3 How does the House match up?|
24. The House's primary purpose is its constitutional
one as the central institution of our democracy.
It is a representative assembly whose core functions include legislation,
authorising taxation, debate, and holding the government to account.
Those functions are fulfilled by its Members, who act on behalf
of their constituents. And those constituents have a constitutional
right of access to their representatives. With that right of access
go other obligations, not just to explain and inform but also
to engage and promote. In an age where the electorate to whom
we are answerable are increasingly questioning what we do and
how we do it, not only access to the Palace of Westminster, but
also our educational and outreach activities are more and more
important, and central to maintaining the legitimacy of the institution.
25. Thus, as an organisation, the House's real purpose
includes both its traditional core functions as a representative
assembly and its institutional obligations to the electorate.
The Deputy Speakers told us that it was important to consider
the House's primary purpose and to focus on how Members can be
enabled to do their jobs, although there was also a duty to operate
efficiently. The primary purpose of the House service must be
to support Members in the effective discharge of their parliamentary
26. The governance arrangements for the House have
developed over time often in response to particular issues or
events. This has resulted in a situation where the complexities
which are inherent in the character of the House as a legislature
have been compounded by layers of interventions which have built
on and adapted what went before rather than rationalising or restructuring
27. In essence, the position of the House in respect
of its administration is not that different from its position
in respect of its proceedings and privileges. It is sovereign.
But where it has legislated explicitly, those statutes have force
and cannot be overruled by resolution or other methods of internal
decision-making. Under the House of Commons Administration Act
1978 (the 1978 Act), the House of Commons Commission, not the
House, is the employer of the House's staff (with a few specific
exceptions). The Commission is also responsible for determining
the Estimate, and thus the House's financial resources.
|Evolution of House of Commons Governance
The two Houses of the UK Parliament occupy what has always been, and remains, a Royal Palace. In 1965 they were formally granted permanent use of the Palace with the Speaker acting on behalf of the Commons in respect of the Commons areas. Maintenance of the Palace and responsibility for the rest of the parliamentary estate remained in the hands of the Government until 1992.
The basis for the current administration of the House was shaped in the 1970s. The Compton Inquiry in 1974 was followed by the Bottomley Committee in 1975 which recommended changes to the administration of the House that are reflected in the House of Commons Administration Act 1978. This set up the House of Commons Commission in its current form (replacing various historic provisions including the House of Commons Offices Act 1812). The 1978 Act meant that for the first time the House was formally responsible for its staffing and expenditure. At the same time a Board of Management was set up which has now evolved into the Management Board.
Since 1978 there have been three separate management reviews of the House:
· Ibbs (1990) led to recommendations about financial management in the House and the transfer of the estate to the House (making the Clerk responsible under the 1992 Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act);
· Braithwaite (1999) recommended the Finance and Services Committee develop a closer relationship with the Commission, created the Audit Committee, proposed that the Clerk should be supported on corporate issues by a small office (the Office of the Clerk) and that both the Commission and Management Board should become more strategic;
· Tebbit (2007) recommended the Management Board become a more strategic body with revised membership including non-executives and supported by an upgraded Office of the Clerk called the Office of the Chief Executive. It also proposed further shared services including Estates and Works (with the Lords as a partner rather than customer of the Commons).
28. In 1965 The Queen agreed to transfer responsibility
for management of the Palace of Westminster (which was and remains
a Royal Palace) to the two Houses, with separate arrangements
for Westminster Hall and the royal rooms in the House of Lords.
In the House of Commons the responsibility was vested in the Speaker
on behalf of the House. The Speaker thus became, in practice and
in common law, the 'householder' for the Commons parts of the
Palace. By contrast, the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992
makes the Clerk of the House the legal owner of the House's property
and gives him or her authority to enter into contracts on its
29. The House itself can make decisions about its
own administration through the usual procedures of debate and
decision, as, for example, when agreeing to the savings programme
or to arrangements for the filming of a documentary.
In practice, through the combination of the statutory powers given
to it and the impracticality of using proceedings on the floor
of the House for regular decision making on administrative matters,
the Commission has acquired over time many of the strategic responsibilities
and powers which a governing board might be expected to have.
But they have not been codified or explicitly endorsed by the
House. There is no published list of them and it remains the case
that actions proposed or decisions taken by the Commission, other
than in pursuit of its statutory powers, could be challenged,
amended or reversed on the floor of the House.
30. People do not become Members of Parliament because
they want to run the House of Commons, a point endorsed by Nigel
Mills MP. The services
provided by the House, at every level and of every category, whether
advice on parliamentary privilege or on procedure in the Chamber,
or information and policy analysis, or security and access control,
or accommodation, or catering, are there to facilitate the work
of Members in serving their constituents. It is generally only
when those services go wrong, and they interfere in or obstruct
that work, that questions about how the services are provided,
and who makes decisions about them, become of interest to Members.
Changing work of the House
Throughout the last 50 years the size of membership of the House has remained relatively constant, but the scale of the work undertaken by Members, and the numbers and work of staff in the House Service, has changed immensely. These changes include the establishment of Departmental Select Committees in 1979, a huge increase in constituency related-work for Members (the number of Members' staff has more than doubled since 1990; new Members in 2010 have reported spending around 60 per cent of their time on constituency issues), far fewer Members combining their role with significant jobs outside, greater public engagement by the House plus greater exposure to the work of Members through televised coverage, 24-hour media and engagement with social media. The House has responded to these changes; for example, in 1979 the House had around 550 employees; it now has over 1,700 (which includes the transfer of maintenance and catering staff during the period, but excludes the growth in Members' staff).
The role of the Speaker
31. The Speaker is elected by the House to preside
over its proceedings and to be its representative both formally
(for example on state occasions) and informally (for example through
his or her involvement in public engagement activities: an area
of much-increased activity in recent years). But as the statutory
chair of the House of Commons Commission and as 'householder'
for the Commons areas of the Palace, s/he also has important administrative
32. The extent of the Speaker's non-procedural responsibilities
is not well understood. There is no published list of them. Sometimes
the Speaker may be asked to act because there seems to be no one
else who appropriately could do so. S/he has a range of statutory
responsibilities either on behalf of the House (eg in the Parliament
Act 1911 or the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
or to discharge functions which have a parliamentary dimension
but must be the responsibility of someone above the political
fray (eg as chair of the four permanent Boundary Commissions
or of the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission).
S/he has thus a position of leadership within the House, without
being fully in charge. Indeed it would not be appropriate that
s/he should be. As the Leader of the House, Rt Hon William Hague
MP, told us:
It is only possible for it to proceed on a collective
basis, which is as it should be in a Parliament: there should
not be any one figure in charge in the same way there is a Secretary
of State who has to be in charge and is accountable to Parliament
for being in charge of his or her Department. It is different
from a Government Department in that respect.
33. From the start of the 2010 Parliament, the House
has elected the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means
and the two other Deputy Speakers. Previously they were, in effect,
chosen by the Whips. As with select committee chairs, this welcome
reform has increased their authority and status in the eyes of
the House. Like the Speaker, they have been chosen by the House
to preside over its proceedings.
34. With one exception, the Deputy Speakers have
no role in deputising for the Speaker in her/his administrative
roles. The one exception is that the 1978 Act provides that the
Deputy Speaker 'may exercise the functions of Mr Speaker' as chair
of the House of Commons Commission in the latter's temporary absence.
To the best of our knowledge this provision has never been used.
The only formal involvement which any of the Deputy Speakers has
in the administrative side of the House is that the Chairman of
Ways and Means is a member of the Finance and Services Committee
and is Chair of the Panel of Chairs with general responsibility
for the work of general committees.
35. The physical distance between the Speaker and
his deputies (whose offices are on the opposite side of the building)
seems emblematic of a functional distance. In our view, the Speaker
and Deputy Speakers should always operate as a team. The Speaker
and Deputy Speakers should consider reviewing whether the Deputy
Speakers should be available to support the Speaker in his responsibilities
outside as well as inside the Chamber. We consider this further
in paragraph 138.
House of Commons Commission
36. The Commission is established under the House
of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 (the 1978 Act). The Commission
is a body corporate. Under paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 1, the Commission
may determine its own procedures. It presently consists of the
Speaker (ex officio), the Leader of the House (ex officio), a
nominee of the Leader of the Opposition, and three other Members
appointed by the House who are not Ministers of the Crown. Past
service on the Commission is not a bar to nomination or appointment
as a member of the Commission. Under the statute, the Speaker
is the Chairman of the Commission. Upon a dissolution of Parliament,
the Speaker continues in office as a member of the Commission
until a Speaker is chosen in the new Parliament.
37. The functions of the Commission set out in the
1978 Act are:
a) To prepare and present to the House for printing
a report on the exercise of its functions in each financial year.
The report must mention any delegation of the Commission's functions
or change in existing delegations.
b) To appoint the staff in House departments;
this excludes the Clerk of the House, any Clerk Assistant, the
Serjeant at Arms and the Speaker's personal staff.
c) To keep the terms and conditions of staff
of House Departments, including pay and grading, broadly in line
with those of the Home Civil Service. The pensions of staff are
to be kept in line with or provided under the Principal Civil
Service Pension Scheme.
d) To prepare and lay before the House an Estimate
for expenses of the House Departments or expenses otherwise incurred
for the service of the House (the Administration Estimate).
e) To appoint the Accounting Officer for the
f) To allocate functions to House Departments
and Offices and to increase or decrease their number.
|Current Committees and Boards
The current Commission are supported by a number of Committees (set up by standing order) and Boards. These are set out with their membership below:
· House of Commons Commission: Rt Hon John Bercow MP (The Speaker), the Leader of the House, Rt Hon William Hague MP, the Shadow Leader of the House, Angela Eagle MP, Frank Doran MP, Sir Paul Beresford MP, Rt Hon John Thurso MP.)
· Management Board: David Natzler (Acting Clerk of the House), John Borley (Director-General of Facilities), Andrew Walker (Director-General of HR and Change), Myfanwy Barratt (Director of Finance), Dame Janet Gaymer (external non-executive) and Barbara Scott (external non-executive). The Director-General of Chamber and Committee Services/Clerk Assistant, the Director-General of Information Services/Librarian and the Director of PICT are also members of the Management Board but these posts are currently filled on an acting basis. The Board is currently chaired by Dame Janet Gaymer.
· Finance and Services Committee (responsible for scrutinising and monitoring the expenditure of the House and advising the Committee on the annual estimate): Rt Hon John Thurso MP (Chair), Sir Paul Beresford MP, Clive Betts MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Robert Flello MP, Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, Rt Hon George Howarth MP, Rt Hon Lindsay Hoyle MP (the Chairman of Ways and Means), Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight MP, Robert Syms MP, Iain Wright MP.
· Administration Committee (considers the services of the House, advising the Commission): Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP(Chair), Conor Burns MP, Thomas Docherty MP, David Evennett MP, Michael Fabricant MP, Tom Harris MP, Mark Hunter MP, Marcus Jones MP, Nigel Mills MP, Tessa Munt MP, Robert Syms MP, Mark Tami MP, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Ben Wallace MP, Dave Watts MP, David Wright MP.
· Audit Committee (supports the Clerk of the House and Chief Executive by advising him in relation to his responsibilities as Accounting Officer): Dame Janet Gaymer (Chair, external member), Angela Eagle MP, Barbara Scott (external member), Rt Hon John Thurso MP, Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, Stephen Brooker (external member).
38. We support the principle of a statutory body
with functions including those currently held by the Commission
which is accountable to the House through, for example, parliamentary
questions. Such a body provides clarity and certainty at the apex
of the governance structure because statutory responsibilities
can be amended only by further legislation. In a House where the
Executive will almost always have a majority it is a protection
against Executive interference.
39. But we have concluded that as currently constituted
the Commission lacks the authority and the capability to provide
consistent strategic direction. Its members told us that, faced
with specific issues, it could be an effective decision-making
body, but that it was less good at taking a longer term view or
setting a strategic framework for the House service as a whole.
It was not always clear how issues came to it, or what decisions
were required of it.
The Speaker told us that the Commission worked relatively well,
but that it could be better at following up on decisions and interacting
with the Management Board.
40. We heard evidence that corporate board members
are expected to spend at least two days a month and sometimes
much more on work for the board (in the public and private sectors).
Commission members are very busy people with many calls on their
time. We suspect that many of them find it difficult to devote
as much time as they would wish to their Commission duties.
41. The Commission is not well understood even within
the House. As Angela Eagle MP told us,
It was always rather a mysterious thing before
I got on to it.
I have to say the management and structure
of the place has always been rather mysterious. You only get to
come across bits of it by accident, and if you are lucky enough
to stay here long enough, you then stumble across more of it.
42. Its meetings are always in private. It publishes
only the barest of minutes. Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP suggested that
unless a Member had had specific direct contact with the Commission,
as she had in connection with the Speaker's Parliamentary Placement
Scheme, 'I will hazard a guess that very few will know who the
members are and what the responsibilities are.'
The Speaker told us that the Commission's profile might be improved
if its backbench members were elected and that the elected members
could have portfolio responsibilities. He said that, in his view,
there should be ex officio places on the Commission for the Speaker,
the Leader of the House, and the Shadow Leader. The Deputy Speakers
said the Commission should be more accountable and that election
of its members would be one way of achieving this.
Finance and Services Committee
43. The Finance and Services Committee (F&S)
has 11 members, formally chosen by the House. In the last two
Parliaments, one of the members has been the Chairman of Ways
and Means. Its chair is chosen by the committee from among its
members, rather than elected by the whole House. The responsibilities
of F&S are described in Standing Order No. 144. They are to
prepare the Estimates for submission to the Commission; to monitor
the financial performance of the House administration and to report
to the Commission on the 'financial and administrative implications
of recommendations made to them by other committees of the House.'
In 2010 F&S agreed a remit for itself, to which it then secured
the agreement of the House of Commons Commission. The evidence
we have received suggests that that remit and the rigour with
which the Chair and the committee have stuck to it have played
an important part in the constructive contribution which F&S
is generally regarded to have made in the current Parliament.
44. We were told that in the past F&S's responsibility
to report to the Commission on recommendations made by other committees
had led it to unpick carefully-considered packages of recommendations
from, for example, the Administration Committee, but that in the
current Parliament its decision to focus more exclusively on its
financial management responsibilities together with a constructive
relationship between the chairs of the F&S and Administration
committees had largely obviated this problem.
45. Another important factor in F&S's success
has been that its chair is also a member of the Commission.
46. The Administration Committee has 16 members,
formally chosen by the House. Its chair is chosen by the committee
from among its members, rather than elected by the whole House.
The committee's role is described in Standing Order No 139 as
being 'to consider services provided for and by the House and
make recommendations thereon to the House of Commons Commission
or to the Speaker.' It may 'make rules and give directions to
Officers of the House only in respect of such administrative matters
as may from time to time be determined by the Speaker or the House
of Commons Commission.' The protocol agreed between the Commission
and the committee sets out a range of issues on which the committee
is invited to advise the Speaker, the House of Commons Commission,
the Management Board and individual Heads of Department as appropriate.
It lists several delegations, described as being of oversight,
nomination or authority. It makes no reference to making rules
or giving directions to Officers of the House.
47. It is hard to see how the protocol flows from
the standing order. There is no mention in the protocol of what
responses the Administration Committee may expect to its advice,
whether there is, for example, any obligation on those to whom
the committee gives its advice to explain, in cases where this
advice is not acted on, why it has not been accepted. The protocol
is described as an 'Ambit of Advice from Administration Committee
under paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 139', which implies
that it sets limits on the subjects on which the Commission and
others are prepared to receive advice. But the standing order
provides no authority for such limits.
48. The Administration Committee does a necessary
job, but, through no fault of its own, works sub-optimally. Its
membership is too large; attendance as a consequence is unpredictable
and variable. Its role is not clearly articulated. Even those
Members who understand that its role is advisory, rather than
executive, are frustrated by the lack of feedback (from the Commission
and from officials) where its advice is not followed, and by delays
in the timely implementation of that advice which is accepted.
49. One element which has worked well is the series
of constructive relationships which the Chair of the committee
has forged with officials across the House service and PICT.
But they have required both patience and time on his part. The
absence of any link between the committee and the Commission has,
in the Chair's view at least, made it harder.
50. The Liaison Committee's remit as set out in Standing
Order No 145 does not extend to House administration or governance.
But as the committee of chairs of select committees it has unsurprisingly
interested itself in the support given by the House to its select
committees. Its Chair told us that the committee was in this process
'a consumer rather than a manager.'
He went on
I think it would be wrong for the Liaison Committee
or anybody else to become involved in the HR management of staff.
However, as Chairman of the Liaison Committee, I work as closely
as I can with the management, the Clerk of Committees, to ensure
that the needs of committees are met in a way that allows us to
maintain a service, with people receiving appropriate promotion
and having their careers developed.
51. The Management Board has nine members, of whom
two are external members. The current members of the Management
· Dame Janet Gaymer, Non-executive external
member, and Acting Chair
· Myfanwy Barrett, Director, Finance
· John Benger, Acting Director General,
· John Borley, Director General, Facilities
· David Natzler, Acting Clerk of the House
· Barbara Scott, Non-executive external
· Jacqy Sharpe, Acting Director General,
Chamber and Committee Services
· Matthew Taylor, Acting Director of PICT
· Andrew Walker, Director General, Human
Resources and Change
It is responsible for the management of the services
provided for the House of Commons by the Departments of the House;
it advises the Corporate Officer on the services that should be
provided by PICT, a joint department of the two Houses; and it
gives advice on those services to the House of Commons Commission
and to F&S. Under an instrument of delegation made by the
House of Commons Commission on 22 October 2007 and amended by
the Commission on 23 January 2012, the Board is responsible for:
a) Ensuring that the grading, pay and conditions
of staff in the House Service are kept broadly in line with those
of the Home Civil Service;
b) Appointing staff (other than certain staff
appointed by the Speaker), with each executive Board member responsible
for the appointment of staff to their own Departments, subject
to directions given by the Clerk of the House as Chief Executive;
c) Exercising the Commission functions concerning
staff in the House Service, but with the Commission retaining
the power to re-organise the Departmental structure of the House;
d) Consulting the trade unions (subject to the
right of the trade unions to make representations directly to
the Commission in certain circumstances);
e) Managing the services provided by Departments
of the House and advising the Commission and F&S on those
f) Advising the Corporate Officer of the House
of Commons on the services that should be provided by joint departments
of the two Houses;
g) Overseeing the budgets of House Departments;
h) Assisting F&S in the production of draft
Estimates for expenditure before their submission to the Commission.
52. We have received clear evidence of increased
professionalism in the most senior levels of the House service.
Of the four permanent executive members of the Board (as opposed
to the three acting members), three have lengthy experience outside
the House. This is
an experience mirrored in similar jurisdictions such as Canada.
The Management Board has worked hard to improve its own effectiveness
and in the words of Alex Jablonowski, who was an external member
of it between 2008 and 2013,
We came a long way and now, by and large, the
board-certainly when I left-was acting in the collegiate way where
people put a board hat on and left their individual directorate
responsibilities behind. That was very important.
53. It successfully delivered a 17 per cent real
terms reduction in budgeted resource expenditure over the first
four years of the current Parliament. The most recent Staff Survey
results point to increasing levels of satisfaction in the leadership
of the service. John Borley told us that the Board 'works as well,
if not better, than any board of management I have been on.'
54. On the other hand our own discussions with staff
showed wide variations in awareness of and support for the Board.
Although Andrew Walker reinforced Alex Jablonowski's assessment
that it is now a substantially more corporate body than it had
been in the past, it has not yet persuaded its own staff that
it can act corporately to the highest standards as a positive
force for change. Its evidence suggested uncertainty over its
own strategic role.
An analysis of its agendas suggests that it lacks focus and spends
too much time on issues that could be handled at a lower level.
55. Two examples of where the Board could have handled
things differently were repeatedly raised with us: the pay negotiations
between 2012 and 2014; and the introduction of standardised time
recording for staff across the House service. The latter example
was believed by many staff to be conceptually incompatible with
the parliamentary timetable and does seem to us to derive from
a failure to base policies on a clear understanding that the primary
purpose of the House is parliamentary. In both cases there has
been a lack of clarity both on the policy objectives and on decision-making
responsibilities. Ken Gall, President of the Trade Union Side,
told us that it was not clear who was 'really accountable for
decision making with regard to staff in this organisation.'
It seems extraordinary to us that staff, and in particular the
Trades Unions, should not be clear on who is responsible and therefore
accountable for so significant a change to the terms and conditions
56. Although the Clerk chairs the Management Board
as Chief Executive Officer and not as the head of a department,
the Board still has characteristics of a representative rather
than a functional body. Staff from several departments described
the experience of preparing papers for the Board which were then
presented to it by their Head of Department.
David Vere described the House service as being 'in the holding
company stage, where we have a number of relatively independent
departments within a corporate whole.'
David Natzler told us that sometimes Board decisions were not
implemented and followed
up with a specific example.
This was not, in his view, about wilful non-acceptance of the
Chief Executive's authority but 'more a concern that decisions
taken by the Board are for a variety of reasons not always implemented
across the House consistently and to the timescales envisaged
by the Board.' Tom
O'Leary described his experience of organising the Parliament-wide
Anniversaries Programme, that high level backing 'does not necessarily
translate into the organisation saying, "Right, we are going
to get on with this."'
57. In our view there are three underlying factors
which contribute to this situation:
· A dysfunctional relationship between the
Board and the Commission;
· Lack of a clear focus on implementation
or delivery, with inconsistent follow-up of agreed decisions and
· Inadequate clarity on delegations to and
within individual departments.
The Clerk of the House
58. The position of Clerk of the House is a Crown
appointment. S/he is appointed by Letters Patent and could be
removed only by an Address to Her Majesty.
This method of appointment dates back at least as far as the reign
of Edward IV. But it is more than a historical curiosity: it is
an important protection of the independence of the post and thus
of the advice which the occupant gives to Members on all sides
of the House and to the Speaker.
59. The choice of candidate to be proposed for appointment
to the Sovereign was before 2011 made on the basis of informal
discussions and soundings. Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP recalls the
appointment of at least two Clerks of the House in the 1980s being
to some extent determined by the House of Commons Commission.
In 2006 two names were put before the Speaker by the retiring
Clerk from which the Speaker then chose.
60. The Tebbit Review had recommended that the appointment
process for Clerk of the House/Chief Executive should be 'by means
of competition, open to the (inevitably limited) group of suitably
qualified candidates, with a Selection Board similar to those
employed for Permanent Secretaries to Government Departments.'
However, no steps were taken to implement the recommendation.
In his 2010 review of the implementation of Tebbit, Alex Jablonowski
scored this recommendation as "Not Achieved" and as
"Highly Relevant". Mr Jablonowski told us that in his
view the recommendation was not implemented for the 2011 appointment
process simply because of a lack of time.
61. Nonetheless, in 2011, following discussions with
the retiring Clerk of the House, the Speaker decided to introduce
a competitive process to recruit his successor. Applications were
invited from eligible candidates in both Houses of Parliament
and in the devolved legislatures. The process was administered
by a senior HR professional in the then Department of Resources.
THE 2014 RECRUITMENT PROCESS
62. Sir Robert Rogers announced his retirement in
April 2014. The then Leader of the House, Rt Hon Andrew Lansley
MP, told us that the Commission decided, at its meeting later
that month, that 'we were looking for the appointment process
to be conducted, as far as possible, on the same basis as 2011.'
In the event, however, there were differences from the previous
process. For example, an executive search firm was engaged to
identify potential candidates, undertake initial interviews, review
all applications and draw up a long list of suitable candidates.
63. Our role has not been to conduct a post mortem
of the 2014 process, but there are lessons which should be learnt
for any future process. First, as we have already noted, Commission
procedures are not always as well understood by its members as
they might be. In this instance the evidence from both John Thurso
and Andrew Lansley suggests that the Commission was initially
not as clear or definitive in its decision-making as it might
have been. Secondly
the respective roles and responsibilities of the Speaker and Commission
in the process were not clear. The Commission has no statutory
responsibility for the post of Clerk, but, judging from what Sir
Alan Beith told us, has been involved to some degree in the appointment
process for at least the last thirty years.
Thirdly, the nature of the process in 2014 does not seem to have
been pinned down in detail in advance of the recruitment process
for the successor to Sir Robert Rogers. We noted above that Sir
Kevin Tebbit's recommendation in respect of the process had not
been implemented. The 2011 process had not been either fully open
or entirely consistent with Sir Kevin's recommendation. Our recommendations
in respect of any future appointment process are set out in paragraphs
THE CLERK AS CHIEF EXECUTIVE
64. The role of the Clerk of the House as Chief Executive
has developed over time. To some extent it has mirrored the evolution
of a unified House service. In 1990 in the Ibbs report the Clerk
was described as primus inter pares in a 'federal structure.'
In 1999 Braithwaite found that 'many of the recent improvements
in management and governance have been driven by [the Clerk],
and the role of the Clerk is now much more than the primus
inter pares described by Ibbs.'
However the federal structure remained in place and Braithwaite
Staff are formally appointed to the House service,
but in practice to a Department. Moves of staff between Departments
are increasing slowly but are relatively infrequent; and do not
in practice happen above pay band A2 (Grade 7).
65. In 2007, Tebbit noted that the 'Board of Management
now considers House-wide issues, although these are relatively
and that the 'importance of developing more corporate behaviour
by Board members is reflected in a Statement of Principles which
the Board has adopted.'
Since then the prominence of the Chief Executive part of the role
has been further reinforced by the implementation of Tebbit's
recommendation of an Office of the Chief Executive;
and there has been continuing effort put into unifying the House
service. Three former Clerks of the House, Sir William McKay,
Sir Roger Sands and Sir Malcolm Jack, told us in written evidence
that changes to the departmental structure after Tebbit 'contributed
significantly to the efficiency of the unified House Service.'
David Natzler told us, one thing on which the Management Board
was united was that 'we value a unified service.'
Andrew Walker agreed: 'we have seen some real benefits and improvements
in services from the unification of the House Service.'
And Myfanwy Barrett said:
When I came here, you rapidly got the feeling
that there was a certain culture round the Clerks in the organisation
and then there was everybody else. We have worked really hard
to try and break down some of those barriers to make sure that
the staff feel integrated in one team and one organisation.
66. It is perhaps not surprising that these developments
have gone together, nor, as other witnesses have told us, that
as a consequence there have been significant improvements across
the House service in recent years. We return to the importance
of a united House service later in this report (paragraph 163).
67. A joint Clerk/Chief Executive is the standard
model used in the UK's devolved legislatures, although the balance
between procedural and administrative work varies. Other models
exist; in the Danish Folketing the Clerk is one of two deputies
to the Secretary General.
In the French National Assembly, there are two separate administrations,
one dealing with parliamentary matters accountable to the President
of the Assembly, the other responsible for 'back office' and support
functions accountable to 'Questeurs' who are members of the Assembly
elected by it to fulfil this role.
68. Our witnesses expressed a variety of views on
the desirability or otherwise of splitting the roles of Clerk
of the House and Chief Executive and how the two posts should
be organised if they were split. The Speaker said that the Clerk
and Chief Executive roles should be split; that nothing should
threaten the role of the Clerk of the House as chief constitutional
adviser, but that there should also be a Chief Executive focused
on the management of the organisation. He told us that there should
be a clear delineation of functions between the two posts, which
would minimise the overlap and the potential for disagreement,
and that the Chief Executive should be the Accounting Officer.
This model would appear to divide the House service into a parliamentary
section headed by the Clerk and a management function headed by
the Chief Executive. The Deputy Speakers told us that the Clerk
of the House should be the head of the House Service and said
that if there were a Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive,
they should act on the authority of the Clerk of the House; the
two posts should not be parallel. They said that it was necessary
to have one person in charge; that the Clerk of the House should
remain the Accounting Officer; and that a Chief Operating Officer
for the whole estate could be a long-term aspiration. Andrew Tyrie
MP argued that the House should appoint a Chief Executive as its
principal officer, ultimately responsible to the Speaker, the
Commission and the House itself for the running of all House services,
including procedural and parliamentary services.
We heard a wide range of other views from Members. Some Members
argued that the Clerk of the House should be the senior post.
Other Members argued for two separate postsClerk of the
House and Chief Executiveof equal status, both accountable
directly to the Commission.
69. As noted above, the staff of the House are employed
by the Commission, which has a statutory duty to keep their terms
and conditions broadly in line with those of the Home civil service.
Candidates for the Fast Stream are initially recruited within
the civil service's Fast Stream recruitment system. However, whilst
House staff are not civil servants, they will naturally compare
what the House offers them with what they might have expected
in the civil service. As Andrew Kennon, Clerk of Committees, explained:
Our aim has been to recruit highly capable people
from the same pool as the civil service draws its fast stream
to ensure that at all levels Parliament is supported by people
of equal ability to the civil service. We also develop people
recruited through other routes. The assumption is that the House
wants to be confident that its staff are as good as (and capable
of standing up to) their civil service equivalents.
70. Throughout our inquiry we have heard testimony
to the quality of the staff who work in the House of Commons.
Without exception, Members praised the staff of the House. That
was reinforced by Dr Emma Crewe, who has recently completed a
three year study of the House told and us that she was 'a huge
champion of Parliament, but also of the officials in Parliament.
My experience of observing them is that the institution is extremely
71. David Orr, previously Permanent Secretary of
the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland and
Chair of the Independent Procurement Expert Panel for Crossrail,
described the Parliamentary Estates Board and the Restoration
and Renewal Programme Board as 'at least as good as other boards
that I have contributed to.'
In the catering field, the House has 'a number of very talented
chefs who regularly win competitions.'
Sir Kevin Tebbit, an admitted admirer of the House service,
was, however, concerned by divisions within it:
The Clerks were considered very much to be the
superior beings who lived on a slightly different planet from
the rest of the House Service. I thought that was not good, because
I thought there were a lot of very good people indeed in other
parts of the House Service, and with the way in which the world
is going, with the massive transformation of technology, with
the need for much greater connection with the public and the understanding
of what Parliament is about, with what used to be called the Library
function extending much more into a general information function,
with much more emphasis on engaging with the general public and
getting them in the place to understand what working democracy
is like, I felt that it was very important to try to break down
some of those barriers and, if you like, for the Clerks to own
a much wider area of responsibility under the Members, under the
Since then, clerks have been encouraged to take on
a much wider range of responsibilities. For example, the recent
project to move to a fully electronic system for parliamentary
questions (including transferring the questions to and the answers
from government departments) was led by a clerk. Paul Evans told
us that he looked with envy at his younger colleagues 'because
they have opportunities to work in the civil service and other
departments that I was never offered.'
Sir Alan Beith described the role of clerks in representing the
interests of select committees which might be 'in conflict with
outside bodies or organisations who are declining to come and
give oral evidence.'
A PROCEDURAL SERVICE?
72. It has been almost universally agreed that key
parliamentary roles, not just the Clerk of the House but also
many other senior clerking jobs, require procedural and parliamentary
expertise which can only be acquired through extensive experience
of a wide range of parliamentary proceedings and processes. We
have found no dissent from the proposition that the current structures
have consistently delivered the authoritative and independent
procedural advice which the House depends upon.
As Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, drawing on his experience as
Deputy Speaker, told us:
I have had experience in the Chair where suddenly
there is some exocet of a procedural point thrown at you. You
strain forward and the person in front of you, who knows much
more, is able to guide you. If the person in front knew less,
that would be an unfortunate situation.
73. Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs
Select Committee, praised Committee staff, saying: 'we have got
people of huge talent.'
Sir Alan Beith pointed out that the role of committee clerks was
not exclusively or even principally procedural:
The Clerks of Select Committees manage teams
of staff and the senior Committee Clerks manage the overall resource.
That management role has been encouraged and I would not want
us to send the signal that it is not important.
Sir Roger Sands stressed the importance he had placed,
as Clerk, on the development of 'one unified House service.'
Sir William McKay, supported by his two colleagues, emphasised
the extent to which the Clerk was bound to become involved in
issues across the House service.
74. Andrew Kennon, Clerk of Committees, compared
his role with that of his contemporaries in other organisations:
they are doing the same sort of thing. It is
a mixture of professional knowledge, knowledge of your organisation
and your ability to manage resources. No one has got promoted
to a senior position in the House service in recent years who
cannot do those things.
75. Other Parliaments develop their staff for the
top roles. For example, Dr. Horst Risse, Secretary-General of
the German Bundestag, outlined in written evidence that 'efforts
are made to place staff in as many different areas of the Administration
as possible, to provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate
their skills in a range of positions and gain experience' He himself
had been Director General for two different areas of the administration
before taking on the lead role.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY
76. Most staff who make their careers in the House
service are not clerks. They may nonetheless spend many years
here developing skills and experience which are crucial to providing
high quality services to Members, to staff and to the public.
Many of them have been well-served by the House.
But others, as we discovered in our discussions with them, do
not believe that the same attention is paid to their career development
or that equivalent opportunities to progress to senior posts are
open to them.
77. Many organisations value their long-serving staff
for the skills they have and for their institutional memory, a
particularly valuable asset in a parliamentary environment, but
also in other areas, where the relevant specialist skills may
not be readily available elsewhere, for example in connection
with the maintenance and running of a historic building. On the
other hand an organisation must also bring in new blood. There
is an optimum balance. Dave Penman, General Secretary, FDA, described
the situation in the wider public sector:
Almost all organisations
try to blend the
promotion and development of internal staff with bringing in people
from outside. Usually when they get it wrong is when it goes too
far one way or the other.
78. Andrew Walker pointed out that three of the permanent
members of the Management Board had been recruited from outside
We took evidence from a number of staff who had come into the
House midway through their careers, including David Vere, Director
of People Development, who joined the House in May this year and
has a responsibility to assess whether the balance of training
across the service is appropriate and whether 'we are getting
best value for the money that we invest as an organisation overall.'
79. Historically the House, at Member and staff level,
has struggled to make significant progress in respect of diversity.
Keith Vaz commented: 'We should reflect the whole of the UK and
we are not doing that at the moment.'
The Parliamentary Workplace Equality Networks told us:
The outgoing Clerk and Chief Executive proactively
took on the role of House-wide Diversity Champion and his direct
involvement with, and commitment to, the WENs was very strong.
Regardless of the outcome of the Governance Review, it is vital
that high-level commitment to the diversity agenda continues and
that this aspect of the role is embedded properly and permanently
into the future job description / role of the head official(s)
in the House. This will help to ensure that the great advances
made in this area over the last four years can be continued further
and that diversity and inclusion is not seen as an 'add on' responsibility.
The benefits of embedding diversity and inclusion in the workplace
are high and well documented elsewhere: treating people with respect
and recognising the value they bring to the organisation enables
people to feel more comfortable being themselves at work. This
ultimately leads to a better motivated and more productive workforce.
We heard evidence which explained the House's Diversity
and Inclusion scheme and how the House was seeking to embed equality
in its work and measure successes and failures.
80. Overall, whilst we think there has been significant
progress in respect of staff development across the House service
in recent years, there is much more to do.
Rt Hon Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Governmentwhich
currently hosts a secondeesuggested the House 'ought to
be much more extensive with secondments to the private sector,
to local government or wherever.'
Andrew Kennon and David Vere both talked about increasing the
opportunities for staff to move between departments and broadening
the scope of roles into which staff could go on secondment.
David Natzler told us:
We want people to get wider experience, while
at the same time not diminishing their core professional expertise
and knowledge, which we have to keep on producing to have any
sort of succession policy.
81. A number of witnesses emphasised the importance
of culture in making governance arrangements work effectively,
whilst raising concerns about the current organisational culture.
Looking back at his time as Chair of the Administration Committee,
Frank Doran MP argued that historically the House had been 'very
slow to move things forward and custom and deference are a big
part of the problem',
whilst Rt Hon Peter Hain MP described in written evidence what
he called a 'culture of aloofness which pervades [the Clerk's]
the Management Board level there is evidence of challenge, but
it could be more robust. Myfanwy Barrett told us 'We all get on
very well, we are very polite, but sometimes we do not sufficiently
air an issue where we do have a difference of opinion.'
The Management Board's own submission said that they would 'welcome
a closer, more collegiate, working culture'
with the Commission. We heard a variety of views from staff about
the current management culture: for example, a member of staff
argued in written evidence that 'A culture in which constructive
criticism of management proposals is welcomed and in which alternative
solutions are considered would help to counter the weaknesses
in the current system'.
82. The Commission itself lacks internal challenge,
and, we were surprised to learn from Sir Robert Rogers, it has
never reviewed its own working practices.
Its relationship with the Management Board is insufficiently close
to provide regular oversight or challenge. An overall preference
for consensus building, accompanied by a lack of clear accountability,
distracts from a focus on delivery.
83. Some commentators have suggested that there is
a tension in the culture of the whole organisation, between the
priority given to "parliamentary activities" and "management".
Barry Winetrobe, an academic, suggested in written evidence that
this culture had developed 'Because the 'procedural' has always
taken precedence over the 'institutional', the culture and personnel
of the 'guardians of the procedural' has prevailed even in matters
which are largely, but not solely, 'institutional'.
The Cass Business School submission commented that many Members
express the importance of deeply held traditions
and symbolism which provide a central aspect of the collective
culture of all who work in Parliament. We think in some quarters
there is a deeply held, but maybe unexpressed concern that the
rise of a more thorough-going managerial approach will lead to
these traditions being replaced by a generic corporate culture
which could be found in any workplace.
84. Paul Evans argued that the culture of the service
to some extent reflected the institution it supported:
The culture of your permanent service rather
reflects the culture of the body it serves, which is disparate,
stubborn, hard to corral and puts a great deal of value on individual
opinion, individual freedom and the right to block.
85. Andrew McDonald posed the question in his written
Does one want to reinforce the existing culture,
which prizes procedural expertise above all else? Or does one
want to signal that the House recognises that the quality of its
leadership and management are fundamentally important. The choice
is an important one. Important to the future direction and culture
of the whole of the House administration.
86. Alongside this is the tension between customer
service (meeting the needs and wants of individuals and groups)
and stewardship of the institution (protection of the wider good).
The Cass Business School noted in written evidence 'Several interviewees
commented on the need to facilitate a culture change in Parliament.
There is an overarching discourse concerned with the need to introduce
a 'service culture'.'
They followed with the observation:
However, it is easier to see how a service culture
might operate in some areas (e.g. catering) rather than others
where there is a closer relationship with the political functions
of Parliament (e.g. DCCS). Some interviewees described house staff
as 'stewards' rather than 'service providers', particularly in
relation to aspects where clerks were required to support, but
not advise or direct Members.
87. Accountability is a central concept of public
service and we heard, time and again, about the importance of
clarity on who is accountable and how. Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair
of the Public Administration Select Committee, suggested: 'there
will not be accountability unless you have an atmosphere in which
people want to accept accountability, are encouraged to take accountability
and are rewarded for that accountability'.
23 See Michael Fabricant MP (GOV002), Sir Peter Luff
(GOV005), and Robert Flello MP (GOV054) Back
HC Deb, 26 April 1965, cols 328-33 Back
Votes and Proceedings, 3 April 2014 Back
Q303 [Nigel Mills MP] Back
Q303 [Sir Menzies Campbell MP] Back
For further information see Liam Laurence Smyth, House of Commons
staff (GOV001) Back
Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 Back
Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 Back
House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, Schedule 2 Back
When the then Speaker was absent in 2008, the chair was taken
by other members of the Commission Back
Summary of sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 Back
See also paragraph 143 where we consider a point made by the Shadow
Leader of the House about the present Commission. Back
Q309 [Hazel Blears MP] Back
David Weir, House of Commons staff (GOV036), para 6 Back
Q66 [Sir Alan Haselhurst MP] Back
Q87 [Sir Alan Beith MP] Back
Q87 [Sir Alan Beith MP] Back
Myfanwy Barrett, Director of Finance, was Corporate Director of
Finance, Harrow Council, and Head of Finance, Greater London Authority;
John Borley, Director General of Facilities, was Chief Executive,
Naval Recruiting and Training Agency, Naval Base Commander, HM
Naval Base Clyde, and Military Assistant to the Chief of Defence
Procurement; Andrew Walker, Director General of Human Resources
and Change was Treasury policy adviser, and Assistant Director
of HR, Inland Revenue. Back
Marc Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, Canada (GOV085) Back
Q120 [Alex Jablonowski] Back
Q183 [David Natzler and Andrew Walker] Back
Q423 [Ken Gall] Back
Qq597-98, 602-03 Back
David Natzler, House of Commons staff (GOV081) Back
David Natzler, House of Commons staff (GOV081) Back
Judges of the High Court enjoy a similar protection against arbitrary
dismissal for similar reasons.They can be removed only by a joint
Address to Her Majesty The Queen from both Houses. Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services of the House of Commons,
Sir Kevin Tebbit, June 2007, para 90 Back
Q81, Q323 Back
House of Commons Services; Report to the House of Commons Commission
by a team led by Sir Robin Ibbs, November 1990, para 36. Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services: Report to the House of Commons Commission
by a team led by Mr Michael Braithwaite, July 1999, para 15.39 Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services: Report to the House of Commons Commission
by a team led by Mr Michael Braithwaite, July 1999, para 4.51 Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services of the House of Commons, Sir Kevin Tebbit,
June 2007, para 22 Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services of the House of Commons, Sir Kevin Tebbit,
June 2007, para 25 Back
House of Commons Commission, Review of Management and Services of the House of Commons, Sir Kevin Tebbit,
June 2007, para 96 Back
Sir William McKay, Sir Roger Sands and Sir Malcolm Jack (GOV 010)
para 14 Back
Q197. See also John Pullinger (GOV075) Back
Q198 [Myfanwy Barrett] Back
Claire Clancy, Chief Executive and Clerk, National Assembly for
Wales (GOV067), Paul Grice, Clerk/Chief Executive, Scottish Parliament
(GOV076), Mitchel McLaughlin, Principal Deputy Speaker, Northern
Ireland Assembly (GOV069), Trevor Reaney, Clerk of the Northern
Ireland Assembly (GOV078), Carsten U Larsen, General Secretary,
Danish Parliament (GOV066) Back
Corinne Luquiens, General Secretary of the National Assembly,
France (GOV091) Back
Andrew Tyrie MP (GOV057) Back
Andrew Kennon, House of Commons staff (GOV039) para 4 Back
Q787 [Sir Kevin Tebbit] Back
Q789. See also House of Commons staff (GOV035), Economic Policy
and Statistics Section, DIS, House of Commons (GOV053), Departmental
Service Directorate, DIS, House of Commons (GOV062) para 26 Back
Lord Martin (GOV043), Lord Cormack (GOV049) Back
Q62 [Sir Alan Beith MP] Back
Qq 675-77 Back
Dr. Horst Risse, Secretary-General of the German Bundestag (GOV072) Back
House of Commons staff (GOV026) Back
Q503. See also House of Commons staff (GOV022) Back
Parliamentary Workplace Equality Network (GOV082) Back
Dominic Grixti, House of Commons staff (GOV017), House of Commons
staff (GOV051), House of Commons staff (GOV056), Paul Bowers,
House of Commons staff (GOV084) para 5 Back
Q24. See also House of Commons staff (GOV028), Information Management
Directorate, DIS, House of Commons (GOV063) para 10, Eve Samson,
House of Commons staff (GOV065) Back
Qq636, 647, 649 Back
Q153 [Bernard Jenkin MP], Q147 Back
Q319 [Frank Doran MP] Back
Peter Hain MP (GOV007) para 21 Back
Management Board (GOV021) para 6.1 Back
House of Commons staff (GOV080) para 8 Back
Barry K Winetrobe (GOV013) para 7 Back
Cass Business School (GOV071) para 36 Back
Q398 [Paul Evans] Back
Andrew McDonald (GOV073) para 4.3 Back
Cass Business School (GOV071) para 22 Back
Cass Business School (GOV071) para 24 Back