Review of Investigative Select Committee activity in 2017–18 Contents

Chapter 5: Joint Committees

Introduction

95.The work of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments is discussed above in the chapter on delegated legislation committees. In the House of Lords pre-legislative scrutiny (the scrutiny of draft bills) is typically undertaken by a Joint Committee on a draft bill. There were no such Joint Committees during 2017–18.

Joint Committee on Human Rights

96.As is often the case with House of Commons or Joint Committees, and as was the case with the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments [see paragraph 89–90 above], there was a hiatus in the work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) following the general election. The committee was reappointed in October 2017 and began work in November, focusing on its inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Universities. This report was published in March 2018, including a simple guide to the duties of universities and students regarding free speech. The report received significant (and mostly positive) responses from major media outlets, universities, and student groups, and its recommendation to simplify the regulatory landscape was reflected in the Government’s decision to convene a summit of key sector organisations.

97.In part due to the delay in its re-appointment, the JCHR had less time to report on legislation, but it published a report on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill on 1 March 2018. The report raised concerns about changes to the threshold of proof for imposing sanctions and changes to the appeals process, and made a case for the proposed “Magnitsky clause” (for imposing sanctions in cases of gross human rights violations) which was adopted by the House of Commons, without opposition, on 1 May 2018.

98.The JCHR’s work on Remedial Orders continued, with a report on surrogacy (in the context of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008) currently being considered by the Government, and a report on nationality (in the context of the British Nationality Act 1981) was published on 31 May 2018.

Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy

99.At its first public meeting after being established in the 2017–19 session the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy heard evidence from the new National Security Adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill. This was Sir Mark’s first appearance before a parliamentary committee since his appointment.

100.The joint committee’s first report was on the cross-government National Security Capability Review. The review, launched in July 2017, aimed to refresh and update the 2015 National Security Strategy in the light of developments since its publication (such as the UK’s decision to leave the EU and terrorist attacks in London and Manchester). In its report on the first of a two-part inquiry, the joint committee concluded that while it was necessary to revisit the previous strategy in the light of the above threats:

101.The second part of the joint committee’s inquiry will look at the outcome of the review.72

102.Alongside this the joint committee is continuing an inquiry into cyber security begun in the 2015–17 parliament. The inquiry’s focus is now on cyber threats to critical national infrastructure. The joint committee continues to hear evidence, and witnesses in April and May 2018 included Steve Unger, Chief Technology Officer, Ofcom and Ruth Davis, Head of Commercial Strategy and Public Policy, BT Security.


71 Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, National Security Capability Review: A Changing Security Environment (First Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 104, HC 76)

72 HM Government, ‘National Security Capability Review’ (March 2018); https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/705347/6.4391_CO_National-Security-Review_web.pdf [accessed 30 May 2018]




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