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


Letter from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee to the Chairman of the Committee

  I understand that the Modernisation Committee is presently considering, inter alia, the size of the departmentally-related select committees. The Committee might find it helpful to receive my personal opinion on proposals to increase the membership of such committees to as many as 15 or even 17 members. My own view, which I believe most of my colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee would share, is that the present complement of the Foreign Affairs Committee is about right at 11 Members. In fact, I have found that meetings seem to work best with about eight Members round the table.

  Always assuming that the extra Members could be found, I believe that an increase to significantly more than 11 Members would risk committees becoming unwieldy and their meetings becoming disjointed. In particular:

    —  oral evidence sessions will be less effective if each of 15 or 17 Members is to have a turn at questioning each witness and inevitably those not called would feel excluded;

    —  unanimity on Reports will be more difficult to achieve;

    —  private deliberations will be more protracted;

    —  without a significant increase in funding, it will not be possible for committees of 15 or more members to travel as often as they do now;

    —  even with an increase in funding, the value of such travel will diminish, because the logistics of organising a large party impose practical limitations on what can be achieved; and again, in questioning witnesses abroad, it would be more difficult to have the time for individual Committee Members adequately to purse a line of questioning.

  I therefore agree with the views already expressed on this matter by colleagues such as David Hinchliffe, and join them in the hope that your Committee will decline to recommend an increase in the membership of the departmentally-related select committees.

Mr Donald Anderson MP

18 December 2001

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