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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, it was reported last summer to the meeting of the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee when the Clerk of the Parliaments presented the memorandum from which I have quoted. That was duly approved and those details (the Clerk of the Parliaments will correct me sotto voce if I am wrong) were made publicly available.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I apologise for intervening. I wish only to follow up the point made by my noble friend Lord Barnett. So far as I am aware, the minutes of the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee are not available to the House and not available even to the Offices Committee.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. It was in fact in the Offices Committee, whose minutes are available in the Library. The Offices Committee receives reports from this sub-committee as well as from its other sub-committees. That was the position on that matter.
Perhaps I may turn to the main matters which have been debated this afternoon. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, for their kind words about the further consideration which has been given to those matters. However, those thanks are not due to me, they are due to your Lordships' committees, which have given their further consideration.
As regards the proposal for the appointment of a management consultant, perhaps I may say that, if your Lordships approve this matter, I cannot tell the House this afternoon who would be the members of the steering group. Until this matter is passed by noble Lords, it will not be possible to go into the matter. If one were to approach it the other way round, then I believe that your Lordships would be forgiven for thinking that we were taking noble Lords for granted.
However, points have been made from all sides of the House as regards the wish expressed by a number of Members for Back-Benchers to be considered to serve as members of the steering committee. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I go only this far this afternoon--it is all the power that I have--and say this. I shall ensure that those quite strong expressions of view are brought to the attention of those who will participate in the consultations which will take place,
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and touched on by other noble Lords that it should be for a committee of the House to decide and give its recommendations on the question of a management consultant, that has in fact been done. Committees of this House considered these matters and decided to recommend that proposal to the House. So that hurdle has already been overcome, which is why this recommendation has been put forward to your Lordships.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord in mid flow. Will he also consider the question of whether it is sensible to divide the responsibility for supervision between unspecified other committees of the House and the Steering Committee which is now to be appointed? Would it not be more sensible for the role to be undertaken as a whole by the Steering Committee and for the Steering Committee to consider whether a management consultant should be appointed and, if so, who should be appointed?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I understand the noble Viscount's point. But that kind of consideration was gone into thoroughly in the course of lengthy deliberations in the committees, both before the previous recommendation was put forward to your Lordships on 21st June and again in the reconsideration of this matter. It was clear that the Offices Committee wished to put this recommendation before your Lordships. So while I understand the noble Viscount's point, those considerations have already been taken into account, which is why the proposal is before the House.
A number of points have been raised on the matter of procurement, tendering and so on. If noble Lords will forgive me, I shall wrap up all the contributions in one in my reply to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.
It was decided that the tendering process was not necessary. There must be a tendering process if the expected amount is approximately over £100,000; that must, for one thing, be in accordance with European Union rules. Alternatives to Mr Michael Braithwaite were considered. I can go so far as to say that a distinguished and very experienced Member of this
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Chairman of Committees, but I thought that the figure of £100,000 related to a requirement to advertise tenders in the European journal. Surely, for orders or procurement under that value, if a local authority gave a consultancy contract to someone for £50,000 or £70,000, could it do it simply on the say-so of someone else? Would it not need to obtain competing proposals?
I was in the process of explaining a point on the question of cost. If Mr Michael Braithwaite is appointed, because of the other work that he has done and because of the length of time that he would need to spend on an inquiry into this House, his fee would be substantially lower than it otherwise would have been. I have been left in no doubt that the fee is less than it has been in another place, and substantially less than the £100,000 that I quoted.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, perhaps I may just finish this point because it is relevant to the sentence that I last delivered. Another quotation that we received was between £120,000 and £150,000, plus expenses. In terms of qualifications, that was one of the contenders who was also considered suitable.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that depends on a number of factors--not least, if he is appointed, on the number of interviews with noble Lords and members of staff whom he finds it necessary to consult. If noble Lords will forgive me, it is simply not possible to put a figure on these matters this afternoon. If the House decides to go ahead with this proposal, it must be left for later negotiation and to see how long the inquiry will take.
Another matter raised by a number of noble Lords is the speed of the inquiry and the possible need for an interim report. I give noble Lords an assurance that, if the Motion is passed, this matter will be pursued with all due speed. I should not be happy about a great deal of time being spent on it. We need to get on with further action. A great deal has already been done, and insufficient credit has been paid to your Lordships' staff, the Parliamentary Works Department, and others who have dealt with the matter. However, I shall not be satisfied if we spend too long on these matters. While I cannot say until the inquiry gets under way, if it takes place, whether it will be absolutely necessary, there is no reason why an interim report should not be made to your Lordships to show how things are going.
Two noble Lords referred to the medical service. I can confirm that a nurse and occupational health physician are available to Members and staff of both Houses. That is kept under a great deal of scrutiny by the Offices Committee. The Offices Committee was criticised for being something of a rubber stamp. Those noble Lords who raise that kind of point are not alone in believing that, as at present constituted, the Offices Committee is perhaps not the right vehicle to carry forward these matters. I agree that that is something that we must look at, not in the present context although it arises out of it.
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