COMMONS

House of Commons Governance report published

17 December 2014

The House of Commons Governance Committee publishes its report into the governance of the House.

Chair's comments

Launching the Report, the Chair of the Committee, Jack Straw, said:

"We were set up to solve a particular problem, but behind that problem we found a governance system in need of wider reform. At the centre of our recommendations is a commitment to openness, clarity and transparency.

This has been a demanding inquiry to tackle in the time available to us. It is the first Member-led investigation into how the Commons itself is run for 40 years. I would like to thank the Members, other witnesses and especially the many staff from all Departments of the House who have engaged with our inquiry and provided so much useful evidence. It became clear early on that there was a real thirst particularly amongst the many hundreds of staff of the Commons service for a fresh look at its management structures, led by MPs themselves.

Identifying the best possible governance arrangements in such a complex parliamentary environment is not easy: we have worked together to agree a set of proposals which we hope the House will now come together to support.

Our unanimous report sets out a coherent management and strategic leadership structure. The Member and official elements will be properly integrated for the first time. Clarity is brought to the respective roles of Members and officials. Taken together, our proposals provide a framework which enable the House of Commons to operate more effectively and efficiently and provide reinforcement to the development of a unified House Service."

Conclusions

The Committee's main conclusions were:

  • The House of Commons Commission should have an additional explicit statutory responsibility: to set the strategic framework for the provision of services to the House, its Members and the public
  • To support this enhanced role, and to reflect wider principles of good governance, its membership should be:
  1. The current ex officio members (Speaker (Chair), Leader of the House, Shadow Leader of the House)
  2. Four backbench members elected by the whole House and drawn one each from the three largest parties and the remaining Members
  3. Two external members
  4. Two official members;
  • The separate responsibilities of the Finance and Services Committee and the Administration Committee should be more clearly defined. Finance and Services should become a Finance Committee. The Administration Committee should have no more than 11 members
  • The four backbench Members of the Commission should have portfolio responsibilities, allocated to them by the Commission. For two of them this would include chairing the new Finance and Administration Committees. The other two should take on key strategic priorities
  • The Clerk of the House should remain Head of the House service, appointed by Letters Patent, but should not also be titled Chief Executive
  • A new post of Director General of the House of Commons should be created, reporting to the Clerk but with clearly delineated autonomous responsibilities for the delivery of services
  • The Clerk and the Director General of the House of Commons should be the two official members of the Commission
  • The Management Board should be replaced with an Executive Committee (in effect a sub-committee of the Commission) chaired by the Director General of the House of Commons and comprising in addition the Clerk, the Director of Finance and up to three other officials.
  • Structural changes are not enough to reform how an organisation operates: we have made important recommendations about changes to the culture of the House and its service which will be necessary to deliver the reforms we look for.
  • We were asked to report by 12 January, but to ensure that the House had as much time as possible to consider and act on our report before dissolution at the end of March, we set ourselves the tighter timetable of reporting by Christmas. We have set out a timetable for implementation which we believe is realistic and practicable, but will require support from across the House.
  • The ‘paused’ recruitment process for Clerk of the House/Chief Executive should be formally terminated.
  • We propose new recruitment processes for the Clerk of the House and the Director General of the House of Commons which are in line with modern recruitment practice.

The report can be ordered from The Stationery Office (0845 702 3474) or from the Houses of Parliament Shop (020 7219 3890).

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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