5 Our proposals |
111. Before we set out our proposals in detail it
is important to note the unique challenges which any governance
arrangements will face in the particular context of the House
of Commons. In the words of Sir Kevin Tebbit, who spent six months
as 'a sort of temporary Officer of the House',
It is very difficult to say anything emphatic
about the House of Commons and the way it operates.
is an alchemy here-a curious combination of effects which produces
a unique result-and you tamper with it, to some extent, at your
112. As we noted above, the House is sovereign. It
may change its procedures at any time in ways which have significant
resource consequences. Issues of apparently minor importance may
suddenly be escalated to a question in the Chamber or a news item
in the national media. Alongside individual Members there are
a wide range of variously engaged and variously influential groups
with a stake in how the House is run.
Governance structures are important but they can only be part
of any solution. At best they may, in Sir Robert Rogers's phrase,
provide the organisational framework which the 'organism' that
is the House of Commons will inhabit.
113. There is a short term problem which needs to
be resolved: how the responsibilities currently exercised by the
Clerk of the House as Chief Executive should be allocated in future.
But that question cannot sensibly be answered in isolation. The
responsibilities and authority of a Chief Executive are defined
and constrained by the governance structures in which s/he operates.
We have heard compelling evidence that the governance structures
in the House of Commons are themselves in need of reform. There
are challenges and opportunities ahead which it has been argued
will be met successfully only if Parliament-wide governance structures
114. It is nearly 40 years since the governance of
the House of Commons was last considered by a committee of its
Members. That was the Bottomley Committee whose recommendations
led directly to the introduction of the House of Commons Administration
Act 1978. Starting
with Sir Robin Ibbs in 1990 there have been successive reviews
of services by eminent external experts. Their recommendations
have been instrumental in shaping the modern House service which
we have today.
115. Our remit is to consider the governance of the
House of Commons in the round. It is wider than the specific question
of the roles of the Clerk and Chief Executive. Consequently our
responsibility is to look further ahead than its resolution alone:
it is to respond to the challenges which the House will face in
the future and to propose governance arrangements fit to meet
them. It is for this reason that we set out those challenges in
some detail in the previous chapter.
116. We have been counselled against delaying necessary,
if limited, reforms that could be achieved now in the hope of
delivering a comprehensive package at some future date. This is
sound advice. But equally we should not take actions now which
might prejudice or obstruct our longer term objectives. As Sir
Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, told us:
It is important to have a mid-term picture. I
have two things that I could easily throw in as an observer: first,
the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster; and, secondly,
the possibility of achieving more efficiency by combining what
I would describe as the back-office administration, and so forth,
of the House. Those are big prizes, where significant things might
happen. Whatever you decide now should keep the pathway open to
achieving those things. If I were advising you, I would advise
you to think about that.
117. Our proposals are therefore designed to address
the immediate issues facing the House and its governance arrangements,
but to do so in a way that sets a path to our longer term objectives.
We have accordingly set them out in two parts: longer term objectives
and actions to be taken now. We then describe how we believe the
latter should be implemented. Because we need to maintain our
focus on the long term objectives, where perhaps the greatest
prizes are, we address them first.
In the longer term
118. Bicameral Parliaments are based upon a belief
that a constructive tension and dialogue between the two Houses
should result in a better quality of legislation and of the other
key functions of a Parliament than is possible in unicameral systems.
It is inherent in any genuinely bicameral system that each House
should be autonomous from the other. Nothing in our consideration
which follows is in any way designed to undermine that. But this
does not mean, and has not meant for many decades past, that there
is not great scope for the two Houses sharing services. Shared
services, that is services provided to both Houses by one body,
already account for nearly half the annual resource spend of each
House. They range from public-facing functions such as education
and visitor services to more 'back office' roles like archives
and procurement. Some functions, such as security, estates and
ICT can sensibly be delivered only on a bicameral basis.
119. These services are provided through three principal
a) Joint procurement: the two Houses contract
with a third party to provide a service to both Houses, with each
House paying a share of the cost. The most significant example
of this model is the main security arrangements which are currently
provided by the Metropolitan Police Service under a five-year
b) Recharged costs: staff of one House provide
services to both, but recharge a fixed proportion of the costs
to the other. The most significant example of this model is estates.
The Parliamentary Estates Directorate (PED), based in the Commons'
Department of Facilities, manages the Parliamentary Estate on
behalf of both Houses. While the majority of services provided
under this model are hosted by the Commons, the Parliamentary
Archives and Parliamentary Procurement and Commercial Services
are hosted by the Lords.
c) Joint departments: Under the Parliament (Joint
Departments) Act 2007, the Corporate Officers of the two Houses
can establish joint departments as separate entities to deliver
services to Parliament as a whole. To date, the only example of
a joint department is PICT.
120. For each of these areas, arrangements are in
place to plan services on a bicameral basis. These arrangements
vary depending on the scale and nature of the service provided:
in the case of estates, for example, there is a Parliamentary
Estates Board; for smaller services there may just be a Memorandum
of Understanding between the budget holders in the two Houses.
The ratios on which the costs are shared are intended to divide
spending broadly in line with the benefit to each House. A review
has recently updated and simplified these arrangements.
121. There is wide support, in principle, to extend
the use of shared services to other areas. The Speaker said that
there was scope to explore the capacity for more shared services
between the two Houses. The Deputy Speakers told us that merging
more services with the House of Lords could lead to savings. The
Lord Speaker told us that most shared services worked well and
that there was no lack of interest in the Lords in further shared
services. John Thurso, who has experience of both Houses, in addition
to his role of Chair of F&S, suggested that it makes no sense
to have two catering departments on one estate
and that whether the Libraries should be included in shared services
was 'on the cusp.'
Others have argued that many other services could be provided
more effectively and efficiently if shared. Exactly what could
be included in these shared services would need careful consideration.
Alex Jablonowski referred to 'back office' services.
122. In New Zealand, Members decided at a relatively
late stage in the establishment of their Parliamentary Service
that Hansard should be included in the Clerk's Office:
The one area of initial uncertainty was Hansard.
But when the connection to proceedings test was applied it was
abundantly clear that Hansard was appropriately attached to the
123. In Australia finance and HR are managed individually
by each House but Facilities, Hansard, the Library, ICT and security
are delivered by a joint Department of Parliament Services.
In Canada, where most services are provided separately to each
House, the Parliamentary Library serves both Houses but is run
separately from either reflecting its independence and impartiality.
124. Where services are not provided jointly, there
is often close co-operation between the Houses. For example, the
Catering and Retail Services of the two Houses work together on
many procurements (increasingly now that we have a joint procurement
two Libraries also collaborate in many ways, though a full merger
would be costly if it meant that the level of service provided
to Members of the House of Commons were offered to Members of
the House of Lords. We were told in written evidence that, in
procedural matters, the Committee and Public Bill Offices of the
two Houses, and the Hansard teams work closely together.
125. In the longer term, it has been argued, major
efficiency gains could be achieved by bringing those services
which are best or most effectively delivered on a bicameral basis
together into a single organisation supporting both Houses which
would be headed by a Chief Executive with a track record in the
delivery of services. It will be vital to consider the effectiveness,
as well as the efficiency of services. The Lord Speaker said that
some aspects of a Services Directorate serving both Houses would
work and some would not and that in principle, a Chief Operating
Officer for all common administrative services sounded sensible,
provided that there was a recognition that the Lords worked differently
and some areas would not be cost effective to merge. The Speaker
told us that, in an ideal world, there would be one Chief Executive
for the whole buildingthat is to say, covering both Houses
of Parliamentbut that in the absence of such an arrangement,
the House of Commons should appoint a Chief Executive. Alex Jablonowski,
Andrew Lansley, Rt Hon Baroness Royall and many others argued
that the best structure would be a single Parliamentary Services
Department supporting both Houses of Parliament.
The South African Parliament is supported by a single parliamentary
service, providing support both for core parliamentary business
and wider administrative services, which is headed by a single
Secretary to Parliament, in effect a chief executive officer.
126. We support the development of plans for a single
services department supporting both Houses, but, if effective
progress is to be made, cultural as well as institutional barriers
will need to be removed. One House cannot dictate to the other
in this regard. Baroness Royall warned us:
I do not mean to be rude, but what is really
important about whatever decisions are taken by this committee
is that by default, as it were, you are not taking decisions
that have implications for us. That is not to say that we would
not agree with what you are saying, but it is quite a delicate
127. The Clerk of the Parliaments proposed a review:
I wonder whether a better approach might be to
step back, review what we have done, think where we might go further,
and possibly even get somebody external
to see how the
various models that we have work, and in particular to see what
the benefits would be in further cases.
128. This would be a good starting point. It should
happen soon. Other steps should also be taken to build confidence
between Members of the two Houses. The Clerk of the Parliaments
drew our attention to the 'increasingly successful twice-yearly
joint meetings' of the Audit Committees of the two Houses.
The House of Lords equivalent to the Commission is the House Committee.
Unlike the Commission, it is not a statutory body, but it is the
principal supervisory body for the administration of the House.
It has 12 members, all of whom are peers, and it is chaired by
the Lord Speaker. The Lord Speaker told us that there were currently
no regular meetings between the Commission and the House Committee
and that it would be beneficial to have informal meetings of the
two bodies about twice a year to talk about the issues that lie
ahead. She commented that each House needed to be sensitive to
the other when making decisions which affected both and that informal
discussions in advance would generally be helpful. It is surprising
that there are not regular joint meetings of the Commission and
the House Committee. There are joint meetings at official level,
but strategic governance is a matter for the Members of both Houses.
We support the suggestion that there should be joint meetings
of the House Committee and the Commission at least every six months,
and recommend that the Commission approach the House Committee.
In our view, there is a case for quarterly meetings.
129. There has been a recent agreement by the Commission
and the House Committee to implement the recommendations of a
review conducted by Sir Paul Jenkins in respect of a bicameral
structure for security. The security of Parliament is obviously
of fundamental importance to its ability to fulfil its role. At
the same time, there need to be clear governance arrangements
to ensure: a) that, except in an immediate emergency, security
concerns should never override a Member's constitutional right
of access to Parliament or any other Privilege, and b) that there
are protections in place to ensure that Members' communications
are not subject to interference, including surveillance and interception,
as enshrined in the Wilson doctrine and other codes. Taking account
of these considerations, we consider that the governance of security
arrangements should be subject to approval by both Houses. Security
policy should be a regular item on the agendas of the joint meetings
of the Commission and House Committee. Between those meetings
an effective executive oversight body is needed. Our preference,
on the basis of the discussions we have had, is to appoint a joint
sub-committee of the Commission and the House Committee comprising
the Speaker and Lord Speaker, the two Clerks and one other Member
from each House to fulfil this role. We accept that our proposal
may need further consideration. We recommend in Chapter 7 the
establishment of an implementation team, which might take on that
130. These measures should help to build up the confidence
of Members of both Houses in the effectiveness of shared services
and in their responsiveness to the different needs of the two
Houses. They should also clarify and give greater definition to
the benefits of establishing a single organisation responsible
for the whole range of shared services. We encourage the two
Houses to begin the process of drawing up a phased medium term
programme towards a single bicameral services department supporting
the primary parliamentary purposes of each of the two Houses.
131. One way of accelerating this process, and one
of the keys to achieving it, will be the Restoration and Renewal
RESTORATION AND RENEWAL
132. No decisions have been taken yet on the scope,
scale or timing of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of
Westminster. The consultants' report on options for the way forward
will be published in June/July 2015. The three options being considered
for R&R are set out in paragraph 106. That is expected to
be followed by the establishment of a joint committee. The work
itself may require a decanting from the Palace to temporary accommodation;
and the establishment of a statutory delivery authority to take
on the R&R programme itself. The two Houses would need to
set up a single client function to work with that authority. The
process as a whole might be overseen by a steering committee of
Members of both Houses, including members of the Commission and
the House Committee.
133. It will be for the next Parliament, and the
joint committee in particular, to develop the detailed governance
arrangements to deliver R&R, but both the client function
and the delivery authority will be acting on behalf of both Houses.
They will be an opportunity thoroughly to test the potential scope
of shared services across the two Houses. If R&R is to succeed,
it must be a whole Parliament venture. We believe R&R provides
an extraordinary opportunity to reimagine the way in which the
Palace of Westminster can be used to support the democratic processes
of effective government. It must reflect the specifically parliamentary
purposes of the House of Commons and the Lords; ideally the client
relationship must be led by the Clerks of both Houses.
134. The delivery authority itself may be a model
for the provision of services to both Houses following R&R
and this should be considered as part of the review of shared
services suggested by the Clerk of the Parliaments. Legislation
might allow for the delivery authority's continuation, subject
to the agreement of both Houses, as a statutory body providing
certain defined services to both Houses on the basis of a series
of detailed Service Level Agreements. Because of the existence
of the Delivery Authority, R&R is not in and of itself a consideration
that bears directly on whether or not the roles of Clerk and Chief
Executive should be split.
153 Q785 Back
Barry K Winetrobe (GOV013) Back
House of Commons Administration, Report to Mr Speaker by Committee
under the chairmanship of Mr Arthur Bottomley MP, HC (1974-74)
Q33 [Sir Amyas Morse] Back
Q132 [Alex Jablonowski] Back
Mary Harris, Clerk of the House of Representatives, New Zealand
David Elder, Clerk of the House, House of Representatives, Australia
Marc Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, Canada (GOV085);
Rob Clements, House of Commons staff (GOV025) Back
David Beamish, Clerk of the Parliaments (GOV077) Back
Qq131, 328 [Andrew Lansley MP], Q472 [Baroness Royall] Back
Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, South Africa