We require additional resources on specialist areas—eg policy experts on policing and counter-terrorism.

But given the scale of the workload and the Government abolition of the Sustainable Development commission and insistence that all that work is now to be done by EASC, much greater resource is needed.

(2) Would you say that the current mix of clerks/specialists/inquiry managers in your team is about right or capable of improvement? If the latter, give details


About right:



Capable of improvement:



Because we are so different from other select committees the calibre of our staff is different. They are primarily administrators who can process lots of papers. We do not enjoy advice and support independently of the NAO. That means I have nobody to help on quality and recommendations in reports; nobody to help draft press releases; nobody to provide “brain power” to support me as Chair of the Committee to better perform our duties.

But losing both specialists could unbalance it.

We have one inquiry manager fewer than in the last Parliament but we have been able to use staff from the Scrutiny Unit and elsewhere in the Committee Office to manage inquiries and smaller pieces of work. Our workload and output has remained high. It is very important that our staff is not reduced further.

Clerks do not seem to be able to have co-ordinated communicating between policy and administrative staff in the Committee. It may also be useful to have additional researchers who would work under the clerks/specialists/inquiry managers to assist them with the leg work for one particular inquiry (eg conduct in depth research, provide news updates on specific subjects and then brief clerk/specialist/inquiry manager).

(3) Do you think there is more scope to take advantage of the skills of the specialist staff and expertise drawn from the House of Commons Library?








We have lost our best staff because of the limited scope in the current employment/grading system.

House of Commons Library staff already provide good support.

... but we are already doing this.

Because I believe the Committee Staff do this already.

Already to take advantage—and it is very useful.

Yes as long as it is not at the expense of dedicated advisers.

Yes, but only if the staff concerned are able to focus their research on our needs and in the timescale required. I do not know if this is feasible.

Greater efficiencies may be possible if the Library and Committee staff work more closely together. It may also be beneficial to have Committee staff work in the Library for a period of time.

The Library has statistical staff that have been of great help to the Committee and my personal staff.

Library resources should be utilised to analyse information—in particular collate statistics and produce graphs, and additional research.

The resource there is very helpful, but it is always reactive. What is needed is more proactive work that is dedicated to the select committee requirements.

(4) Should specialist staff be able to be promoted to the position of the clerk of the committee, heading the staff team?








Yes, but I would expect this to be the normal pattern. It should be possible in some cases for a specialist to head the team without the expectation of a future post in a completely different function in the Clerk’s department.

The position of clerk of the committee should be open to anybody with the necessary skills.

Not clear what is meant by question.

As I understand it, some specialist staff are already promoted to become clerks.

The position of clerk of the committee should go to the most qualified individual. There should not be arbitrary restrictions on who can serve in the post.

Unsure—Yes provided there was a mix of administrative and specialist skills.

(5) Would you welcome more external secondments to your committee, either as clerk or as specialist?








We do need independent advice and support to properly fulfil our constitutional functions.

We get as much as we need in any event.

We should use outside research organisations providing we can be sure of their actual and perceived independence.

Provided it doesn’t compromise overall balance.

I have no objection to staff being seconded to work for the committee, as long as they have the necessary skills to manage committee work effectively.

That said, outside experience is always useful.

Individuals with specialised knowledge of different aspects of the committee work could be most helpful and should be flexible enough to accommodate the wide remit of the Education Committee.

There is a great deal of expertise that we need to tap in to. However there would be a danger that legitimising that would mean that such secondments were not independent, and there to pursue a lobby interest.

(6) Would you welcome direct external recruitment to head your committee team?








There should be scope for this.

External recruitment might not understand the role of the Select Committees nearly as well as the current arrangements.

Have no opinion.

Probably not as knowledge of the workings of Parliament is very important.

I am perfectly satisfied with the way my committee team is run so can see no benefit to this suggestion. If someone were recruited to head a committee team I would be concerned about how long it would take them to understand the parliamentary process and the political context in which we operate and the consequences for the committee of this transition period. The current system works well in this regard.

As Q.5.

As mentioned above, the chair of a committee should have a much greater role in determining who heads their committee team, and that individual should be the most qualified person for the position determined with a minimum of restrictions on who is eligible.

Not really.

(7) Clerks, inquiry managers (and administrative staff) in each committee are moved regularly, at least every four years, whereas specialists have usually remained with their committee. Could this movement of clerks have a significant detrimental impact on the work of your committee?








It has in the past.

... because it is often much less than four years.

We benefit from the range of experience this movement generates.

If handled with regard to the committee’s programme.

The Committee has had three clerks in five years (now six). All good but changeover short and with no warning.

This is possible, but I understand that most staff prefer to move jobs from time to time, because of career progression, promotion or variety, and it is up to senior management to ensure that staff moves do not have a significant impact on committees. There should be more scope for chairs to discuss this with senior management.

Though “new blood” can be useful. I think it depends on the quality of the people.

Moving staff around allows for the necessary shake up of Committee staff and ensures that they do not become complacent.

There is no reason why new clerks cannot get up to speed very quickly on admin tasks.

Staff should remain in place for one parliament (five years).

In 6½ years as a Select Committee Chair I am about to have my 5th Clerk and 3rd in this particular session. Such discontinuity is very unhelpful.

(8) Were you offered a meaningful choice about the appointment of the clerk of your committee?







No comments.

(9) Do you think Chairs should be able to choose their clerks?








They should have some say.

We should be able to choose between two candidates put forward by the relevant House authorities.

I think they should be involved in the choice.

I am as it happens perfectly happy with [the Clerk of Committee]. But I do believe Chairs should have a say—but not the decisive one that question 9 implies so I’ve marked yes and no—in the choice of clerks, and that should involve being part of a panel to consider possible choices (and to consider why, if it is a choice of one, the choice is so limited). Inevitably this would and should include the wider consideration of career paths generally within the Clerks’ service, but Chairs should be up to that.

Though some involvement would be helpful.

Chairs could/should be consulted.

Chairs cannot have a “meaningful” choice of clerk without knowing them all, which is impractical. I did not know my clerk before he started with my committee but am content that he is doing a good job. Chairs should be able to tell senior management what skills they want in a clerk and senior managers should be better at matching the clerk to the committee.

Certainly we should have a veto, as necessary. I have not had a problem, though, but feel I should have some say.

The working relationship between the chair and the clerk is critical. A chair should absolutely have the ability to choose between highly qualified individuals for this important post. The chair should also have the ability to determine if their clerk is not meeting their needs and should be moved.

Now that they are elected for the parliamentary term then yes.

I had no opportunity to meet any of the candidates and was presented with a fait accompli.

(10) Is the Chair involved sufficiently in staff appraisal? If so, how should be it improved? Are there other appraisal methods which you think should be introduced?








Direct appraisal needed—as in every other walk of life these days.

We should have regular feedback sessions with senior staff to air our views; express our appreciation and voice our concerns.

This seems to vary—I have been more involved in contributing to appraisal of some staff than others.

I am always asked what I think—and in some detail—about the clerks, and given some feedback on my views. In one case in particular I have been particularly impressed by the fact that my tough complaints (about [a member of staff]) were heeded, translated into action, and resulted in his becoming instead of the weakest link in the staffing one of the strongest links in several committees.

Some involvement but not final responsibility.

I did not know I had a role and have not participated. However I would like an input into selection of temporary replacement advisers which is currently now allowed for.

I am asked for views. I do not have feedback on what assessment is made, however.

A bit more of a formal consultation on performance would be appreciated. Though again, I have not had a problem.

The answer to this question is unclear to me. As Chairman I have never been asked to be involved in staff appraisal. Ideally I would be asked for input on how staff are performing, for suggestions on how any deficiencies could be improved and be kept informed of appraisal assessments.

Chairs probably would not have time for detailed staff appraisal. However there is scope for more input into priorities, and corresponding person specifications and assessment etc.

I have introduced a grading system conducted monthly.

There could be more opportunity for Chairs to give a view about staff performance, though I am very unusual as a Chair who has also run labour intensive organisations in the voluntary and private sectors. Many Chairs would struggle to handle staff appraisals because of a complete lack of experience.

(11) Most clerks in committees undertake occasional duties elsewhere in the House service, such as clerking in Westminster Hall or the Council of Europe etc. Does this detract at all from support to your Committee?








To a limited extent.

It does detract from that support when those duties pass from being occasional to being regular and routine.

It has sometimes.

Alternative duties must have some negative impact on clerks work for the Committee. I don’t know enough about the frequency or length of these alternative duties nor about the wider benefits to the individual performing them to say whether, overall, these alternative duties are a positive or negative part of current arrangements. The chair should be informed in advance of all work carried out by staff outside of their Committee responsibilities.

Clerks should not have duties in the House.

Simply because it brings no benefit to the work of the committee, and in any case there is insufficient resource so why take it away?

(12) Would you like the core data on costs and staffing for your committee?








Would help me to assess whether I think resources are best deployed from the committee’s point of view.

I have enough to do.

I am happy to have the data but I do not know what I would be expected to do with it.

In order to evaluate whether funds are being well spent the chair should have full access to data on costs and staffing. He should also be able to influence how resources are deployed.

An annual budget should be supplied to the Chairman, followed by monthly updates on a committee’s budgetary situation.

Yes. There are other issues—including liaison with MPs staff. They are required to do a lot more work and it would be interesting to see how IPSA rates and conditions compare.

(13) Substantial procedural experience (gained from working in the Table Office or Public Bill Office etc) is currently a requirement for senior Committee Office posts. Should the senior posts in the Committee Office be restricted to clerks who have worked in procedural jobs (the Table Office, Public Bill Office etc)?








Where there is a Second Clerk, it would be sufficient for one or other to have some procedural experience.

Though I don’t feel strongly about this “no”.

Have no opinion.

Procedural experience can be helpful but in team it probably does not have to be the leader who has it.

See answer to (Q6).

Is this question about committee clerks or their managers? I have often linked committee work to other parliamentary activity—eg tabling questions, or amendments to bills—and it helps if the clerk knows how to do this.

To an extent. Certainly, experience gained in other departments is very useful.

Experience of this type needs to be available on the Committee staff but it does not necessarily need to be had by the clerk.

It is essential that clerks have this sound procedural knowledge.

The Committee Office strives to offer a responsive service to Members and Chairs. Any other comments on how to improve service to you—or on where you think that the current service is unsatisfactory—would be extremely welcome.

Further comments:

I just don’t think that I get enough high level support to help me do the job well. I have no use of any House of Commons staff to supplement my work and IPSA will not award extra resources to Select Committee Chairs. I was much better supported by my Private Office as a Minister and the weak support inevitably damages our ability to hold the Executive to account.

My principal view is that if I felt I did not have an open line to [a Principal Clerk] to make complaints and suggestions whenever necessary, then I might begin to worry. But I do feel I have that open line, so I have no worries. The fact that s/he has been the clerk of the Committee may help, of course, but I suspect that s/he maintains that link with all the committees under his/her remit.

I think the current system broadly works well. I am concerned that the recent increases in staffing may be reversed and that this will diminish the quality of support we get for our scrutiny work, but we receive high quality briefing material in good time for each meeting and we publish reports for all our major inquiries which are critically well-regarded and which we have followed up, with media work, debates in the House, correspondence, and further meetings. This work could benefit from a modest increase in staffing.

I am also concerned that there is sometimes too much focus on initiatives that emanate from outside the committee—eg the scrutiny of financial statements, which may not be politically important, or pre-appointment hearings where the committee appears to have influence over a decision but in reality does not. This could detract from issues Members wish to consider.

As chair of a committee I need to be supported by a well run, professional, expert (both in transport matters and in parliamentary procedure) team. I expect that team to be managed well by the clerk and for he or she to be managed well by Committee Office managers. I do not wish to be involved in their management, I am interested in results. It want the committee to influence political decisions not be involved in management!

Finally, although I know many of the senior Committee Office clerks, I cannot identify every name nor do I know exactly where they fit into the management structure. Perhaps we could be sent information identifying staff and their roles.

It appears that Committee staff frequently “work from home” when the House is in recess. During August we frequently found that no one was available in the Committee offices. If staff have full time contracts they should be expected to fulfil them in the office as do my staff in my office.

This review cannot be undertaken without relevance to MPs’ own support staff. My one researcher now takes on a wider role, but that means my other work is restricted.

10. Summary Analysis of Survey of Committee Chairs: Note by House of Commons Library

The questionnaire was despatched to 33 chairs of select committees. 13 questionnaires were received by the cut-off date of 17 October, a response rate of 39%. Not all questions were completed. From the responses received, there are a number of salient points.

1. Access to specialist knowledge (Q 1,3,5)

A majority of chairs (9 to 3) considered that the committee did not have the specialist knowledge it needed. A number of comments expressed concern about the importance of retaining specialist staff. Chairs (10 to 2) wanted to take more advantage of the specialist skills and knowledge of the Commons Library.

Most chairs (11 to 2) welcomed more external secondments, but there was some concern about skills and independence of secondees.

2. Committee teams (Q 2,4,6,7,11)

A majority of chairs (9 to 4) thought the current mix of clerks/specialists/inquiry managers was about right. All chairs (10) responding to a question as to whether specialists should be able to be promoted to head the team as clerk of committee agreed that this was correct. Comments tended to suggest that the post should be open to anyone with the necessary mix of skills.

A majority of chairs (6 to 2) were against direct external recruitment to head the committee team. Comments expressed concern that an external appointee might not know about the parliamentary process.

The responses were divided equally (6 to 6) on the value or otherwise of regular circulation of staff. Comments from chairs expressed concern when circulation was more often than four years, which had the potential to cause disruption.

A majority of chairs (8 to 4) thought that occasional duties elsewhere in Council of Europe etc did detract from support to the committee. Comments expressed concern about potential rather than actual impact on committee resources

3. Senior staff in Committee Office (Q 13)

Some chairs appear to have misunderstood this question. It referred to the staffing of the Committee Office Management Group (COMG), but some responses thought the question referred to the senior clerk of committee. A majority of chairs (7 to 3) thought that substantial procedural experience should not be a requirement for senior posts.

4. Role of the chair in staffing/costs (Q 8,9,10,12)

No chairs thought they were offered a meaningful choice in the appointment of the clerk of the committee, but only seven thought that they should be able to choose their clerks. Comments suggest that chairs would like some involvement, short of a full choice. A majority of chairs (7 to 4) would like more involvement in staff appraisal, but there was appreciation of prompt action where complaints were made.

Ten chairs wanted core data on costs and staffing. Comments suggested that chairs would then be better equipped to look at the use of resources, although not all favoured a hands-on role.

5. Miscellaneous comments

Other points made in response to the invitation for further comments included:

The role of the personal staff of chairs in committee-related work.

Belief that is the role of the Committee Office to provide well managed team for a chair.

Concern about initiatives which were not directly related to committee business.

Availability of committee staff in August.

Oonagh Gay

14 November 2011

11. Results of Staff Questionnaire on Committee Resources: Note by Scrutiny Unit


The questionnaire was sent to a targeted sample of staff who work for, or in close proximity to, select committees and captures a range of grades and professional backgrounds. It was also made available to all other staff in the Committee Office, Procedural Office and Library who have experience of select committees. A total of 46 members of staff responded to the survey.

The responses made to this survey came from across this spectrum: career clerks (nine responses); secondees (four responses); committee specialists (11 responses); inquiry managers (one response); Administrative staff (13 responses); and others (eight responses).

This paper summarises the responses to the questions giving an indication of the comments made.

Key themes emerging from responses

From the responses given to the tick box exercise there is a general consensus on some of the issues, not so on other questions. Written comments revealed a range of views on how policies could be changed or developed. Below is a very brief summary of these views.

Question 1: Committee teams need to be led by a generalist clerk, rather than a specialist

Although the highest score is in the centre the majority of comments are broadly positive about each committee team being led by a generalist clerk. The positive response is shared by different post-holders across the committee office.

Most staff thought that a committee should be lead by a generalist clerk.

Alternative suggestion: 1 Generalist Clerk and 1 Specialist Clerk per team; meaning the second/senior clerk role could be open to both specialists and generalists.

Management skills need to be at the core of this leadership role.

Question 2: The current structure of Committee staffing makes the best use of the available talents

55% of specialists and 46% of administrative staff disagreed with the statement, whereas 55% of career clerks agreed with the statement.

Some key themes that come through in the detailed responses given by staff were:

Lack of official training programme for new staff; unless at clerk level.

Lack of obvious career progression and career path; and opportunity to develop new skills due to heavy workload:

A possible solution might be temporary promotions rather than posts being filled with seconded staff.

An internal fast stream for House staff.

Inequality of workload—lines are blurred about who has responsibility for what:

Specialist staff feel they are undertaking administrative role and often administrative staff feel their role is stretched too.

Division of work between Clerk and Specialist needs to be clearly defined at the beginning of the inquiry.

Specialist knowledge should be drawn upon more by the generalist clerk to enable the committee to develop its policy knowledge:

Recognition for the quality of their technical advice.

Sharing of specialist knowledge between committees when inquiries overlap.

Utilising experienced administrative staff as they often hold specialist knowledge.

Question 3: At present Committees have their own research staff and the Library operates mainly for individual Members. Should there be one research service across the whole House to serve both individual Members and Committees?

A generally positive response across all the grades to this question.

Specialists, who would potentially be directly affected by this change, had a 54% positive response rate.

This attracted strong support from across the committee office. However, the written responses revealed doubts as to whether this could be implemented.

Library and committee work is very different—this reduces the extent to which joint working can improve efficiency and scrutiny. Specialists are not research staff; as they perform a level of scrutiny:

Potentially Library staff should be involved on certain inquiries.

Committee specialists have built good relationships with Members and staff of committees; and this may be lost if we moved to one research service.

Committee clerks might not be able to gain the resource they need if relevant staff are working on another inquiry.

Different grading levels in the DCCS and the Library would have to be addressed.

Question 4: There should be more flexibility and sharing of staff (either procedural or research) between committees

Very positive response to this question with 30 agreeing (65%) with the statement.

Question 5: External secondments to committees should be encouraged, either as a clerk or specialist

Sixty-three per cent agreed with this statement. This view is shared by a range of post-holders across the committee office.

Consideration is required when staff are seconded from organisations that may have a potential interest in the outcome of an inquiry, potentially creating a conflict of interest.

Question 6: I would like more opportunities to work outside the Committee Office for a limited period

A very positive response from staff across the committee office.

Staff believe there is a lot to be learnt from the opportunity to work outside of the Committee Office, and this should be encouraged in the future at all levels.

Working in other departments across the House might develop a mutual understanding and broaden skills:

Staff could be encouraged to work on short-term project work.

Promotion opportunities at administrative grades can be limited:

short term loans to other departments might give staff the opportunity to develop new and transferable skills.

Staff may benefit from working for a period of time in NGOs and the civil service:

secondment opportunities, if available, should be advertised at all grading levels.

Broader knowledge.

Question 7: I would like more opportunities to become a clerk (with additional support)

This question provided a range of responses at each level. There are mixed answers with regards to staff wishing to become a Clerk. It is clear from the detailed responses that for some members of staff this is a route they would like to take and think they should be given more opportunities to achieve this; whereas for others it is not their planned career path. Staff that would like this career opportunity have made some suggestions about how this might be achieved.

As there are often limited promotion opportunities, external secondments and cross departmental working at all levels might give staff more transferable skills when going for promotions.

Generalist clerks agree that circulation is a good thing.

Question 8: It is a good thing that Committee Office staff are circulated regularly

There is spread of opinion on whether it is good or bad; with almost identical results for the agree and disagree category.

Only 30% of administrative staff agree with this statement and 53% disagree that staff should be circulated regularly.

Career clerks have given a positive result to the process.

Question 9: Instead of circulation, I should prefer to apply for positions in the Committee Office and/or DCCS more widely as and when they become vacant

There was widespread recognition of both the pros and cons of circulation. Staff generally like the flexibility to move to different committees but sometimes feel the process benefits some and not others. Although staff have responded positively about an alternative process they are concerned about whether it would work practically. Staff have noted that:

General Circulation

More consideration should be given to career management.

Provides opportunities to develop new skills but expertise can be lost.

The frequent rotation of staff can sometimes hinder the effective support of committees, as the institutional memory of the committee can be lost when personnel are moved.

Circulation can enable staff to develop their professional skills and competencies.

Protected streams; and how can staff move from one stream to another needs to be examined.

Advertisement of Posts

For popular posts this could be the fairest way to proceed; but because the frequency with which positions can become available the committee office would have to react very quickly and therefore this might not be practical.

How do you fill the vacancies that no one applies for?

Timescale and cost: additional amount of time taken to advertise and fill a post and also the cost implication of running campaigns are a concern.

Rather than a formal application process maybe “expressions of interest”—but should be throughout the DCCS and not just the committee office.

The process would work for generalists but not for specialists—as they would wish to maintain their specialism.

Compulsory circulation can be good for staff development but concerns were expressed as to the consistency with which it is applied.

Question 10: Each committee should be allocated a budget including for staffing purposes

Negative response from the majority of staff; highest response in “disagree” and “strongly disagree” category. This response is represented at all levels of staff in the Directorate.

Sixty per cent of staff who responded do not think that each committee should be allocated a budget.

Staff have reservations about committee teams being responsible for their own budgets, especially if this included staff allocation. Although there were some positive answers to the tick box exercise these staff are still highlighting concerns about how it would be practically managed. Overall the general response is negative to this suggestion/concerns raised include:

Who is making the decision about how budgets are allocated; and what would it cover (staffing, printing, transcription etc)?

Who has responsibility for this budget: Clerk or Chair?

Should all committees be allocated the same budget? If not, how should budgets be allocated? Committees that have a bigger budget may be seen to be “more important”.

Limited resource; what if more money is required and who would be responsible for making the budget allocation at beginning of session/financial year?

Currently resources can be easily redirected, centrally by DCCS, when a committees workload suddenly increases.

Political impartiality; staff should remain working for the House as an institution rather for individual Members or Chairs of committees.

It would require strict controls on pay rates and conditions.

It may give greater flexibility in staffing structures; for example more external advisers and a skeleton staff versus more permanent specialists:

Additional resources would help procure research on an inquiry-by-inquiry basis.

Scrutiny Unit

15 November 2011

12. Resourcing Select Committees in 2015 and 2020: Note by Clerk of Committees

At its meeting in November, the Working Group asked for a paper sketching out possible visions for select committee work in 2015 and 2020. In summary, this paper covers:

1. Impact

Wider recognition.

Earlier regular consultation by govt.

Replace Chamber proceedings (eg statements).

Enhanced status/role increases risk of politicisation (interference by Whips).

2. Structure

Fewer Members leads to fewer smaller committees.

Lords reform leads to overlap or share of responsibilities (eg abolition of Commons S&T).

Govt policies/programmes increasingly cross departmental.

Leads to challenge to departmental structure of Commons select committees and principle that Commons covers all of govt.

3. Proceedings

Trend to increasingly informal, electronic, transparent.

Challenged by a) politicisation and b)requirement to observe principles of natural justice (eg right of reply).

4. Staffing and Resources

Continuing financial constraint.

Wider variety of specialist support.


The Working Group is asked to comment on the likelihood of the various possibilities set out below and to advise on the implications for Committee resources.

A. Known UnknownsThe External Environment

1.Balance between chamber and select committee work for chairs and members may be affected by procedural changes or new sitting hours.

2.Current debate about powers and role of select committees, not least in relation to draft privileges bill, leads to further changes?

3.Public expenditure considerations maintain pressure on making best use of resources and limit new demands for staff and other resources.

4.Restricted options for accommodation on parliamentary estate.

5.IT developments at Westminster allow more electronic access to documents (IPads etc) and more use of social media.

6.Role of IPSA in determining pay for select committee chairs and in considering additional staffing provision for chairs.

7.Reduction of Commons to 600, impact of consequent boundary changes (particularly in run up to 2015) and Lords reform.

B. In 2015


8.Committees produce shorter reports with fewer but more specific recommendations.

9.Outside demands on the time of chairs—to make external speeches and media appearances—will continue at the same or a greater level.

10.Committees will be more widely-recognised in the media and in Whitehall as having a positive impact on government.

11.Committees’ programmes become more flexible to respond more quickly to outside events—staff work on some inquiries interrupted to handle newer priorities.

12.Social media will become a regular aspect of communicating about a committee’s work.

13.Risk that quick response by committees to immediate events leads to factual mistakes, political challenge and reputational damage.

14.Documents will increasingly be considered within committees and published in electronic format without use of paper.

15.Committees will increasingly draw specialist staff support from a wider pool—with secondments from thinktanks and NGOs, not necessarily paid for by the House, but with transparency to avoid conflicts of interest.

16.Given the age and gender mix of committee staff, turnover continues at the same level as in the first two years of the 2010 Parliament. Economic climate helps both retention and recruitment.

17.Demands from individual members on Library staff continue at the same level, so Library staff support for committees cannot be increased.

18.Reduction in size of House to 600 after 2015 will provoke a debate about whether effective scrutiny is best achieved through committees with a smaller membership or fewer committees.


19.Blogs etc may subject committee activity and conclusions to stronger public criticism.

20.Coalition government may impose more demands on committees in terms of policy review or resolution of tricky problems.

21.Perhaps one major row between committees and government about one pre-appointment hearing.

22.Creation of additional committees puts pressure on resources.

23.Intelligence and Security Committee becomes a full parliamentary committee but needs additional staff and overlaps with existing committees.

24.Wider pool of specialist staff and greater variety of terms and conditions absorb more management time.

25.Media criticism of foreign visits forces committees to gather information in other ways.

26.Financial stringency may be drawing to an end, enabling planning for expanding resources on scrutiny by committees.

27.Even stronger competition in elections for coveted posts as committee chairs.

C. By 2020

28.Ministers making major policy initiatives will consult select committees in advance.

29.Major policy announcements are routinely followed by oral evidence session in front of relevant committee.

30.It is rare for a government department not to implement a committee recommendation without substantial political debate.

31.Reformed Lords Committees often run over-lapping inquiries with Commons Committees.

32.Pressure for reform of Commons Committee structure to meet reduced number of backbench MPs and overlap with reformed Lords.

33.Liaison Committee representative one of backbench Members on Commons Commission.

34.Co-location of chairs and committee staff extended in specially adapted premises. Whips agreement to prioritise appropriate re-location following election of chairs.

35.Clerks have a broader knowledge of people, project & financial management. They will have undertaken placements in Whitehall and/or other House departments as part of their career development.

36.Media relations is a specific responsibility for one staffer in each committee team, with well developed contacts. Committees are regarded as up to speed with social media.

37.Improved economy increases turnover of specialist staff.

D. Possible Consequences

38.Some chairs may need greater support from media officers and committee staffs will need to be more media-aware.

39.Chairs may need to devote more of their time and personal staff to committee work.

40.Need for closer integration between chair’s own research and constituency staff and committee staff.

41.A wider mix of permanent and temporary staff, specialists and generalists will be needed to meet the needs of each committee.

42.Greater demands on committee clerks to gather and deploy resources effectively.

43.More flexibility may be needed within and between committee teams with less emphasis on distinct roles—willingness to experiment with different models.

44.More long-term staff planning by Committee Office management.

45.Debate about merits of pooling specialist expertise in a central body such as the Scrutiny Unit rather than allocating individuals permanently to specific committee teams.

46.Greater flexibility in Library specialists providing appropriate support to chairs and committees, using expert knowledge. Library fast streamers undertake attachments in Committees or Scrutiny Unit, working on inquiries.

47.Some co-location in parliamentary estate of chairs and their personal staff with committee staff. Facilities Department to be tasked with responsibility as part of estates planning.

Andrew Kennon
Clerk of Committees

16 January 2012

13. Select Committee Resources Review: Presentation by the Clerk of Committees

Andrew Kennon

May 2012

1 See Liaison Committee second report 2001–02 for a summary. On 14 May 2002 the House voted to increase the staff available to support select committees

Prepared 7th November 2012