Changing committee practice and procedure: enhancing effective working Contents

2Attendance of a Chair’s personal staff at private committee meetings

7.Select committees and their sub-committees are required by the rules of the House to deliberate in private but have the power, under Standing Order No. 125, to admit the public to oral evidence sessions. During their private meetings only members of the committee and staff who are employed by the House to facilitate the administration and operation of the committee, are allowed in the room.7 Personal staff of Members of Parliament who are not employees of the House are, for these purposes, treated as members of the public.8 There was a broad consensus on the Liaison Committee that it would be helpful to Chairs of Committees if they were able to bring one nominated member of staff with them to private deliberative meetings to facilitate such matters as diary management and information flow.

8.We recognise the need to respect the wishes of other members of committees other than the Chair. In particular, we note the concerns discussed with the Procedure Committee “about the potential risks to Committee confidentiality from allowing the admission of persons not on the House staff to private meetings of committees for the purposes of supporting the Chair”.9 We agree that any power for a Chair to be accompanied by a member of their staff would need to be closely circumscribed. The Procedure Committee suggested that, subject to suitable safeguards being put in place, it would support a proposal for a pilot of changed arrangements under the authority of a resolution of the House. They asked that safeguards include a requirement for the unanimous consent of committee members, and that any arrangement should be subject to conditions agreed in advance.

9.We recommend a pilot allowing the admission of a nominated member of Chair’s staff to private committee meetings; and accordingly propose the following motion for consideration by the House:

“That, until the end of this Session, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 125 (Select committees (admission of the public)), the chair of a select committee may, with leave of that committee, be accompanied at meetings other than oral evidence sessions by a single, nominated member of his or her personal staff, subject to any further conditions set from time to time by any resolution of the Liaison Committee; and those conditions must include provision for the exclusion of any such person if any member of that committee indicates objection at any time.”

We believe that this formulation would be clear in restricting permission to only one member of staff nominated by a Chair, and would preserve the right of any member of the committee to veto such an arrangement. The Liaison Committee would monitor and evaluate the impact of the resolution during a pilot phase (until the end of the Parliament).

7 A committee cannot meet formally and make decisions without a Clerk present.

8 Specialist Advisers, who are employed by the House by the decision of the whole committee, fall into the category of staff of the House.

9 See extract of letter from Chair of the Procedure Committee (5 February 2018) in Annex 1.

29 March 2018