Scope of the inquiry
The Procedure Committee has decided to inquire into the process of establishing select committees at the start of a Parliament.
The Parliament opened in June 2017 was the third in which select committees were set up according to the procedures recommended in the Wright Committee’s reports of late 2009 and early 2010.
These procedures included the election of chairs of the majority of select committees by secret ballot, and the election of MPs to seats on select committees by secret ballot within parliamentary parties
In 2017, for the first time since the introduction of the new procedures, the membership of select committees was not proposed to the House until the September sitting. Some committees had to wait until mid-October to be established. The Liaison Committee was not established until 6 November and did not choose its chair and begin to exercise its functions under various standing orders until 13 November.
There was substantial disquiet inside and outside the House over the perceived delay in establishing departmental and other select committees and the apparent lack of committee scrutiny of the Government’s actions between June and September 2017.
Terms of reference
The Procedure Committee would like to invite written evidence to address any or all of the following issues:
Election of select committee chairs
- The process of determining the division of chairs between parties, and the present incentives for timely agreement
- The present arrangements for elections of chairs as set out in Standing Orders and operated under the Speaker’s direction
- The rationale for not making certain committee chair posts subject to election
- Whether candidates to be chair of a Committee ought to be required to commit to a certain period of service
- How Standing Order No. 122A, on chair term limits, could be revised to cover the principles set out in the Committee’s recent report, i.e. that the maximum term of service of a chair ought to be 10 years (the equivalent of two full fixed-term parliaments).
Electing Committee members
- The timetables for each parliamentary party to arrange for elections of committee members, and any relevant constraints on them
- Changes which might expedite the election of committee members by parties
- Difficulties (if any) in filling vacancies on committees
- Potential for delay in assembling the full list of proposed memberships for decision by the House
- The effect on the reputation and integrity of the select committee system of undue delay in the House’s appointment of its select committees
Establishing the Liaison Committee
- The consequences (if any) of the time taken to establish the Liaison Committee in 2017, including consequences for House business, such as debates on Estimates days, which require a decision of the Liaison Committee in order to proceed
- The process of constituting the Liaison Committee and choosing its Chair
Submitting written evidence
The deadline for written submissions is Friday 22 June 2018.