PASC 04-05 PN 7

Session 2004-05

Press Notice 7


PASC URGES PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONS FOR MAJOR INQUIRIES

PASC-the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee-today urges that Parliament should once again be given a central role in investigating major failures and scandals in Government.

A Committee Report (HC 51-I) published today criticises the Government's Inquiries Bill, currently in the House of Lords, for giving Ministers too much say in the way their actions are investigated, and says it is part of a long-term decline in Parliament's role in the process of public inquiries.

To correct that decline, the Committee says there should be a range of improvements to parliamentary scrutiny. Among other things, it recommends a new mechanism which would enable Parliament to initiate inquiries in cases where Ministers may be unwilling to do so. It urges the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission of inquiry, composed of parliamentarians and others, in cases where the conduct of ministers is involved.

Other reforms recommended in the wide-ranging Report include:

·    Measures to ensure that Parliament and the public have a chance to comment on the scope of major inquiries;

·    New rules to ensure that the independence of inquiry chairs is protected and that inquiry reports are published in a way that is fair to all;

·    Ministers' decisions about the appointment of judges to chair inquiries to have the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice or the senior law lord;

·    Mechanisms to keep inquiry length and costs under control; and

·    Better follow-up so that the lessons of inquiries are properly learned in government departments.

Commenting today, Committee Chairman Tony Wright MP said:

"We welcome the fact that the Government is legislating to codify the inquiry process, which plays an important role in our public life, but we do not want to see Parliament removed from the picture.

"This is why we are proposing that there should be a Parliamentary Commission established in those politically contentious cases where the conduct of government is an issue.

"There is a real challenge for Parliament here, if it wants to reclaim territory that it has lost to the executive, and I hope our proposals will enable it to rise to this challenge".

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For further information please telephone Philip Aylett, Clerk of the Committee on 020 7219 3498.  Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

Publications and evidence, including uncorrected evidence, is also available on the Internet at

www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee.cfm

For information regarding forthcoming meetings including venues and times please call the House of Commons Committee Information Line on 020 7219 2033 (updated daily).

NOTE FOR EDITORS: The Committee was nominated on 16 July 2001.  Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service.  The members are:

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase)
Annette Brooke (Lim Dem) (Mid Dorset and Poole North)
Mrs Anne Campbell (Lab) (Cambridge)
Sir Sydney Chapman (Con) (Chipping Barnet)
Mr David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne)
Mr Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North)
Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater)
Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle)
Hon Michael Trend (Con) (Windsor)
Mr Brian White (Lab) (Milton Keynes North East)
Mr Iain Wright (Lab) (Hartlepool)