Letter from Mr Graham Allen MP to the
Chairman of the Committee
I hope you will consider this as a representation
to yourself and whatever Parliamentary and PLP bodies you are
associated with on this issue.
Members of the legislature should elect their
own Select Committees. They should judge their peers
without the intervention of the Government (which they are meant
to scrutinzie) or "Wise Men" (whowith the best
willcan become subject to patronage and back scratching).
Let us as MP's make our own judgementsit will doubtless
be far from perfect but what mistakes we make will be our own
and rest on clear democratic principle.
Select Committees normally have 11 members.
The Clerks break this down into seven Labour, three Conservative,
and one for the Minority Parties. Ideally the election should
take place as a House matter (Tory MP's could vote for Labour
MP's etc) but to be realistic such a radical proposal would not
carry in the PLP. So lets just do our seven places and work the
elective principle through the PLP. How the other parties elect
their members is a matter for them though it would be useful to
seek informal agreement that a standard method is used for election.
The PLP would need to endorse the following:
Within four weeks of a General Election
the PLP shall elect its nominees for Select Committees and forward
them to the Committee of Selection.
Each MP may put their name forward
for one committee.
If an election is necessary each
MP will have one vote (not seven) per committee to reduce "slate"
A secret ballot is essential to ensure
the Executive (through the Whips) do not interfere in this process.
In the first past the post election the top
seven would be declared elected. The names would be sent to the
Committee of Selection which would work as now (and without the
benefit of "Wise Men"). An average of 50-60 PLP votes
would always secure election.
Yes, there would be canvassing, lobbying etcso
what, it's politics and its our choice and judgement. Members
would vote for a particular person for a variety of reasons (like
any electorate) often because the person would broadly represent
their opinions, but also because they worked hard (attended regularly)
had built a track record on that subject, represented a regional
or gender balance. We do not need anyone (least of all the Government
or self proclaimed "Wise Men") to save us from our own
This system would soon settle down
but if abuse by the Government takes place one variant would be
for PLP members to register an interest in three committees and
for them to be allowed to vote in only those three Select Committee
New members could get on the
less popular committees (often without election) and earn their
Casual vacancies should be
offered to the first unsuccessful candidate on the list of nominees
and so on. If no candidates are listed then nominations should
be sought and a new election should take place.
On the FloorStanding Order of
the House should specify that
Within six weeks of a General Election
the Speaker should convene a Committee of Selection to receive
nominees for Select Committees. This would be the clearest signal
that these are House Committees and not in the gift of the Executive.
Select Committee Chairs shall be
elected by the elected members of the Committee.
Chairmanships of Committees shall
be split evenly between Government and opposition members and
swap to the other side after each general election.
The chance to reform our Select Committee occurs
once every generationlets not miss this chance, keep it
simple and let the legislature elect our own committees.
Mr Graham Allen MP
23 July 2001