Government underestimates our resolve, say Committee Chairs

24 January 2013

"The Government has not yet recognised the changed mood in the House and the strength of our resolve to achieve change" says the House of Commons Liaison Committee – which brings together the Chairs of all the select committees which scrutinise the work of Government.

The Committee today publishes the Government's responses to two of its reports (on Select Committee effectiveness, resources and powers (Third Report) and on Select Committees and Public Appointments) (First Special Report) with a short report and progress update.

The Committee says:

  • It will be seeking the endorsement of the House of Commons in a debate on its conclusions about committee powers and effectiveness, and it will continue to press for progress.
  • While it welcomes the positive tone of the Government response, it is not yet convinced that the Government has fully accepted the need for a new partnership approach with Parliament
  • The Government's response on select committees’ role in public appointments gives disappointingly little ground. The response fails to accept the need for parliamentary accountability of political appointments and important diplomatic posts.

The Liaison Committee's report on Select Committee effectiveness, resources and powers, published last November, recommended that the Government engage with it in a review of the relationship between Government and select committees with the aim of producing joint guidelines for departments and committees, which recognise ministerial accountability, the proper role of the Civil Service and the legitimate wish of Parliament for more effective accountability. It also made detailed recommendations to support select committees in developing their own strategies to improve the way Ministers, Departments and Agencies are held to account.

The Committee has obtained the agreement of the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on its report on Thursday 31 January. It will ask the House to agree a motion endorsing the Committee's best practice recommendations and calling for a new compact between Parliament and Government, recognising the public interest in greater accountability.

Chair's comments

Sir Alan Beith, Chair of the Liaison Committee, said:

"Many MPs now see their work in select committees as the most important and effective part of their work in Parliament.  There is growing self-confidence among select committees this Parliament. Our report showed that – strengthened by the Wright reforms and the new mood in the House – they are having a definite impact on Government, and it is good to see the Government acknowledging that. But the Government does not yet seem to have fully absorbed the extent to which our expectations have changed. We really meant what we said about wanting more effective accountability and that requires a changed approach from Government. We'll be looking to get the House of Commons' support for this in a debate next week"

Further information

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