The seminar was designed to enable members of the House to feed into the decision-making process surrounding the re-structure and to complement the extensive consultation that took place during the review of committees which reported last year. Speakers at the seminar were invited to consider ‘the future of the Lords committee structure post-Brexit and post-COVID-19.’
The seminar was only for members of the House and was held via MS Teams. Lord McFall chaired the meeting. Panel members were invited to speak on their area of expertise for 5 minutes. Then the floor was opened up for a Q&A discussion.
(2)Lord Hennessy–General overview of the political landscape
(3)Baroness Morgan–the post-COVID future
(4)Baroness Taylor–Response to 2 & 3, and the perspective of a current Committee Chair
(5)Earl of Kinnoull–the role of a European Affairs Committee
(6)Baroness Hayman–Environment and Climate Change
(7)Lord Sharkey–Growth, Industrial Strategy, Regulation
The emerging themes from the panel members’ presentations and subsequent question and answer session are outlined below.
COVID-19 and associated challenges: The social contract, the profound economic and societal shock, national resilience, devolution, national and local powers, trust in Government (low trust in national Government, higher trust in local Government), a desire for change (views on this are divergent), communities and the importance of volunteering, inequalities, wellbeing, changes to working lives and working patterns, employment rights, fake news & misinformation.
The value of the work of Lords select committees: holding the Government to account, the success of virtual committee work, the need to take a long-term view of the role of committees, problem solving, using the expertise of the House, cross-cutting approaches, complementing the work of the Commons by taking a distinctive approach, widening reach amongst the public and worldwide, blue sky thinking and taking a broad overview of future challenges.
European Affairs: documentary and institutional scrutiny, interparliamentary relationships/Parliamentary diplomacy, the Northern Ireland protocol, the withdrawal agreement.
Environment and Climate Change: cross-party and cross-cutting global issue, scrutiny of governance in relation to this area, engagement with expertise internally and externally, opportunity to engage meaningfully with young people, the net zero carbon emissions target, strong political will to engage with the issues, biodiversity.
Industrial Strategy and Regulators: government industrial strategy, productivity, Financial services post-Brexit and associated scrutiny, regulators and their influence on growth & productivity, STEM, regulators post-Brexit, holding regulators to account and monitoring enforcement.
Devolution: the relationships between the devolved nations and mayors and the Government and the handling of these politically sensitive matters., the UK internal market.
Communities, health and wellbeing: Outsourcing public services and accountability mechanisms, the care sector, wellbeing of future generations, inequality.
International affairs: the global economy and developments in the Asian economy, cyberattacks.
Economic affairs: education and skills gaps, acceleration of AI and the impact on the jobs market, regional disparities of opportunity and ‘levelling up’, the future of the creative industries.
52 Liaison Committee, (6th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 398)
53 Lord Sharkey suggested that the terms of reference for such a Committee could be: ‘to consider industry, including financial services and regulatory affairs’.
54 Lady Taylor mentioned that devolution fell into the remit of the Constitution Committee and that they were trying to juggle this alongside the rest of their remit.
55 Creative industries falls within the remit of the Communications and Digital Committee: Some members expressed the view that the creative industries might ‘fall through the gaps’ and felt that consideration of this area was important, not least because of the income that this industry generated for the country.
56 Lord McFall referred to the work of the working group on communications.
57 Lord McFall mentioned the work of the Chairs’ Forum in relation to this.