Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons

7 September 2006 Session 2005-06 No 12

Modernisation Committee publishes new proposals for the legislative process

Important changes to strengthen the way the House of Commons scrutinises legislation are proposed today in a report from the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, chaired by Commons Leader Jack Straw.

The report recommends replacing the current standing committee procedure with new 'Bill Committees' which would clear the way for greater use of expert witnesses in the legislative programme.

Mr Straw said the aim of the recommendation was to make Parliament more effective in the way in which it scrutinises legislation.

He said: "If agreed by the Commons, the old adversarial standing committee procedure would be replaced by new 'Bill Committees'. These would combine a more consensual select committee style examination of witnesses on the key issues, with detailed scrutiny of the text of bills."

The Committee's Report on The Legislative Process says Bill Committees could be introduced by making the present special Standing Committee procedure, which is currently available but little used, the norm.

The report, which builds on important reforms that have occurred since 1997, also recommends extending the use of pre-legislative scrutiny (PLS), the use of which has been praised by the committee. The committee concludes that PLS should not be confined to non controversial Bills.

Other proposals to make the legislative process more effective include recommendations to re-designate standing committees as "general committees"; improved provision of public information on Bills, detailed clauses and amendments; and support for the creation of "legislation gateways" on the internet, which would offer simplified summaries of each bill, as well as links to more detailed information.

Mr Straw added: "Underlying many of the recommendations is the aim to make the legislative process more accessible and understandable, especially to the public."