Liaison Committee: Press Notice

4 April 2008

Government must engage positively with select committees, say MPs

The Liaison Committee's annual report, entitled The work of committees in 2007 (HC 427), is published today (April 4). It demonstrates the high annual output of select committees, which held 632 public meetings and published 345 substantial reports in the 2006-07 parliamentary session. The Liaison Committee itself holds unique, twice-yearly in depth evidence sessions with the Prime Minister. In 2007, it held two of these with the former Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair, and one with his successor, Rt Hon Gordon Brown.

The report welcomes the publication of the Government's draft legislative programme, which has the potential to further enhance committees' engagement with the legislative process.

However, it expresses disappointment at the comparatively small number of draft bills published by the Government and concern at the lack of time to conduct proper pre-legislative scrutiny of these bills. While the Government's intention to increase the number of draft bills it publishes in 2008 is welcome, sufficiently early publication of such bills is a necessary condition for proper scrutiny, it says. The report also criticises the Government for lack of proper consultation over arrangements for scrutinising draft bills.

The Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Alan Williams MP, said:

"Reports from select committees clearly play a role in identifying flaws in policy and means to correct those flaws. While we were encouraged by the heightened emphasis on parliamentary scrutiny in the Government's draft legislative programme, willingness to engage with Parliament is still not widespread enough. We would encourage all departments to look upon parliamentary scrutiny as an important process rather than a necessary evil, as sometimes seems to be the case."

The Liaison Committee is appointed to consider general matters relating to the work of select committees; to advise the House of Commons Commission on select committees; to choose select committee reports for debate in the House; and to hear evidence from the Prime Minister on matters of public policy.

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