Select Committee on Liaison Third Report


Third Report

Session 1999-2000


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.


Review of the committee activity of the House

1. The Committee has concluded its review of the committee work of the House. The following initial conclusions were recorded in the Committee's Second Report (HL Paper 62, 8 May 2000):

(1)  The Jellicoe Report recommended that ad hoc committees should become a regular part of the committee structure. We reaffirm that recommendation.

(2)  We have noted the Government's proposal to establish, before the Human Rights Act 1998 comes into force in October this year, a Joint Committee on Human Rights. This will be an additional sessional committee.

(3)  We recommend the appointment of a Constitutional Committee along the lines recommended by the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords (Cm 4534, paragraph 5.22).

A Constitutional Committee

2. Further to our recommendation for the appointment of a Constitutional Committee, we recommend that that Committee should be appointed at the start of the next session. Its terms of reference should be:

"To examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution."

3. The staff needs of the Committee beyond a clerk will depend on how it chooses to work. We recommend that initially the Committee should seek any specialist support which it needs from specialist advisers.

An Economic Committee

4. We recommend the appointment of a sessional Economic Committee after the present ad hoc Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England has concluded its inquiry.

An International Affairs Committee

5. We have given further consideration to the proposal that an International Affairs Committee should be appointed. Such a Committee would largely overlap with the work of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. We consider that there may be international affairs subjects which would be suitable for consideration by ad hoc committees - and we would welcome specific proposals - but we do not recommend the appointment of a sessional International Affairs Committee.

A committee to scrutinise treaties

6. The Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords recommended as follows: "The Liaison Committee should consider the establishment of a Select Committee to scrutinise international treaties into which the Government proposed to enter" (Cm 4534, Recommendation 56). In February 2000 the House of Commons Procedure Committee began an inquiry into "Parliamentary Scrutiny of Treaties and the Ponsonby Rule". We propose to await the report of the House of Commons Procedure Committee before making a recommendation on this matter.

An ad hoc committee on animal experimentation

7. We have considered a proposal for an ad hoc select committee on the use of animals in scientific experiments. We believe that this is an appropriate subject for an inquiry by an ad hoc committee and we recommend the appointment of such a committee in the autumn.

Resources for committee work

8. The effect of our recommendations will be to create three new sessional committees - a Constitutional Committee and an Economic Committee in addition to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Recommendations in the Report of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords may lead to further expansion. There is also to be an ad hoc Joint Committee on House of Lords reform, and there may be further ad hoc committees to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills.

9. We have recommended a significant expansion of committee activity because we believe that the House wishes it, and that there is a sufficient reservoir of members willing to serve. It will be necessary to recruit additional staff to support the new committees, and to provide office accommodation for them. We have made our recommendations on the assumption that the House will be prepared to provide these resources.

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