10th November 2003
By the Select Committee appointed to advise the House
on the resources required for select committee work and to allocate
resources between select committees; to review the select committee
work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees
and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective
co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability
of Lords to serve on committees.
Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill
1. The Committee has considered a proposal put forward
by Lord Joffe that his Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill [HL] be committed
to a Select Committee. A paper from Lord Joffe was considered
by the Committee and is printed at Appendix 1. The Committee also
heard Lord Joffe and Baroness Jay of Paddington in support of
2. The purpose of Lord Joffe's Bill is to allow competent
terminally ill patients to request assistance to die. It was the
subject of a major debate in the House at Second Reading in June
of this year. Almost ten years have elapsed since the subject
was considered by the Select Committee on Medical Ethics which
reported in 1994. Since then other countries have introduced such
legislation and public opinion in the United Kingdom has become
more engaged in the issue. We consider that a Select Committee
of this House would be well placed to consider major ethical issues
of this kind and accordingly we recommend the appointment of an
ad hoc Select Committee upon the Bill. The Bill will have
to be reintroduced in the next session, read a second time and
committed to a Select Committee. Accordingly, we recommend that
the Committee begin its work after the Easter recess.
Implications of withdrawal from the European
3. The Committee has considered a proposal put forward
by Lord Moran that a Select Committee be established to consider
the implications for the United Kingdom of withdrawal from the
European Union. A paper from Lord Moran was considered by the
Committee and is printed at Appendix 2. The Committee also heard
Lord Moran, Lord Weatherill and Viscount Falkland in support of
4. The purpose of such a Committee would be to assess
the constitutional and legal position, financial, trade and investment
implications, effects on foreign relations and defence, and on
agriculture and fisheries. The likely positive and negative effects
of partial or total withdrawal would then be assessed. We consider
that such a Committee would not be timely in view of the current
Inter-Governmental Conference on the draft Constitution for Europe.
The establishment of such a Committee is likely to be regarded
as a negative intervention in the process by this House and we
doubt whether it would be possible to isolate the Committee's
deliberations from wider political considerations. The resources
required to conduct such an exercise would be disproportionate.
We do not therefore recommend the establishment of a Select Committee
on the implications of withdrawal from the European Union.
5. The Committee has further considered a proposal
put forward by Baroness Howe of Idlicote for a Select Committee
on Communications. A memorandum from Lady Howe was considered
once again by the Committee and is printed at Appendix 3. The
Committee also heard Lady Howe in support of her proposal.
6. When the Committee first considered this proposal
in February 2002 it then reported:
"The proposed Select Committee would examine
a subject on which the House has a great deal of expertise, and
which cuts across Government departmental boundaries. We believe
that it would be a good subject for House of Lords committee.
Baroness Howe's proposal is for a sessional rather
than an ad hoc committee, to be appointed after the passage
of the proposed Communications Billprobably in late 2003.
We would prefer the appointment of an ad hoc committee
in the first instance, with a view to making it permanent if it
were a success. We will return to the matter with a firm recommendation
nearer the time."
We do not consider this to have been a firm commitment
and we have reviewed the proposal afresh.
7. The remit proposed for such a Committee, it was
put to us, might include all broadcasting media, all aspects of
the internet and telecommunications, newspaper and periodical
publishing, film and video, advertising, and the ownership licensing
control and management thereof. In addition to the reasons for
setting up such a Committee set out in Appendix 3, the forthcoming
renewal of the BBC Charter, the consequences of the Hutton inquiry,
and questions of foreign ownership were also cited in support.
8. We do not consider that communications has a particular
claim to become the subject of a dedicated Lords Select Committee.
Furthermore, many aspects of the subject matter have been debated
at length recently in the context of the House's consideration
of the Communications Bill and in the pre-legislative scrutiny
that preceded it. The remit envisaged is also very wide and is
more suited to a sessional Select Committee. Upon further reflection
we doubt whether the consideration in isolation of a single communications-related
subject by an ad hoc Select Committee would be useful;
and we are reluctant to recommend to the House that a sessional
Select Committee be set up. Accordingly, we do not recommend the
establishment of a Select Committee on communications, whether
on an ad hoc or on a sessional basis.
Additional Resources for the Economic
9. The Committee has considered a request from Lord
Peston for resources to enable the Sub-Committee of the Economic
Affairs Committee on the Finance Bill to be set-up at the beginning
of the new session. A letter to the Chairman of Committees from
Lord Peston is printed at Appendix 4.
10. The Committee considers that Lord Peston's proposal
represents a major departure from the original recommendation
of the group on the working practices of the House chaired by
the late Lord Williams of Mostyn and which was subsequently endorsed
by the Procedure Committee and agreed to by the House itself.
This recommendation was:
"When the Finance Bill is introduced into the
Commons and published, the Committee should begin its work. The
Committee should report when the Finance Bill finishes its Commons
Committee stage, but before Commons remaining stages. The timetable
of the committee's work would therefore have to be arranged to
fit the legislative timetable in the Commons." (Report from
the Leader's group, 2001-02, HL Paper 111).
11. While we appreciate the excellent work of the
Sub-Committee on the Finance Bill earlier this session, we do
not think that the arrangements agreed to by the House in 2002
should be departed from so soon, particularly in view of the sensitivities
surrounding this initiative. The original proposal is due to be
reviewed after two sessions and we take the view that any case
for a change in the current arrangement should be considered then.
It follows that we do not agree to the first limb of Lord Peston's
12. We recognise however that from March to late
June or thereabout the Finance Bill Sub-Committee should be able
to meet in parallel with the main Select Committee which will
no doubt be engaged in an inquiry of its own. We therefore recommend
that a Clerk and other resources be provided to allow this to
13. The Committee took note of the memorandum from
the Leader of the House (Appendix 5).