Select Committee on Liaison First Report


1.  With the Modernisation Committee's Report pending, and the Leader of the House's Memorandum out for consultation, we make our first Report of the 2001 Parliament at a time of opportunity for select committees and their work. In the last Parliament, the Liaison Committee itself put forward proposals for making committees more effective and independent. The main elements of that strategy, summarised in Shifting the Balance: Unfinished Business[1], were

  •   earlier nomination, using an independent system;

  •   more debates on reports, including a half-hour in the Chamber soon after publication;

  •   the extension of pre-legislative scrutiny;

  •   more exacting examination of Government expenditure;

  •   easing the way for committees to work together on cross-cutting issues;

  •   enhanced staffing based on a central unit for pre-legislative and expenditure work; and

  •   improvements in the format and media presentation of Reports.

Nomination of Members: A New System

2.  Our predecessors pursued their agenda with determination, despite a discouraging response from the Government on the issue of nominations. Other studies on parliamentary accountability by the Norton Commission[2] and the Hansard Commission,[3] strengthened their case. The events of July 2001, when the Government whips sought not to renominate two senior chairmen, and had their proposals firmly rejected by the House, added to the pressure for change.

Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons

3.  The new Leader of the House, the Rt Hon Robin Cook, has created a sense of expectancy by putting the method of nomination and other select committee issues at the top of the Modernisation Committee's agenda. We welcome the Leader's statement that "Good scrutiny makes for good government". Also welcome is the priority which he accords to the departmental select committees as scrutiny's "most developed vehicle".[4]

4.  It is a challenging time, when a whole range of new issues are emerging. The Modernisation Committee has already taken evidence from our Chairman and we look forward to the publication of its Report. The Leader of the House's Memorandum reflected many of our aims, and we expect to be able to work with the Modernisation Committee to carry improvements forward. We have agreed to appoint a Sub-Committee to prepare our response. We intend to support and intensify the pressure for positive reform.

1   First Report from the Committee, HC 321 of Session 2000-01 Back

2   Strengthening Parliament, July 2000 Back

3   The Challenge for Parliament: Making Government Accountable, 2001 Back

4   Modernisation of the House of Commons: A Reform Programme for Consultation. Memorandum submitted by the Leader of the House of Commons, HC 440 of Session 2001-02 ("The Leader of the House's Memorandum") Back

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Prepared 7 February 2002