Report - House of Commons Governance - House of Commons Governance Committee Contents

1  Introduction


1. On 1 September 2014 the Speaker made a statement to the House announcing that he had 'paused' the process to appoint a Clerk of the House and Chief Executive to succeed Sir Robert Rogers. On 10 September 2014 the House agreed to the motion to appoint a committee to 'consider the governance of the House of Commons, including the future allocation of the responsibilities currently exercised by the Clerk of the House and Chief Executive.'[1] The motion included the appointment of the Chair of the committee; the remaining members were added on 16 October 2014.[2]

2. We discuss what lessons might be learnt from the 'paused' recruitment exercise later in this report (paragraph 63), but note at this point that the fact that the House service has been operating under temporary arrangements at the most senior levels has placed a premium on us reaching speedy and agreed conclusions. The resolution of 10 September 2014 required that we report by 12 January 2015. To ensure that the House has as much time as possible before dissolution at the end of March 2015 to consider our Report and make decisions on it, we set ourselves an even tighter timetable of publishing before the Christmas adjournment. We are glad that we have met this deadline. In this Report we have set out a package of proposals for reform of the principal governance structures of the House and the most senior official positions which we believe will significantly increase the House's capacity to respond effectively and efficiently to the challenges of the future. We have not attempted to drill down into the structures below the Management Board level, but we have described an implementation procedure which should follow through on our high level changes.

Approach to the inquiry

3. On 17 October 2014 the Chair published the following statement about how we intended to approach our task:

    We intend as far as possible to be transparent and open in our proceedings. We will take evidence in public and publish the transcripts on this website. We will publish submissions made to us in writing except where they have been submitted in confidence. We understand that some individuals and groups will prefer to talk to us in private.

    We are inviting anyone with an interest in this matter to send us their views … If you want your submission to be in confidence, please tell us. …

    We have to answer the specific question of how the responsibilities of the Clerk and Chief Executive should be allocated in future, but we are also interested in

    -The role of the House of Commons Commission and its relations with other committees of Members of Parliament and the House's Management Board;

    -How to combine effective decision-making with transparent accountability

    -How to ensure that governance in the House of Commons matches best practice in the rest of the public sector

    -How to develop the skills the House needs from its most senior staff

    -What preparations the House needs to make now to be ready for the challenges of the future, particularly restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster

    This is a demanding agenda to tackle in the time available to us. It is likely that at some point we will have to narrow our field of inquiry to focus on what seem to us to be the key issues, but we want to do so on the basis of the best possible understanding of the broader context within which those issues sit.[3]

4. In the course of our inquiry we have received 91 submissions, including 36 from staff of the House and 22 from Members. We have held 13 evidence sessions hearing from 59 individuals, of whom 16 were staff of the House and PICT and 21 were Members. We had meetings with the Speaker, the three Deputy Speakers, the Lord Speaker, and Paul Martin, Parliamentary Security Director. We spent a very interesting afternoon listening to, and discussing, the views of more than 60 members of House and PICT staff (in eight groups). We are very grateful to all those who have assisted us. We are particularly grateful to the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers and the Lord Speaker for agreeing that we could attribute to them a number of the statements they made and opinions they expressed in our private meetings with them.

5. We have also received detailed submissions from each of the devolved legislatures and seven Parliaments in Europe and the Commonwealth. We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to the Speakers, Presiding Officers, Secretaries General and Clerks who have taken time out of their very busy schedules to assist us.

6. A full list of witnesses and of the submissions we have published[4] is at end of this report. All that material is available on our website: are also very grateful for the wise advice and counsel of our Specialist Adviser, Nicholas Kroll, and to Committee staff, who worked to a tight schedule.

1   HC Deb, 10 September 2014, col 1014  Back

2   HC Deb, 16 October 2014, col 554  Back

3   House of Commons Governance Committee, 'Chair's introductory statement,' accessed 15 December 2014 Back

4   We offered House of Commons and PICT staff the opportunity to have their evidence published without their names if they wished. We also received some written evidence which we did not publish at all, at the request of the people who submitted it. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 17 December 2014