Select Committee on Liaison First Report



Memorandum to the Liaison Committee

1.  The Liaison Committee has asked for an annual report from select committees. Our predecessor committee reported to the House a year ago on its work in the last Parliament.[109] The substantial continuity of membership that we have with our predecessor Committee—with six of our eleven Members having served in the last Parliament—has been of great value to us, and has allowed us, since our first meeting on 19 July, to waste no time in continuing the rigorous and sustained scrutiny of Government maintained by our predecessor committee.

2.  This memorandum focuses on the work of the committee so far in the present Parliament, but also covers the work of our predecessor committee from the time of its last annual report until the dissolution of the last Parliament.

3.  We attach as an annex to this memorandum a list of the informal meetings that we and our predecessor committee held during 2001. We agree with our predecessor committee that "contact between members of the Committee and ministers, parliamentarians and others from around the world helps to keep the Committee informed of international concerns and makes a contribution towards the promotion of good international relations, which is an integral part of the Committee's work".[110]

Work of our predecessor Committee

4.  The reports published by our predecessor committee after January 2001 all related to inquiries which were already under way at that time and which were mentioned in its last annual report. It reported on Gibraltar,[111] European Union enlargement,[112] the annual report of the Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO),[113] and the FCO's Annual Report on Human Rights.[114] It also reported together with three other committees, as the Quadripartite Committee, on strategic export controls[115] and the draft Export Control and Non-Proliferation Bill.[116] These are all matters of continuing interest to us.

5.  Our predecessor committee produced a substantial report on Yugoslavia,[117] on which we were glad to be able to secure a debate in Westminster Hall on 6 December.[118]

Work of the Committee in the new Parliament

6.  The events of 11 September have naturally had a major impact on the Committee's programme, and were a central focus of our inquiry into British-US relations. Our predecessor committee was unable to take its inquiry into Britain's foreign policy towards Iran very far because of the parliamentary timetable.[119] Although we have not so far been able to undertake an inquiry into that country, we have by no means lost sight of its importance. In our recent Report into British-US relations,[120] we noted that "Iran's dual status as a member of the coalition with an active interest in a stable Afghanistan on its border, and as a state of concern with a recent history of extreme hostility towards the West, lends it a particular importance in contemporary international relations"[121] and concluded that "the Government's and European Union's policies of constructive engagement with Iran deserve full support".[122] We will doubtless have reason to consider further the progress of that engagement in the context of our ongoing inquiry into Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism.

7.  We have decided that, where we wish to conduct an inquiry, but know in advance that developments will be ongoing, a one-off inquiry completed by a single report is not always the best basis on which to proceed. We have therefore announced 'rolling' inquiries into Developments in the European Union, the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference and into Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism. Some of our other inquiries are also, in effect, ongoing: our predecessor committee maintained an ongoing critical dialogue with the Government on Gibraltar and Zimbabwe, and we too have not let these matters lie, with recent oral evidence sessions on each.[123]

8.  We will shortly be inquiring into the Government's annual report on human rights, a matter on which the Foreign Affairs Committee has reported annually since 1998. We are also conducting an inquiry into the United Kingdom's relations with Turkey, which will link into our other work on the European Union and on foreign policy aspects of the war against terrorism.

9.  The Quadripartite Committee held its first meeting on 18 December. We intend to participate fully in its work. Bringing select committees together on subjects of cross-departmental interest has been shown to be a powerful way of voicing Parliament's opinions and concerns.

Select Committees: protecting their independence

10.  In theory, the membership of select committees is decided freely by Parliament; in practice it is often imposed on the House by the party Whips. The independence of select committees from such Government interference is vital. This Parliament began with a reaffirmation of that independence, when on 16 July the House refused to allow the Government to remove the chairmen of our committee and of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee.[124] We support fully the work of the Liaison Committee to bolster the power and independence of select committees.



Session 2000-2001

Thursday 7 December 2000

International Relations Committee of the Russian State Duma

Thursday 7th December 2000

Delegation headed by Mr Chun Guk Kim, Director of the European Department of the Foreign Ministry of North Korea

Tuesday 12th December 2000

Mr Svetorzar Marovi_, Speaker of the Montenegro Parliament

Wednesday 13 December 2000

Mr Charles Crawford, HM Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Tuesday 27 February 2001

Macedonian Foreign Affairs Committee

Wednesday 28th February 2001

Mr Goran Svilanovi_, Yugoslav Foreign Minister

Wednesday 28th February 2001

Elsie Leung, Secretary for Justice, Hong Kong

Thursday 8th March 2001

Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Austrian Foreign Minister

Session 2001 - 2002

Tuesday 3 July 2001

Mr Jin Lie, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chongqing People's Congress

Wednesday 4 July 2001

Mr Jan Kavan, Foreign Minister, Czech Republic

Wednesday 24 October 2001

Mr Anatoly Zlenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ukraine

Wednesday 24 October 2001

Swiss Foreign Affairs Committee

Tuesday 13 November 2001

HH Prince Abdullah Bin Faisal Bin Turki, Head of Saudi Arabian Investment Authority

Monday 19th November

Mr Donald Tsang, Chief Secretary for Administration, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Tuesday 27 November 2001

Hon Paul Berenger, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mauritius

Thursday 29 November 2001

HE Dr Vojislav Koštunica, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Monday 3 December 2001

Delegation from the Russian State Duma

Tuesday 4 December 2001

Executive and Legislative Councillors from St Helena

Wednesday 5 December 20001

Hon Mwai Kibaki, Leader of the Opposition, Kenya

Wednesday 12 December 2001

Mr Tassos Papadopolous, President of the Foreign and European Affairs Committee, Cyprus House of Representatives

Monday 17 December 2001

Mr Tonino Picula, Croatian Foreign Minister, and Mr Neven Mimica, Croatian Minister for European Integration

109   First Special Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2000-01, HC 78. Back

110   Op cit, para 16. Back

111   Sixth Report, Session 2000-01, HC 319. Back

112   Fifth Report, Session 2000-01, HC 318. Back

113   Ninth Report, Session 2000-01, HC 428. Back

114   First Report, Session 2000-01, HC 79, and Eighth Report, Session 2000-01, HC 469. Back

115   Third Report, Session 2000-01, HC 212. Back

116   Seventh Report, Session 2000-01, HC 445. Back

117   Fourth Report, Session 2000-01, HC 246. Back

118   HC Deb, 6 December 2001, Col. 139-217WH. Back

119   It produced an interim report as its Second Report, Session 2000-01, HC 80. Back

120   Second Report, Session 2001-02, HC 327. Back

121   Op cit, para 167. Back

122   Op cit, para 170. Back

123   See First Report from the Committee, Session 2001-02, HC 413, and Uncorrected Evidence presented by Baroness Amos, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 12 December 2001, HC 456-i (available on the Internet at  Back

124   HC Deb, Monday 16 July 2001, Col. 35-85. Back

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