Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000

Part II - Office Reports

Parliament Office and Black Rod's Department: Organisation Chart


1. The House of Lords administration (excluding staff of the political parties or individual Peers) numbers 358 staff. The Accounting Officer and, in accordance with the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, the Corporate Officer of the House of Lords is the Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Davies. Staff are divided into two Departments: the Parliament Office under the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod's Department under the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, General Sir Edward Jones. Staff salaries and employment costs in 1999-2000, including those for Refreshment Department staff, totalled £7.96mn.

2. The Clerk of the Parliaments is assisted by two Clerks at the Table. The Clerk Assistant, Paul Hayter, is responsible to the Clerk of the Parliaments for the Minutes of Proceedings of the House and the preparation of the Order Paper containing future business. He is also responsible for the Legislation Office, whose activities and expenditure are recorded on pages XX to XX and for strategy on information technology and systems. Michael Pownall, the Reading Clerk, is also Principal Finance Officer. Expenditure by the Clerk of the Parliaments and Table Clerks in 1999-2000 was £1,114,061 compared with £733,001 in 1998-99. The main element in this increase is the grant which the House of Lords now makes to the History of Parliament Trust (see Part I, paragraph 76). The Fourth Clerk at the Table (Judicial) and Registrar of Lords' Interests, James Vallance White, heads the Judicial Office, whose activities and expenditure are recorded on page 28.

Aim and Objectives of the Administration

3. The House of Lords administration and the Clerk of the Parliaments have the following aim and key objectives:

The aim of the House of Lords administration is to provide a service of high quality to enable the House and its Members to carry out fully their parliamentary and judicial functions, and to give value for money.

The following key objectives support the aim:

  • To provide all Members of the House with requisite advice and assistance, including appropriate accommodation and facilities, in support of their parliamentary and judicial duties, regardless of party or office

  • To seek to meet the accommodation requirements of the House and to provide appropriate working facilities for Members;

  • To increase public understanding of the House as part of Parliament;

  • To carry out its functions as economically, efficiently and effectively as possible;

  • To promote cooperation with the House of Commons administration and the Civil Service whenever appropriate;

  • To prepare for, and respond appropriately to, constitutional reforms affecting the House.

Accountant's Office

(Accountant: C Preece)

1 Purpose

The Office provides a financial and accounting service for the House, including the Refreshment Department.

The Office advises budgetholders on financial matters and provides information to enable them to carry out their responsibilities under the devolved financial management arrangements. It pays staff salaries, departmental general expenses and other costs in accordance with proper authorisation. It is responsible for the administration and monitoring of the Administration and Works Services Votes and the preparation of estimate submissions and longer term spending reviews for those Votes.

The Office is also responsible for the administration of the Peers' Reimbursement Allowance Scheme.

2 Organisation

The Accountant's Office has a staff of 12, one of whom is located in the Refreshment Department. This is an increase in the complement of one over last year. The additional post was required in connection with the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting. Two members of the Office hold professional accounting qualifications, and a further three are undertaking training towards this goal.

3 Activities and Financial Performance

Work continued in preparation for the full implementation of Resource Accounting and Budgeting, in close consultation with the House of Commons.

The original budget for the Office in 1999-2000 was £317,000, subsequently increased by a supplementary estimate to £330,000 to take account of increased staff and computer service costs. Actual expenditure totalled £329,676 (£318,702 in 1998-99); the increase was mainly due to additional staff costs.

A total of 6,621 claims for Peers' expenses were paid in 1999-2000 (7,174 in 1998-99). The budget for 1999-2000, including a supplementary estimate, was for £9,401,200; actual expenditure totalled £9,389,611 (£9,487,021 in 1998-99). The underspend was due to six fewer sittings of the House than forecast in the period December 1999 to February 2000, and the fact that no new life peerages were announced during this period.

4 Future Activities

  • A Resource Budget for the House of Lords, based on the cash budget for 2001-02, will be compiled. Discussions with the Treasury and the National Audit Office on outstanding policy and technical issues will continue.

  • Preparations will be made for the move of the Accountant's Office to Millbank House in 2001, its fourth location in thirteen years.

Committee Office

(Clerk of Committees: D R Beamish)

1 Purpose

The Office provides select committees with procedural and legal advice and the administrative support necessary to fulfil the committees' orders of reference.

2 Organisation

The work of the European Union and Science and Technology Committees and any ad hoc Select Committee is supported by a unified Committee Office with 29 permanent staff (11 Clerks, a Legal Adviser and Legal Assistant to the European Union Committee, a Specialist Assistant to the Science and Technology Committee, and 15 secretarial, executive and clerical staff). One of the 29 posts is the subject of a job-share. Each sub-committee and committee is served by a clerk and a committee assistant or personal secretary. Both sessional Committees regularly appoint specialist advisers for particular inquiries.

3 Activities and Financial Performance

A summary of the work of the European Union Committee, the Science and Technology Committee and other select committees appointed during the year is given in Part I (paragraphs 37 to 41).

Because the Committee Office had no available clerk, the Establishment Officer acted as Lords' clerk of the Joint Committee on the draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill, and the Clerk of the Journals acted as clerk of the Committee on the draft Freedom of Information Bill.

Substantial progress was made in implementing the recommendations of the Staff Adviser for an increase in staff from 23 to 31 posts. By the end of the year there were 29 posts and steps were being taken to fill the remaining two recommended new posts.

Original budget provision for the Committee Office in 1999-2000 was £1,356,000, subsequently increased by a supplementary estimate to £1,496,000. Actual expenditure was £1,495,988 (£1,218,913 in 1998-99). The excess of expenditure over the original budget provision was largely due to staff increases mentioned above.

4 Future Activities

  • The staff of the Office still based in the Palace will prepare to move into Millbank House in the summer of 2001.

  • Challenges for the coming year include preparation for a new printing contract with effect from April 2001, and increased use of electronic means of processing and publishing evidence.

Computer Office

(Computer Officer: J O'Meara)

1 Purpose

The Office provides the necessary support and expertise to enable the House, its members and staff to take full advantage of Information Technology in discharging their functions. The Office supports the development of strategic approaches to allow full exploitation of technological advances.

2 Organisation

The Computer Office has a staff of 7: a Computer Officer, a Computer Development Manager, a Computer Services Manager, three Executive Officers (for Lords and staff training and for computer support) and a Computer Assistant. Three staff changes have occurred during the year.

3 Activities and Financial Performance

Some of the main developments in which the Office was involved are described in Part I (paragraphs 59 to 63). Access to the Internet, the Parliamentary Intranet and electronic mail services remain the most popular facilities on the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN). The improvements in access to CD-Rom databases introduced during the previous year proved useful.

Demand for connection to the network has remained high and 91 new PCs were supplied on loan to peers during the year, of which 17 were replacements for old models and 74 were for new users. Sixty-two individual training sessions were conducted with peers. A total of 584 calls for support from peers and staff were also dealt with during the year.

The contract for maintenance of computer hardware was put out to tender during the year. The contract was awarded to the existing supplier at a considerably reduced cost.

Original budget provision was £1,150,000 (£1,121,000 in 1998-99), subsequently increased by a supplementary estimate to £1,320,000. Out-turn expenditure was £1,319,493 (£1,241,746 in 1998-99). This included a contribution of £826,749 (£696,000 in 1998-99) to the Parliamentary Communications Directorate (PCD) for the PDVN. Additional expenditure arose from moves towards IT convergence and installation of the new network infrastructure. In addition, expenditure on PCs loaned to peers was 5% in excess of the budget.

4 Future Activities

  • Projects to increase the use of electronic document management and introduce electronic records management were initiated and will continue during 2000-01. The procurement of a digital recording system for Hansard will be concluded in the autumn of 2000, following installation of the new equipment during the summer recess.

  • The development of information systems for Parliament is under review. The House of Lords is actively involved in shaping the future use of technology and information systems in Parliament.

  • The Computer Office will work with the PCD to review and update the Service Agreement for support and management of the PDVN and file servers.

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