The House should be given the opportunity to restate its acceptance of the principle behind the proposal that lay members be added to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Procedure Committee concludes in a report published today.
If that principle is restated, the House should study with care the arguments made for the inclusion of lay members with or without voting rights, and decide whether lay members should be appointed to the committee with full voting rights or whether they should be appointed with more limited rights protected by rules on quorum and publication of their opinion or advice.
A decision in favour of membership with full voting rights would require legislation to be brought forward to put beyond reasonable doubt any question of whether parliamentary privilege applies to the Committee on Standards where it has an element of lay membership.
The committee's report responds to the resolution of the House of 2 December last year inviting it to bring forward proposals to implement the proposal of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that lay members should sit on the Committee on Standards and Privileges.
The Procedure Committee recommends that the Committee on Standards and Privileges should be split in two, and that lay members should be included only on the committee relating to standards.
The committee also makes a number of practical recommendations about the number, appointment and term of office of lay members.
Comment from the Chair
Committee Chair Rt Hon Greg Knight MP said
Our report contains a range of recommendations which clearly illustrates how the question of adding lay members to a parliamentary committee has both far-reaching implications for parliamentary privilege and a much less weighty but still significant impact on parliamentary expenditure and facilities. We consider that it is essential that the House take this path only in full awareness of the arguments set out in our report.
Only once the House has weighed those arguments can an informed decision be taken on whether to appoint lay members to the committee responsible for disciplining Members of Parliament for breaches of the Code of Conduct and what safeguards need to be put in place if such appointments are to be made to ensure that the committee can continue to work confident in the protection of parliamentary privilege.
The House has an important decision to take. We hope that our report will help ensure that it takes that decision in an informed way."