An Alternative Career Structure
40. A number of recent reports have proposed that
the quality of scrutiny and the priority attached to it could
be reinforced if there was a clearer recognition that scrutiny
of the Executive was as valid a career choice for Members as serving
in the Government. These reports have tended to conclude that
the clearest way to recognise such an alternative career structure
would be through an additional salary to the chairmen of the scrutiny
committees. The Liaison Committee in their report 'Shifting the
Balance' first raised the payment of committee chairmen as an
option. Subsequently both the Norton Commission and the Hansard
Society Commission concluded that the post of chairman of a departmental
select committee should be recognised as of equivalent status
to the post of Minister and should therefore attract the same
41. This is not a matter on which there is any consensus
in the House. The Chairman of the Liaison Committee in his evidence
to us was frank that the chairmen themselves of the select committees
hold opposing views.
This difference of opinion was reflected in our own committee.
We are unanimous in agreeing that the post of chairman of a departmental
select committee attracts a heavy work load and a substantial
responsibility. There are some, however, who attach importance
to the principle that all back-bench Members should receive the
same salary and believe that there would be dangers in relating
pay to workload which can vary for many reasons among Members.
However, a clear majority are persuaded of the case for providing
an additional salary. As long as Government office is the principal
Parliamentary role to be recognised by additional payment, it
need not be surprising that the role of scrutiny should be regarded
by the world as inferior. Accordingly we recommend that the
value of a parliamentary career devoted to scrutiny should be
recognised by an additional salary to the chairmen of the principal
investigative committees. We envisage such committees including
the departmental select committees and other major committees
of scrutiny such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Public
Administration Committee, together with the Deregulation and Regulatory
Reform Committee, European Scrutiny Committee and Procedure Committee.
42. The appropriate body to assess what such an additional
salary might be is the SSRB who make recommendations on Parliamentary
pay and allowances. However, we are unanimous in our view that
the decision in principle of whether or not such an extra payment
should be made is a matter for the House. When the House is given
an opportunity to endorse the recommendations in this Report as
a whole, there should be a specific opportunity to vote on the
principle of payment to chairmen.
43. There is a significant demand among back-bench
Members to serve on scrutiny committees. There is also a powerful
argument in principle to give more Members experience both of
serving on and chairing these committees. We therefore favour
the introduction of term limits for service as chairmen of committees.
The case for such limits is unanswerable if chairmen are to be
paid. We recommend that the House should impose an indicative
upper limit of two consecutive Parliaments on service as chairman.
We recognise that the House may wish to make special provision
in the case of short Parliaments.
17 Q 93-94, 96 and see Ev p 45. Back