Summary of House of Lords investigative and scrutiny committee activity in 2018–19 Contents

Chapter 3: Special inquiry committees

Introduction

65.The special inquiry, or ad hoc, Committees for the second year of the session 2017–19 were appointed on 17 May 2018 and were ordered to report by 31 March 2019. All the committees met this deadline, with one report being published in March 2019 and the rest in April.

Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010

66.As usual, one of the four committees appointed was for post-legislative scrutiny. The Act selected for scrutiny was the Bribery Act 2010, which came into force in July 2011 and had therefore been in force for almost seven years at the start of the inquiry. The Committee was appointed “ to consider and report on the Bribery Act 2010.”56

67.The Select Committee held its first meeting on 12 June 2018. A Call for Evidence was issued on 19 June57 and the Committee received evidence from 50 persons and bodies, and a further 16 pieces of supplementary written evidence from 13 persons and bodies were also received. Between 3 July and 11 December 2018 the Committee heard oral evidence from 52 witnesses over 23 sessions. Witnesses included the prosecuting authorities, organisations dedicated to stamping out bribery and corruption, businesses affected by bribery, City solicitors advising companies on these issues, and Ministers from the relevant Government departments.

68.The universal perception was that the Act is an excellent piece of legislation which is a model for other countries to follow. The Committee accordingly had only a small number of recommendations to make. However, the Liaison Committee had also instructed the Committee to look at deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), the mechanism allowing companies which have been responsible for bribery to report this to the prosecuting authorities and to have the prosecution for the offences deferred and, ultimately, withdrawn, in return for which the company puts its house in order and pays a large financial penalty. Here the Committee found more significant failings and made a number of recommendations for improvement.

69.The Committee has received extensive attention from City and international law firms, with its work being a regular feature of economic crime and criminal law blogs, and the legal industry press, especially the Law Society Gazette and Lawyer Monthly. Its report was published on 14 March. Ashurst, an international law firm, has identified it as one of the ‘key developments’58 regarding bribery and corruption in the UK in 2019. Another international law firm, WilmerHale, in their ‘Global Anti-Bribery Year-in-Review’ saw the inquiry as one of the main ‘legislative developments’59 in UK anti-bribery efforts for 2018–19. The New Law Journal has published an article by the Chairman.60

Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision

70.The Committee was appointed “to consider the long-term implications of Government policy on intergenerational fairness and provision.”61 During the course of the inquiry the Committee received 72 written evidence submissions and heard oral evidence from 55 witnesses across 22 evidence sessions.

71.In order to ensure that the views of the public were heard and represented throughout the inquiry, the Committee proposed the novel idea of a Contact Group. The Committee invited 14 members of the public, from across all ages and across the country, to form the Contact Group. This consisted of four representatives of the ‘younger’ age range (coordinated by the British Youth Council), five representatives of a ‘middle’ age range (coordinated with Coram Family and Childcare Trust) and five representatives of the ‘older’ age range (coordinated by the Centre for Ageing Better).

72.The Contact Group was invited to two meetings at the Houses of Parliament on 31 October and 5 December 2018. In the initial meeting, participants discussed their experience of the intergenerational issues raised by the inquiry, as reflected in the chapters of the report; housing, education, jobs, communities and taxation. The participants then returned to their home areas where they held sessions with members of their local communities, reaching over 240 people. Participants then fed back their findings to the Committee in the second meeting. The Contact Group feedback was invaluable and has been incorporated throughout the report, to both support and contradict the evidence gathered.

73.The Committee also carried out a visit to Doncaster in order to see intergenerational projects at work, and to talk to both those running and those using these projects. The visit included meetings with Doncaster Council, Swallowdale Extra Care facility and St Leger Homes. The Committee also set up its own Twitter account (@LordsIntergen) in order to engage with the existing discussion on intergenerational fairness and raise the profile of the work of the Committee. Video clips of the recommendations witnesses made in the oral evidence sessions received over 11,000 views.

74.The Committee published its report Tackling intergenerational unfairness62 on 25 April 2019. The report struck a positive tone, concluding that the intergenerational compact between generations is stronger than typically portrayed. The Committee’s recommendations focused on protecting the intergenerational compact, and taking a life course approach to policy. The report provoked a considerable media response, with coverage across the press including the Chair appearing on BBC Newsnight. Some coverage continued the negative rhetoric which has typically surrounded the topic of intergenerational fairness, but others argued that the Committee “has done an outstanding job in identifying many of the key issues underlying intergenerational fairness in the UK.”63

75.On the day of publication, the Committee held a seminar event in partnership with the British Academy with academics, policymakers and think tanks to discuss the findings of the report. This ensured continued engagement with the report’s findings and allowed experts in the various sectors to feed back their views on the report. The attendees welcomed the report, and responses were positive.

Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities

76.The Committee was appointed “to consider the regeneration of seaside towns and communities.”64 The Committee received over 120 submissions of written evidence and heard oral evidence from 52 witnesses.

77.The nature of the inquiry called for a number of visits far beyond the norm for investigative committees, as seaside towns themselves face a uniquely broad array of challenges, often related to their built or natural environments. Accordingly, the Committee undertook six visits in total, encompassing the challenges and success stories to be found all around the English coast, in their many and varied forms. Taking in Clacton-on-sea, Jaywick, Blackpool, Fleetwood, Margate, Skegness, Newquay, St. Ives, Penzance, Scarborough, and Whitby, these visits not only allowed members to meet with local authorities, businesses, and community figures, but also for the bicameral Select Committee Engagement Team to carry out complementary work in parallel on location. This included conducting interviews with members of the public around these towns, polling on issues deemed most pertinent to local people, and structured events with young people in schools.

78.Additionally, the Committee attended a meeting of the Local Government Association’s Coastal Special Interest Group, which convened local council representatives from around the country, allowing members to advertise the inquiry, as well as gain an understanding of the prevailing sentiments among local authorities and their geographical variations. A delegation from Teach First was also received by the Committee for an informal discussion of the challenges around education faced by seaside towns.

79.The report itself acknowledged the unique and varied identities of coastal communities, but nevertheless identified and examined key issues found in common across many or all of them, such as housing quality, connectivity, educational obstacles, health disparity, and funding processes.

80.In all, the Committee made 58 recommendations to the Government, including the need for improved transport links, incentives to attract and keep good teachers, and to favour long-term regeneration projects over short-term initiatives. The report, The Future of Seaside Towns, 65 was published on 4 April 2019, and drew considerable attention from a wide spread of local news outlets, trade press, and national press, receiving particularly prominent coverage on BBC News online and via BBC local radio. A particular focus on local radio in coastal areas generated a good deal of discussion and awareness of the Committee’s work, and regeneration-related issues more generally, with the Chairman providing live interviews.

Select Committee on the Rural Economy

81.The Committee was appointed “to consider the rural economy, and to make recommendations.”66 The Committee received 209 written submissions and took oral evidence from 64 witnesses during 26 public evidence sessions. Forty per cent of the expert witnesses were women—a higher than usual percentage for parliamentary committees.

82.As part of its inquiry, the Committee undertook visits to Herefordshire and South Yorkshire to understand the diversity, opportunities and challenges of rural economies. In Herefordshire, the Committee hosted round table discussions with local business owners, council leaders, representatives of business organisations, voluntary organisations and local residents, and visited a number of local businesses to hear directly of successes and challenges for business development in the county. In Yorkshire, the Committee visited a range of rural coalfield locations, areas which are less often considered in national debates around rural policy. During the visit, the Committee visited a number of regeneration and community projects and explored the challenges of former mining areas in a round table discussion with local businesses, local authorities and community organisations. The Committee’s media officer also attended the visits and secured wide coverage in the local media.

83.The Committee published its report, entitled Time for a Strategy for the Rural Economy,67 on 27 April 2019. It concluded that the contribution rural economies can make to the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing has been underrated by successive governments, and with rural England at the point of major transition, a different approach is now urgently needed. It made three key recommendations: the development of a new Rural Strategy outlining a long-term, overarching vision for the countryside, re-energising the rural proofing process, and adopting a place-based68 approach which reflects the diversity of our countryside and the capabilities and knowledge of those who live and work there.

Former Special Inquiry Committees

84.The Liaison Committee seeks to follow-up the work of special inquiry (ad hoc) committees which reported in earlier years. This follow-up will not begin for the Committees which reported in April 2018 until October 2019. In the following paragraphs we outline some of the developments in relation to recent committees.

Artificial Intelligence Committee

85.The report of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, published in April 2018, has been very well-received by Government, academia, business and civil society alike, both in the UK and abroad. The recommendations the Committee made have been discussed by the United Nations, the governments of Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among others, and a wide variety of organisations, including the Law Commission. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has considered the report’s recommendations as part of its founding consultation process, and two former Committee members have been appointed to its board.

Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement

86.The Government has undertaken to review and revise the book ‘Life in the UK’ which is the basis for naturalisation tests, and which is admitted by all, including the Government, to be outdated, inaccurate and entirely inappropriate as a means of discovering whether applicants know essential facts about this country. The Government has not however given a date by which this review will be concluded and a revised book published.


56 HL Deb, 17 May 2018, col 771 [Lords Chamber]

57 House of Lords Bribery Act 2010 Committee, Call for Evidence, 20 June 2018

58 Ashurst, Bribery and Corruption: what now for 2019? (January 2019): https://www.ashurst.com/en/news-and-insights/legal-updates/bribery-and-corruption-what-now-for-2019/ [accessed 20 May 2019]

59 WilmerHale, Global Anti-Bribery Year-in-Review: 2018 Developments and Predictions for 2019: https://www.wilmerhale.com/en/insights/client-alerts/20190117-global-anti-bribery-year-in-review-2018-developments-and-predictions-for-2019 [accessed 20 May 2019]

60 New Law Journal, Bribery in the spotlight (March 2019): https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/bribery-in-the-spotlight [accessed 20 May 2019]

61 HL Deb, 17 May 2018, col 771 [Lords Chamber]

62 Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, Tackling intergenerational unfairness (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 329)

63 Associated Retirement Community Operators, ‘Select Committee calls for planning guidance to boost Retirement Communities’ (25 April 2019): https://www.arcouk.org/press-release/select-committee-calls-planning-guidance-boost-retirement-communities [accessed 29 April 2019]

64 HL Deb, 17 May 2018, col 771 [Lords Chamber]

65 Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities, The future of seaside towns (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 320)

66 HL Deb, 17 May 2018, col 771 [Lords Chamber]

67 Select Committee on the Rural Economy, Time for a strategy for the rural economy (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 330)

68 See Chapter 3 of Select Committee on the Rural Economy, Time for a strategy for the rural economy (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 330).




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