The House of Commons Commission
At the head of the governance structure is the House of Commons Commission. It is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, a sitting MP elected to the position of Speaker through a ballot of all MPs. The other members are the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader of the House (or another MP appointed by the Opposition) and three backbench MPs from the three largest parties. The Commission is legally responsible, under the House of Commons Administration Act 1978, for the administration of the House of Commons, including staff and finance. The Commission signs off the annual budget for the House and approves all major changes to the structure of the House of Commons Service.
The Commission is advised by two committees of MPs, the Finance and Services Committee and the Administration Committee, which acts as a channel of communication from MPs in general. Members of the Commission also sit on the Members Estimate Committee, which formerly considered MPs’ expenses; that function was largely transferred to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in 2010.
The Commission provides the non-executive governance of the House by Members, but it does not manage day to day operations. As noted above, it has delegated this power to the House of Commons Executive Committee, by an Instrument of Delegation.
The House of Commons Executive Committee
The Executive Committee oversees the operational functions of the House and develops the House’s policies, budgets and strategic planning, which are endorsed by the Commission.
The Committee currently consists of the Clerk of the House (who is its interim Chair) and the Heads of the five House departments. The Director of the Parliamentary Digital Service is a co-opted member. On arrival, the Director General will join the Committee as its Chair.
Below the Executive Committee are the five departments, which make up the House of Commons Service. These are Chamber and Committee Services, Facilities, Finance, Human Resources and Change, and Information Services. The Parliamentary Digital Service is a joint department of both Houses. The Governance Office sits outside the departmental structure and supports the Clerk of the House and the Executive Committee in functions such as strategic and business planning, risk management, coordination of business resilience, internal communications and internal audit.
Both the Commission/Members Estimate Committee and the Executive Committee are advised by the House’s two Audit Committees: the Administration Estimate Audit Committee and the Members Estimate Audit Committee.
The Executive Committee seeks to provide assurance to the Commission that that its arrangements for running the House are working effectively. This assurance is provided in a number of ways.
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.
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 the external member of the Executive Committee. 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.