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Lord Geddes: My Lords, will the Minister advise what representations have been made to Her Majesty's Government from airlines using Stansted airport, Stansted being--these are my words--the designated hijack airport of the United Kingdom? Are the Government considering the use of any other airport,

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for example, a military airport, in order to avoid the chaos that ensued at Stansted for passengers and airlines alike?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, obviously when major incidents of that kind take place there will be discussions with governments, particularly within the European Union. We shall continue those discussions. The noble Lord makes a valuable point and the matter will no doubt be considered.

Business of the House: Debate this Day

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Earl Russell set down for today shall be limited to five hours.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Liaison: Select Committee Report

3.15 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 27) be agreed to.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:


    APPOINTMENT OF A FURTHER AD HOC COMMITTEE


    1. The Committee has considered what further ad hoc committee should follow the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, which reported in July 1999. We have had regard to the desirability of complementing rather than overlapping with the work of House of Commons committees. Two proposals have been made to us.


    MONETARY POLICY


    2. The Select Committee on the Monetary Policy, Committee of the Bank of England commented as follows in the preface to its Report (HL Paper 96, Session 1998-99):


    "When the Liaison Committee recommended the establishment of this Committee it invited us to consider whether the subject matter warranted the appointment of a permanent sessional scrutiny committee. It has become clear to us during our enquiry that the time allowed for us has been sufficient only to scratch the surface of a vast and developing subject. We are mindful, in reporting to the House, that our Report can only be a mere introduction to a new policy that requires in-depth and continuing scrutiny. We beg, leave of the House to consider the reappointment of the Committee in the new session as a permanent Select Committee. Without a Committee such as ours the Monetary Policy Committee would effectively cease to be accountable to one of the two Houses of Parliament."


    That proposal was supported in a paper submitted to us by Lord Peston, Chairman of the Committee.

THE IMPACT OF TUITION FEES ON STUDENT RECRUITMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION


    3. Lord Rix submitted a paper to us proposing the appointment of a select committee on the impact of fees on student recruitment in higher education. He noted that the number of mature students

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    applying for and entering higher education had fallen in 1999/2000 and suggested that a House of Lords committee could usefully seek evidence as to the nature and extent of the problem and propose means of tackling it.

RECOMMENDATION


    4. Lord Rix's proposal relates to a topical subject in relation to which the House has a considerable body of expertise. On the other hand it is a subject which falls squarely within the terms of reference of the House of Commons Education and Employment Committee, and we would not wish to risk duplicating the work of that Committee.


    5. We recognise the strength of the case for reappointing the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, but we are not at this stage persuaded of the case for a permanent sessional committee on that specific subject. A more broadly based Economic Committee might represent a more effective use of resources, and we propose to consider the matter further in due course.


    6. In the meantime we recommend that a further ad hoc Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England be appointed for a period of not more than a year, and we do not recommend the appointment of a committee on the impact of fees on student recruitment in higher education.

FUTURE COMMITTEE ACTIVITY


    7. We have before us proposals for a range of other select committee activity in the House:


    --The Government have announced proposals for Joint Committees on Human Rights and on House of Lords Reform.


    --The Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords has made a range of proposals for committee activity, some of them not necessarily dependent on further reform of the composition of the House.


    --These proposals include one for the appointment of a Constitutional Committee, supported in a submission made to us by Lord Alexander of Weedon.


    --The Royal Commission specifically referred back to us a proposal made to us a year ago by Lord Lester of Herne Hill for a committee to scrutinise treaties. We have postponed further examination of this proposal because the House of Commons Procedure Committee has just begun a short inquiry into Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties.


    --There are likely to be further proposals for the pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills.


    8. The implementation of all these proposals would have long-term implications for the resources of the House - members to serve, staff to support them, accommodation for the committees and their staff, and expenditure on the House of Lords Vote.


    9. We propose, therefore, to undertake at our next meeting a general review of the House's committee activity, on the basis of a paper to be prepared for us by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, a number of projected changes are outlined in the report. Paragraph 8 states that,


    "The implementation of all these proposals would have long-term implications for the resources of the House--members to serve, staff to support them, accommodation for the committees and their staff, and expenditure on the House of Lords Vote".

The committees will no doubt serve a useful function, but they are only one of a number of substantial changes currently taking place in your Lordships' House. All those changes will involve increasing expenditure. I wonder whether it is not time that the Chairman of Committees organised his relevant supporters in committees to have a look at the entire expenditure of the House.

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I have in the past drawn attention to what I regard as extravagances--among others, the resurfacing of the car park at the front of the building at a cost of £2.5 million when no one can see anything wrong with it. We are in a position where we are committed to expenditure without ever going back to look at it to see whether there are not some compensatory savings in the great changes which are to take place in the way in which the House operates.

I ask the Chairman of Committees to consider the matter extremely seriously. We know what happens to such reports: once this report is approved, as it will be today, in future when a noble Lord challenges any aspect of it he will be told that the House has already approved it. The implications of more expenditure should be faced up to and we should be looking for compensatory savings elsewhere; otherwise, we shall be told, "You say that you have made yourselves more democratic, more legitimate and so forth, but look at the cost of it". There will be people in tabloid papers and so on who would like to make a great meal of that point.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, I welcome paragraph 6 of the report, where the House authorities--if I may put it that way--have accepted and recommended that the Select Committee on the Bank of England should be set up again. Perhaps I may first ask the Chairman of Committees why it has taken until now to do it, when it was quite clear that all sides of your Lordships' House, as long ago as November, had agreed that that should be done?

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I am concerned about the implications referred to in paragraph 8, which I believe are more serious than the points raised by my noble friend. The committee seems to have the matter the wrong way round. It is important for your Lordships to decide which Select Committees are required and then to decide the necessary resources. One should bear in mind that the House spends far less than another place on important matters, such as Select Committees. That is the way that it should be done.

When the general review referred to in paragraph 9 is considered on the basis of a report by the Clerk of the Parliaments, I ask the Chairman of Committees to ensure that the Clerk be clearly instructed that his report should be purely factual. I also ask that your Lordships' House decide which Select Committees are required in future on the basis of a report from the committee, and then decide on and find the resources available.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I share the pleasure of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, about paragraph 6 of the report, but only on the basis that half a loaf is, I suppose, better than a full one. I am sorry: a full loaf would be better than a half. This concerns one of the Government's major changes of policy. It is now common ground between all parties that the Monetary Policy Committee is the body that will determine the control of interest rates in the country. This is a long-term institutional change which will need to be kept under regular scrutiny.

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It has been said before--indeed, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House acknowledged it when I raised the point on a previous occasion--that there is a great deal of expertise in your Lordships' House on the matters which fall within the purview of the Monetary Policy Committee. I find it astonishing that even now the Liaison Committee cannot see its way to establishing the Select Committee as a permanent part of the machinery of the House. Can the Chairman of Committees say whether this is just pending the consideration of the matters referred to in paragraphs 7 and 8, or are we going to have, as it were, a curious procedure whereby the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee will be reappointed every year as a one-off? I would regard that as a very unsatisfactory way of approaching what is an important function of the House.


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