First Report - Session 1999-2000
Monday 7 February 2000
By the Select Committee appointed to advise the House
on the resources required for select committee work and to allocate
resources between select committees; to review the select committee
work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees
and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective
co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability
of Lords to serve on committees.
Appointment of a further ad hoc committee
1. The Committee has considered what further ad hoc
committee should follow the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy
Committee of the Bank of England, which reported in July 1999.
We have had regard to the desirability of complementing rather
than overlapping with the work of House of Commons committees.
Two proposals have been made to us.
2. The Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee
of the Bank of England commented as follows in the preface to
its Report (HL Paper 96, Session 1998-99):
"When the Liaison Committee recommended the
establishment of this Committee it invited us to consider whether
the subject matter warranted the appointment of a permanent sessional
scrutiny committee. It has become clear to us during our enquiry
that the time allowed for us has been sufficient only to scratch
the surface of a vast and developing subject. We are mindful,
in reporting to the House, that our Report can only be a mere
introduction to a new policy that requires in-depth and continuing
scrutiny. We beg leave of the House to consider the reappointment
of the Committee in the new session as a permanent Select Committee.
Without a Committee such as ours the Monetary Policy Committee
would effectively cease to be accountable to one of the two Houses
That proposal was supported in a paper submitted
to us by Lord Peston, Chairman of the Committee.
The impact of tuition fees on student recruitment in higher education
3. Lord Rix submitted a paper to us proposing the
appointment of a select committee on the impact of fees on student
recruitment in higher education. He noted that the number of mature
students applying for and entering higher education had fallen
in 1999/2000 and suggested that a House of Lords committee could
usefully seek evidence as to the nature and extent of the problem
and propose means of tackling it.
4. Lord Rix's proposal relates to a topical subject
in relation to which the House has a considerable body of expertise.
On the other hand it is a subject which falls squarely within
the terms of reference of the House of Commons Education and Employment
Committee, and we would not wish to risk duplicating the work
of that Committee.
5. We recognise the strength of the case for reappointing
the Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank
of England, but we are not at this stage persuaded of the case
for a permanent sessional committee on that specific subject.
A more broadly based Economic Committee might represent a more
effective use of resources, and we propose to consider the matter
further in due course.
6. In the meantime we recommend that a further ad
hoc Select Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the
Bank of England be appointed for a period of not more than a year,
and we do not recommend the appointment of a committee on the
impact of fees on student recruitment in higher education.
Future Committee activity
7. We have before us proposals for a range of other
select committee activity in the House:
The Government have announced proposals
for Joint Committees on Human Rights and on House of Lords Reform.
The Royal Commission on Reform of the
House of Lords has made a range of proposals for committee activity,
some of them not necessarily dependent on further reform of the
composition of the House.
These proposals include one for the appointment
of a Constitutional Committee, supported in a submission made
to us by Lord Alexander of Weedon.
The Royal Commission specifically referred
back to us a proposal made to us a year ago by Lord Lester of
Herne Hill for a committee to scrutinise treaties. We have postponed
further examination of this proposal because the House of Commons
Procedure Committee has just begun a short inquiry into Parliamentary
scrutiny of treaties.
There are likely to be further proposals
for the pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills.
8. The implementation of all these proposals would
have long-term implications for the resources of the House - members
to serve, staff to support them, accommodation for the committees
and their staff, and expenditure on the House of Lords Vote.
9. We propose, therefore, to undertake at our next
meeting a general review of the House's committee activity, on
the basis of a paper to be prepared for us by the Clerk of the