Changing committee practice and procedure: enhancing effective working Contents

1“Guesting” of members between committees

3.Standing Order No. 137A, which makes various provisions for committees to work together, was first made in 2001. It has been amended in the light of experience to make these procedures easier to operate and more efficient. In recent years committees have made increasing use of powers to work together; since the start of this Parliament four committees have conducted a joint inquiry and produced a joint report on Air Quality; the “Committees on Arms Export Controls” have resumed their joint working which has been going on since 2001; and there have been at least eight examples of joint inquiries between two committees.1 This trend seems set to continue and possibly intensify.

4.The Standing Order is designed specifically to facilitate joint working between two or more committees. For most formal proceedings it requires a quorum of two from each participating committee,2 and for the choice of a Chair or consideration of draft reports a quorum of three (or the quorum of the relevant committee if greater).3 There are, however, examples of inquiries where a committee would have found it useful to be able to involve a single member of another committee in a piece of work rather than conduct a joint inquiry or evidence session. For example, the Chair of the International Development Committee attended an evidence session of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the violence in Rakhine State, but was not able formally to participate in proceedings.4 The Petitions Committee almost always invites the relevant subject committee to take part if it is going to be taking evidence on a topic within the remit of that committee. Our proposal is modestly to add to the provisions of S.O. No. 137A to enable a committee to invite a “guest” from another committee without the procedural and practical barriers of convening a full joint sitting or setting up a joint inquiry. For example, it would also be helpful for members of the Petitions Committee to take part in another Committee’s evidence session, if it was relevant to a petition, helping petitioners’ voices to be heard in a wider range of parliamentary business, as well as raising the profile of committee work with petitioners.

5.We discussed this proposal with the Procedure Committee which agreed with our case but highlighted the importance of any invitation to a member of another committee to participate in proceedings being made on the basis of a formal resolution of the host committee.5 We agree.

6.The Regulatory Reform Committee already has power to invite any Member of the House to participate in its evidence sessions.6 Our proposal is to borrow from this provision but to restrict the Members eligible to be invited to members of other committees to which this order applies, while extending the provision to allow them to attend deliberative meetings as well as public evidence sessions. We therefore recommend adding the following sub-paragraph to paragraph (1) of S.O. No. 137A:

(e) to invite members of any other committee to which this order applies to attend any meeting and, at the discretion of the chair, ask questions of witnesses or otherwise participate in its proceedings; but no member of another committee so invited may move any motion or amendment, vote or count towards the quorum.

1 The Environmental Audit, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Health and Social Care and Transport Committees conducted a joint inquiry into Air Quality (Report published 15 March 2018, HC433).

2 Paragraph (2) OF S.O. No. 124, inserted on 5 July 2001.

3 Committees cannot agree a report jointly but where they each separately agree identical reports, paragraph (2) of S.O. No. 137A provides for them to be published as a “joint report”.

4 10 October 2017.

5 See Annex 1.

6 S.O. No. 141(13). Standing Order 152H(3) already provides for committees on National Policy Statements to invite members of other committees to participate in proceedings.

29 March 2018