5th Report of session
2013-14 from the Procedure Committee
Secondary Legislation Scrutiny
1. We have considered a submission by the Secondary
Legislation Scrutiny Committee. The text of the submission is
given in an appendix to this Report. We agree with two of its
proposals to add new grounds for the Committee to report instruments
to the House.
2. We recommend that the terms of reference
of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee be amended to
add two new grounds on which that Committee may draw the special
attention of the House to a statutory instrument. These two new
(e) that the explanatory material laid in support
provides insufficient information to gain a clear understanding
about the instrument's policy objective and intended implementation;
(f) that there appear to be inadequacies in the
consultation process which relates to the instrument.
Written Answers and Statements
3. A bicameral project is nearing completion
to develop an ICT application to allow electronic exchange of
questions for written answer, their associated answers, and written
ministerial statements between both Houses of Parliament and government
departments. The new question and answer (Q&A) system will
automatically publish all questions and answers on the parliament
website. The new system will allow answering bodies to include
attachments with their answers, containing tabular, graphic or
illustrative material such as diagrams or maps, which cannot be
printed in Hansard. At present such materials, when submitted
along with written answers, are placed in the Library; in future
they will be published immediately, alongside the substantive
answers to which they relate, on the parliamentary website (members
who wish to see hardcopies of the attachments will be able to
ask the Library to print out those attachments from the Q&A
system). The digital copy of answers will be the definitive record
copy, but a printed version will continue to be published, and
in addition the Leader of the House has asked Lords ministers
to continue sending printed and signed versions of answers to
all Lords members.
4. In order to ensure that the benefits of the
new system are maximised we have considered what additional guidance
is required about the format and general content of written answers
to questions, taking account of the fact that the substantive
answer to a question remains the responsibility of the relevant
minister and is not a matter of procedure.
5. We propose that the following rules should
govern the content of written answers submitted using the new
electronic Q&A system:
- Only substantive answers to questions are
admissible. Except where due to shortage of time answers cannot
be prepared in response to questions tabled within five working
days of the end of a Session, holding answers are not permitted.
(This replicates existing practice).
- Answers should not exceed 500 words, though
the Editor of Debates has discretion to exceed this in exceptional
cases. (This equates to the current limit
on written answers of two column lengths).
- Answers should be complete and comprehensible
and should not rely on references to external documents or web
pages. (This replicates existing practice).
- Up to three electronic attachments can be
included with any answer. In the interests of long-term accessibility,
supporting documents should be included as attachments, rather
than by means of hyperlinks (which may break in the future). Electronic
attachments will be published on the parliamentary website but
will not be printed in Hansard (the Library will print attachments
- Electronic attachments should be referred
to in the substantive answer so that readers of hard copy know
that they exist. A note indicating where readers can find the
additional material will be inserted in the printed text of Hansard.
- Tables will be printed only if submitted in
such formats as are approved from time to time by the Editor of
Debates. Tables not in approved formats can be included as one
of the electronic attachments.
- Visual material such as graphs, charts or
maps may be included in an electronic attachment.
Select Committee Membership
6. The rotation rule sets out the number of sessions
for which members may serve on a select committee before they
may not be reappointed in the following session. In 2005-06 the
House increased the rotation length for all committees other than
the House Committee from three to four sessions. That decision
was made at a time when the membership of the House was less active
and when fewer members sought to serve on committees. Since then,
the average daily attendance of the House has risen, with increasing
numbers of members keen to take part in select committee work.
7. We believe there is a strong case for bringing
the rotation rule back to its original length of three years.
We propose that the rule be applied to all select committees including
the European Union Committee as a whole. It would be in keeping
with the spirit of the rotation rule, and the objective of broadening
participation, for a member to be able to serve only for a total
of three sessions across all EU sub-committees before then having
to wait for a period before becoming eligible to serve on those
8. We recommend that from the end of the 2014-15
session the rotation rule for all select committees other than
the House Committee should be three sessions. The rotation rule
should apply to the European Union Committee as a whole. The rule
would apply retrospectively to members appointed before 2014-15.
9. We recommend that the House Committee should
also move to a three-session rotation from its current five-session
rule. To avoid a sudden loss of many members by reducing the length
of service by two sessions at once we recommend that this change
be implemented incrementally so that members who have served four
sessions rotate off the House Committee at the end of the 2014-15
session and after that the three-session rule applies.
10. These recommendations are based on the
assumption that most sessions will last approximately 12 months.
If any future session was to last for a significantly longer or
shorter period then the Committee of Selection should be asked
to consider whether any ad hoc adjustments should be made to the
operation of the rotation rule.
11. We also considered other methods of maximising
opportunities to serve on select committees including how to discourage
reappointment of the same members to the same committees and how
to discourage the same members being appointed to multiple committees.
12. We propose that, from the end of the 2014-15
session, members who leave a committee under the rotation rule
should only be eligible for reappointment to the same committee,
or any of its sub-committees, after the lapse of two full sessions.
This would apply retrospectively to members who left committees
at the end of the 2013-14 session
13. We further recommend that it be set out
in the Companion that it is desirable for a member to serve on
only one sessional investigative select committee at any one time.
14. If these recommendations are agreed to then
the Companion would be amended to read:
"11.09 There is no formal rule on the political
balance of committee membership, and in most cases no fixed number
of committee members. It is desirable for a member to serve on
only one sessional investigative select committee at any one time."
"11.11 In order to secure a regular turnover
of membership, a 'rotation rule' operates in the case of most
committees, whereby members who have been appointed (or co-opted)
for three successive sessions (or parts of sessions) may not be
reappointed in the following two sessions. The three sessions
may be extended to allow a member appointed as Chairman a three-session
term as Chairman. Select committees apply the rotation rule to
15. The revised version of paragraph 11.11 would
subsume existing paragraph 11.13.
Maiden Speeches in Hansard
16. We recommend that from the start of the
2014-15 session maiden speeches should be marked in Hansard.