The House of Commons Administration explained

The House of Commons is governed and managed by a group of MPs and others who make up the House of Commons Commission. The day to day running of the House is delegated by the Commission to the senior officials who form the House of Commons Executive Committee.

The House of Commons Commission

The Commission is responsible for the administration and services of the House of Commons, including the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster and the rest of the Parliamentary Estate.

Once a year the Commission presents to the House for its approval the 'Estimate for House of Commons: Administration', covering spending on the administration and services of the House for the financial year. The Commission meets approximately once a month in Speaker’s House.

The Commission provides the non-executive governance of the House by Members, but it does not manage day to day operations. Until July 2015 it had delegated this power to the senior officials who made up the House of Commons Management Board. These responsibilities will now fall to the newly appointed Executive Committee.

The new Executive Committee’s main delegated responsibilities are delivery of the strategy as agreed by the Commission and ensuring that the terms and conditions of staff are consistent with the Commission’s statutory duties. The Executive Committee comprises the Director General of the House of Commons as chair, the Clerk of the House of Commons, the head of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services, the head of the Department of Facilities, the Director of Finance, the head of the Department of Human Resources and Change, the head of the Department of Information Services and two external members.  In addition the Executive Committee may co-opt the Director of the Parliamentary Digital Service and/or the Parliamentary Security Director into its membership.

The Commission is not responsible for expenditure on Members’ salaries, pensions and allowances. Members' pensions are considered by the Members Estimate Committee, which has the same membership as the Commission. Salaries and allowances are considered by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

Questions to the Commission

Rt Hon Tom Brake MP answers both oral and written questions on behalf of the Commission.

The House of Commons Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is responsible for the management of the services provided by the Departments of the House of Commons.

The Executive Committee was established in its new form by the House of Commons Commission on 25 April 2016. Its terms of reference are as follows:

  1. The Executive Committee acts as a sub-committee of the Commission and is accountable to it..
  2. Its membership is the Clerk, the Director General (chair) and the Managing Director of Corporate Services in her/his role as Finance Director.
  3. Its responsibilities are:

    • To be accountable to the Commission for the delivery of the strategy for the House of Commons Administration
    • To support the Board in the development of strategies
    • To hold the Board to account for delivery of and performance against the strategy
    • To provide assurance and hold the Board to account on risk.
    • To support the Corporate Officer and Accounting Officer in meeting his/her statutory duties.
    • To fulfil the responsibilities delegated to it by the House of Commons Commission, as set out in the instrument of delegation.
  4. It has a general duty to support the Clerk in the exercise of his/her responsibilities as Head of the House of Commons Service, and to support the Director General in the exercise of his/her responsibilities..

It may where appropriate invite others to attend, for example the Head of Digital Services or the Clerk of the Parliaments. In particular Digital Services, as a joint department, will need to have a relationship at Executive Committee for strategy, at Board for operations and at day-to-day as a partner in change and business as usual.

The Board

The Board was established by the previous Executive Committee in its report of the Director General’s Review, as endorsed by the Commission on 25 April. It has been agreed that this arrangement will be reviewed after a year. At the end of the Stepping Up implementation phase, ExCo, with guidance from The Board, will decide the scope of the review, and who will conduct it.

The terms of reference for The Board are as follows:

  1. The Board is accountable to the ExCo.
  2. Board members are selected by ExCo to contribute to:

    • the overall running of the organisation, 
    • the strategic development of the organisation, 
    • key initiatives for the organisation; and
    • to drive efficient use of resources.
  3. Board members are not simply there by virtue of running a department or functional area.
  4. The Clerk has a standing invitation to attend, ex officio, and receives all Board papers.
  5. The Board is responsible for:.

    • the delivery of the House’s strategic objectives;
    • the efficient and effective conduct of business;
    • regular performance and risk management;
    • addressing operational issues and managing performance KPIs;   
    • developing strategies for the House administration; and
    • supporting the Executive Committee in fulfilling the responsibilities delegated to it by the House of Commons Commission.
  6. The Board meets weekly and as necessary

Internal Audit Service

The objective of Internal Audit is to provide the Clerk, as Accounting Officer, with an independent and objective evaluation of the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the House's arrangements for governance, risk management and control.

This is achieved through a programme of work across a range of the House's activities that should provide sufficient coverage of the major areas and a selection of others based on risk and rotation.

Audit Committees

The House of Commons has two Audit Committees, the Administration Estimate Audit Committee and the Members Estimate Audit Committee, which share the same membership. Committee members include both MPs and external experts; the Chair is one of the external members of the Commission. The Committees have oversight of the work of Internal Audit, with particular emphasis on promoting economy, efficiency and effectiveness, on value-for-money studies, and on risk assessment and control assurance.
The Committees receive and consider reports from Internal Audit and other sources and make an annual report which is published with the House of Commons Commission's Annual Report.

National Audit Office

The National Audit Office provides an external audit function. It audits the Resource Accounts (both Administration and Members Estimates) which are prepared by the House Service.  The head of the NAO, the Comptroller & Auditor General, gives an opinion on whether the accounts present a “true and fair view” as well as on the “regularity” of the expenditure.  The NAO’s focus is primarily on the financial accounts.

Annual Letters of Assurance

The Clerk of the House issues delegation letters to the heads of each department of the House on appointment, and they receive an annual budget letter. They submit to him an annual letter of assurance, setting out how they have ensured the effective and efficient management of the responsibilities delegated to them and their department by the Clerk.