Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the Rt Hon Sir George Young MP to the Chairman of the Committee


  During the Debate on 16 July, the Leader of the House said that the first item of business for the Modernisation Select Committee would be a review of the process of selecting Members for Committees that was "more transparent". (I have repeatedly said that it was my intention to review in the autumn the system by which nominations to Select Committees are made. I would be the first to agree that the events of the past few days have given greater urgency to the search for a more transparent system. I intend to invite the Modernisation Committee, when it meets for the first time on Wednesday to make the system of nominations to Select Committees the first priority for its programme).

  1.  At its meeting on Wednesday 18 July, I understand the Select Committee agreed to meet at the end of September to take evidence on this matter; to have a subsequent deliberative session; and to produce a report in October.

  2.  My view is that the objectives of those seeking reform can be met with relatively few changes to the procedures of the House. Others may propose ambitious and radical changes involving the House voting for Members; or parties voting for members; but I suspect these will be controversial and unlikely to command general assent.

  3.  I would leave the Committee of Selection as it is with nine members—currently six Labour, two Conservative and one LibDem. I personally would leave one Conservative and one Labour Whip on the Committee. They can perform a useful function by filtering requests and making suggestions.

  4.  But their role should not be dominant. The Father of the House could chair the Committee, and the remaining members would be senior MP's.

  5.  Those wishing to serve on any Committee should write to the Chairman or Clerk, indicating their interest and qualifications. Their names would be in the public domain before the Committee met. The Committee would appoint on the basis of ensuring the House discharged effectively its scrutiny role.

  6.  If there are insufficient nominations—and the Committee makes a large number of nominations to committees that are low-profile and unexciting—the Committee would be free to make proposals of its own.

  7.  A more radical proposal would remove all the Whips, leaving the clerks with the job of analysing and filtering requests. I personally would not support that.

  8.  The changes I have outlined would deal with the abuses that distressed the House in July; the secrecy, the patronage, the cynicism of the current process.

  9.  There remains a residual issue about the division of Chairmanships. This is important in view of the higher profile proposed for Select Committee Chairmen by many commentators, and their membership of the Liaison Committee.

  10.  At the moment, there is a carve-up amongst the usual channels which is normally delivered, though there have been some recent casualties.

  11.  Under a possible new scenario, the Committee of Selection, having regard to the balance of parties in the House and the seniority of particular members on individual committees, could make recommendations to the Select committees as to who might chair them—leaving the committees free to ignore the advice if they so wished. But I recognise this is not without its problems.

14 September 2001

16 November 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 February 2002