Select Committee on Liaison First Report


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.

Monetary Policy

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 of Parliament."

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 Parliaments.

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