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

Conclusions and recommendations

In the longer term

1.  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. (Paragraph 128)

2.  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. (Paragraph 130)

3.  The delivery authority for the Restoration and Renewal programme 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. (Paragraph 134)

Action to be taken now

The Deputy Speakers

4.  A modest first step towards the developing of a Speakership team might be a widening of the agenda of the daily conferences, perhaps initially just on Mondays which both starts the working week and is the day on which the House sits latest. (Paragraph 138)

House of Commons Commission

5.  Our recommendations for reform of the Commission focus first on ensuring that its remit adequately covers those responsibilities which should properly fall to the senior governance body and second on giving it the capability to discharge those responsibilities. (Paragraph 139)

6.  They are that:

a)  the Commission should be additionally responsible under statute for setting the strategic framework for the delivery of services to Members, staff and the public, without prejudice to the right of the House to control its own procedures;

b)  its members should be:

—  the Speaker, the Leader of the House and the Shadow Leader of the House (as at present);

—  four other Members, one from each of the three largest parties represented in the House and one from the remaining membership, elected for a Parliament by the whole House;

—  two external members appointed by fair and open competition (and confirmed by motion in the House); and,

—  two official members. (Paragraph 140)

7.  If the Commission is to take on the role of setting the strategic framework for the delivery of services and then providing strategic oversight of how they are delivered, it follows that its compass should include all matters relating to the House administration including those for which the Speaker has ex officio responsibility, such as his role as 'householder' and in respect of Freedom of Information policy. We recommend that the Speaker, as far as possible, consults the Commission in the exercise of these responsibilities and powers. (Paragraph 142)

8.  We support the idea of portfolio responsibilities for the elected members of the Commission (Paragraph 143)

Finance and Services and Administration Committee

9.  We recommend that the Finance and Services Committee be renamed the Finance Committee to distinguish its responsibilities from those of the Administration Committee. We recommend that the Administration Committee membership be no more than 11 Members. We recommend that the Chairs of both the new Finance Committee and the Administration Committee be drawn from the elected backbench members of the Commission. (Paragraph 145)

Management Board

10.  Our proposal is to replace the Management Board with an Executive Committee, which would act as a sub-committee of the Commission. Its core membership would be the official members of the Commission together with the Director of Finance. Up to three other officials could be added by the Commission. The official members would be the Director General of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the House. The Director General would chair the Executive Committee. (Paragraph 156)

11.  The Director General of the House of Commons would be a new post. S/he would be responsible for the delivery of the resources needed to support the House in its work, including its parliamentary and outward facing functions. The Clerk would retain responsibility for the quality of support for parliamentary functions, and for development of the skills, experience and expertise to maintain the professionalism of the parliamentary service. (Paragraph 157)

12.  The priority must be to reduce layers of bureaucracy not increase them. (Paragraph 159)

13.  We fully support the objective of securing a fully unified House service. (Paragraph 163)

The roles of Clerk and Chief Executive

14.  We have therefore concluded that the Clerk should continue to be the Head of the House service (and thus formally the line manager of the Director General of the House of Commons). However, since delivery will be the responsibility of the Director General of the House of Commons, s/he should chair the Executive Committee and take lead responsibility for its agenda. Membership of the Commission will also give him or her direct access to the Speaker and other Commission members. S/he should be a very visible presence to Members. We recommend that the Commission consider what arrangements might be made to enable the Director General of the House of Commons to be visibly present in his or her official capacity in the Chamber when business relating to his or her responsibilities is under consideration (Paragraph 166)

15.  We recommend that within six months of the appointment of the Director General of the House of Commons, the Executive Committee submits proposals to the Commission to restructure the senior management of the House which should include reductions in the number of senior posts both in DCCS and elsewhere. (Paragraph 171)


16.  The Executive Committee must be an effective decision-making body. It must also be at the head of a structure of delegations: delegations both of authority and responsibility to key members of staff, who can then be accountable for their exercise of those delegated powers. (Paragraph 175)

17.  Delegations should be published so that Members, staff and others can see who is responsible for what. They should be accompanied by clear timetables for delivery. And in order to demonstrate that the responsibility is accompanied by authority, the overall system of delegations should be reviewed and approved annually by the Executive Committee. (Paragraph 177)

Staff development

18.  We recommend that the Commission and the Executive Committee make a joint commitment to the development of all staff and the active promotion of diversity throughout the House service. In particular we recommend that the opportunities for external secondments, to government departments and to the wider public sector including local authorities, but also to the private and third sectors, should be substantially increased. It should be a strong expectation that members of staff seeking promotion to the Senior Commons Service (SCS) should have been encouraged to have undertaken at least one such secondment and that SCS staff should undertake at least one secondment every ten years. (Paragraph 179)


19.  Our recommendations relating to the Clerk of the House should be implemented without delay so that a permanent appointment can be made in time for the start of the new Parliament. We therefore recommend that the 'paused' recruitment process be formally terminated. We believe that this action should be taken immediately. Whether or not the House endorses our proposals, it is clear that a new recruitment process is needed. (Paragraph 186)

20.  The transition to the new arrangements we propose will not be immediate. The Executive Committee cannot be formed until the Director General of the House of Commons is in place, and the new Commission will not be formed until after the General Election in May 2015. During this transition period we recommend that:

a)  The Commission continues in its current form until the end of this Parliament but that the two non-executive external members to the Management Board attend by invitation with immediate effect;

b)  The Management Board continues in its current form until the Executive Committee can be formed;

c)  Once appointed the Clerk of the House should become the Head of the House Service but should no longer combine that title with that of Chief Executive;

d)  The Commission and Management Board must work together to take forward issues that cannot wait for the new structure to be in place which will include: commissioning and supporting the implementation team, General Election issues, staff development, financial planning and performance monitoring. (Paragraph 187)

21.  Changes to the membership of the House of Commons Commission will require legislation to amend the 1978 Act. If the House agrees to our recommendations, legislation should be passed in the current Parliament allowing the new structure to take effect from the start of the new Parliament. (Paragraph 188)

22.  Following the establishment of a new Commission as early as possible in the new Parliament, the delegations granted by the Commission to the Speaker (for appointments) and to the Management Board (to carry out their work) should be reviewed and re-issued. (Paragraph 189)

23.  We recommend that the standing order changes in respect of the Finance and Administration Committees be passed in this Parliament to be implemented from the start of the new Parliament. (Paragraph 190)

Appointment process

24.  The House's endorsement of our report should be the trigger for the new process for the appointment of the Clerk of the House. It should be conducted with a view of drawing on best practice for public appointments, leading to selection on merit by a fair, open and transparent process. The full process, including the Job Description, Person Specification, advertisement for the vacancy and membership of the Appointment Panel, should be agreed by the full Commission. (Paragraph 191)

25.  Longlisting for the post should be the responsibility of a Sifting Panel, against the pre-determined attributes in the Job Description and Person Specification. The composition of the Sifting Panel would be determined by the Commission. It should be chaired by an independent non-executive Chair (potentially someone with recent experience with the Civil Service Commission, or similar) and there would be four other Members of Parliament. The shortlisting and final interviews should be conducted by an Appointment Panel, chaired by the Speaker, and which would have three other Members of Parliament chosen by the Commission, and a non-executive member and would be advised by an external expert on parliamentary procedure. The independent Chair of the Sifting Panel should be an observer. (Paragraph 192)

26.  The appointment of a Director General of the House of Commons should also proceed as soon as possible and before the dissolution of Parliament. The Clerk of the House does not need to be appointed before the process commences but will need to be in place for the interview process. (Paragraph 198)

27.  The Director General of the House of Commons recruitment should follow a similar sifting process as for the Clerk of the House, but the Appointment Panel, chaired by the Speaker, should include the Clerk of the House. (Paragraph 199)

Implementation team

28.  If the House agrees to the proposals in this report, the Management Board working with Commission should swiftly establish an implementation team to work with them to deliver the detailed changes required. The implementation team should be staffed with a mix of skills and knowledge from across the House. (Paragraph 201)

29.  We recommend that the Procedure Committee consider how best to ensure that time on the floor can be allocated in a timely manner to appropriate House and Commission business. (Paragraph 200)

30.  We recommend that the Commission publish regular implementation updates on its website and by means of written statements to the House and ensure progress is tracked in the annual report for 2014/15 with a programme closure report in 2015/16. (Paragraph 203)

31.  Members of the Finance and Administration Committees, House of Commons Commission and Executive Board should undertake to hold regular staff events and report on these in the annual report. (Paragraph 204)

32.  Once appointed the Clerk of the House should take forward immediately and lead our recommendations for staff development given his or her clear responsibilities in the new role description. (Paragraph 205)

33.  The new leadership team should be set the target of making the changes cost neutral within one year of their implementation. (Paragraph 207)

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 17 December 2014