7. In July 2001 the Committee of Selection's proposals
for the nomination of two departmental select committees (Foreign
Affairs and Transport, Local Government and the Regions) were
rejected by the House on division,
although they were subsequently agreed to when presented to the
House afresh in an amended form.
The controversy provoked by this episode made it clear that the
current method of nomination, which gives a central role to the
Committee of Selection, no longer enjoyed the confidence of the
House. Accordingly we decided to give priority to devising a new
system for nominating Members to serve on select committees.
8. Until 1979 motions to nominate select committees
were tabled by the Government following consultation through the
usual channels. The 1978 report from the Procedure Committee which
proposed the creation of departmental select committees recommended
that the Committee of Selection should assume responsibility for
nominating Members to serve on the new committees. The intention
was that the political parties in the House would be obliged to
submit their proposals to the prior scrutiny of back-bench Members
before they were put before the House.
9. The Committee of Selection has come to interpret
its role as limited to confirming the proposals put to it by the
front benches on both sides. This may be understandable in view
of the Committee's main function of nominating Members to the
standing committees on bills where party discipline is directly
engaged, but has produced criticism that the Committee of Selection
is no longer an appropriate mechanism to guarantee the independence
of the nominations to the committees of scrutiny. Any new method
of nomination needs to be independent, authoritative, transparent
and able to command the confidence of the House on both sides.
We endorse Lord Sheldon's comment in his evidence to us: "the
Executive, via the Whips, ought not to select those members of
select committees who will be examining the Executive, that is
10. We received a number of submissions to the effect
that the members of select committees should be elected directly
by the House. We decided
not to pursue this option because election would be unlikely to
produce a committee which was balanced according to experience,
gender, geographical spread or of the range of opinions within
parties. Nor would it be appropriate to have a system of election
which enabled Government Members to chose individual Opposition
back-benchers to sit on a particular select committee, or vice
11. All Members of Parliament bring to deliberations
their independent judgement and their assessment of constituency
interests. At the same time nearly all Members of Parliament are
returned as party candidates and the role of the political parties
has always been of significance in the organisation of parliamentary
business. It is natural that the selection of nominations to the
places allocated to each party should in the first instance be
conducted within that party. We would encourage increased transparency
by political parties in the process by which they choose the Members
to fill their places on committees, but that is not a matter which
the House's own Standing Orders can seek to regulate.
12. In the great majority of cases the party process
will produce an outcome which commands consensus support within
that party. For many years there was no substantial dissent from
the outcome of the nominations to select committees. We do not
seek to supplant those internal party processes, nor do we wish
to undermine them. In our judgement what is required is not an
alternative to the party process, but a fail-safe mechanism to
ensure fair play and to provide a court of appeal.
13. In the last Parliament the Liaison Committee
recommended that the responsibility for nominations should be
given to three senior Members who would be entitled, "the
Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of Committees".
We were not attracted to this proposal. Three Members are too
few to have the necessary knowledge of the qualifications and
interest of Members generally; it would be undesirable to place
excessive power in the hands of some form of "select committee
Establishment"; and in any case the proposal was rejected
last year by the House.
14. Nor could the Liaison Committee itself (or a
sub-committee of the Liaison Committee) put forward the nominations,
because that Committee is not set up until all the other select
committees have themselves been set up and chosen their chairman.
15. One person who by definition is available at
the start of the Parliament and who enjoys the confidence and
respect of the House is the Chairman of Ways and Means. We
recommend that at the start of each Parliament the Committee of
Nomination should be set up under the Chairman of Ways and Means.
The Chairman of Ways and Means should chair proceedings, but in
order to preserve the impartiality of his office have no vote.
16. The criteria for the other members of the Committee
of Nomination are clear. They should be Members of seniority in
the House with a proven ability to perform with impartiality and
a broad knowledge of the strengths and special interest of back-benchers.
All of these criteria are met by the Members on the Chairmen's
Panel, who provide the pool of chairmen for Standing Committee
and Westminster Hall debates. We therefore propose that the bulk
of the membership of the Committee of Nomination should be drawn
from the Chairmen's Panel. In taking this view we are influenced
by the independent appointment of the Chairmen's Panel on the
authority of the Speaker. We recommend that appointment to
the Chairmen's Panel must remain firmly in the hands of the Speaker
and not subject to any party interest or lobbying.
17. The Chairman of Ways and Means should inform
the House of the names of the members of the Committee of Nomination.
Any election of members of the Committee of Nomination must bring
some risk that the vote will be on party lines. Therefore, in
order to preserve its independence from party influence we
recommend that membership of the Committee of Nomination should
be prescribed in Standing Orders. We recommend that the Committee
of Nomination should consist of the Chairman of Ways and Means
and nine other members:
- seven Members of the Chairmen's Panel chosen
with broad regard to the party balance, reflecting gender balance
and based on length of service as members of the Panel. Those
seven would consist of:
the four most senior Members of
the Government party on the Panel including the most senior woman
Member of that party;
the two most senior Members of the
official Opposition on the Panel, including the most senior woman
Member of that party; and
the most senior Member of the second
largest opposition party on the Panel.
- the most senior back-bencher on the Government
side of the House; and
- the most senior back-bencher on the opposition
The quorum of the Committee when nominating committees
afresh at the start of a Parliament should be six, and three when
filling subsequent vacancies, not including the Chairman of Ways
and Means. In the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Ways
and Means the First Deputy Chairman or in his or her absence the
Second Deputy Chairman shall act as chairman.
18. The Chairman of Ways and Means would issue a
standard form for parties to circulate inviting their Members
to indicate the select committees on which they would be interested
in serving. These forms would be returned to the political parties
who in turn would submit proposals to the Committee of Nomination,
based as far as possible on the preferences expressed by individual
Members. It is for the parties to develop their proposals for
nominations through a process which is acceptable to their Members.
Members would be free to make their own individual representations
on the party nominations.
19. We start from the presumption that the political
parties will wish to submit nominations which fairly reflect the
preference, gender and experience of their Members. We therefore
would not anticipate that it would be necessary for the Committee
of Nomination to vary the party nominations in other than exceptional
circumstances where it was clear that a fundamental problem had
arisen. In those exceptional circumstances the Committee of Nomination
would have access to all the relevant forms returned by Members.
In the event that the Committee of Nomination remained concerned
we would expect it in the first instance to refer back the nominations
to that specific committee for further consideration. If that
failed to produce a satisfactory explanation or solution the Committee
of Nomination would have the power and authority to make any amendments
it thought fit before submitting that list of nominations to the
20. It would be essential for the Committee of Nomination
to behave with the utmost impartiality. In order to preserve the
impartiality of the Committee, any member of it who wished to
serve on a particular select committee would take no part in the
consideration of nominations to that committee.
21. The final decision in all cases would rest with
the House itself, as it does at present.
22. Casual vacancies which arose during the course
of the Parliament after the committees had been established would
be filled in a similar way: the Committee of Nomination would
bring forward a motion to discharge one member and add another
in the light of a request from the party concerned, which it would
scrutinise in the same way as the original nominations and which
it could amend if it saw fit. The Committee would also have regard
to any representations made by individual Members.
23. We believe that these proposals provide an independent
mechanism which will place nominations to all select committees
in the hands of an independent authoritative body. It will ensure
that the nominations to the committees that scrutinise Government
are in the hands of the Commons.
6 HC Deb, 16 July 2001. Back
HC Deb, 19 July 2001. Back
Q 1. Back
Eg Ev pp 39, 41-42. Back
HC 300 of Session 1999-2000, Shifting the Balance : Select
Committees and the Executive, First Report from the Liaison
Committee, paragraph 15. Back
HC Deb, 12 February 2001. Back