The House of Commons Administration explained
The House of Commons is governed and managed by a group of MPs and others who make up the House of Commons Commission. The day to day running of the House is delegated by the Commission to the senior officials who form the House of Commons Executive Board.
The House of Commons Commission
The Commission is responsible for the administration and services of the House of Commons, including the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster and the rest of the Parliamentary Estate.
Once a year the Commission presents to the House for its approval the 'Estimate for House of Commons: Administration', covering spending on the administration and services of the House for the financial year. The Commission meets approximately once a month in Speaker's House.
The Commission provides the non-executive governance of the House by Members, but it does not manage day to day operations. These are delegated to the Commons Executive Board.
The Commons Executive Board's main delegated responsibilities are delivery of the strategy as agreed by the Commission and ensuring that the terms and conditions of staff are consistent with the Commission's statutory duties. The Commons Executive Board is chaired by the Clerk of the House of Commons; see the full membership of the Commons Executive Board for further details.
The Commission is not responsible for expenditure on Members' salaries, pensions and allowances. Members' pensions are considered by the Members Estimate Committee, which has the same membership as the Commission. Salaries and allowances are considered by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
Questions to the Commission
Pete Wishart MP answers both oral and written questions on behalf of the Commission.
The House of Commons Executive Board
The Commons Executive Board is responsible for the management of the services provided by the teams and offices of the House of Commons.
The Commons Executive Board was established in its new form by the House of Commons Commission on 20 November 2017. Its terms of reference are as follows:
The Commons Executive Board provides leadership for the House of Commons Service. It acts as a sub-committee of the Commission and is accountable to it.
Its responsibilities are:
- To assist the Commission in setting strategic objectives for the House of Commons Administration, and to be accountable to the Commission for the delivery of the strategy.
- To assist the Finance Committee in the preparation of the Estimates and of other papers relating to those Votes, before their submission to the House of Commons Commission; and to carry out such other functions relating to the expenditure on the administration of House of Commons services as may from time to time be allocated to it by the Commission.
- To fulfil the statutory responsibilities delegated to it by the House of Commons Commission in relation to the employment of House staff.
- To direct the House of Commons Administration, deciding policy and operational issues as delegated to it by the Commission, the Speaker or the Clerk, managing performance KPIs and driving efficient use of resources.
- To provide assurance to the Audit and Risk Committee on the management and mitigation of risk.
- To support the Clerk in the exercise of his/her responsibilities as Corporate Officer, Accounting Officer and Head of the House of Commons Service, and to support the Director General in the exercise of his/her responsibilities.
The Commons Executive Board is committed to creating a unified House Service, listening to staff and involving senior leaders through the Strategy Delivery Group and the Commons Leadership Forum. Its members are not simply there by virtue of running a Team or functional area. It is also committed to working in partnership with the House of Lords Management Board.
The Clerk, the Director General and the Director of Finance are empowered to meet before and after each Commission meeting together with the Head of the Governance Office, and in order to consider matters relating to staff pay and any other matter as so decided by the Commons Executive Board.
Core membership (9 in total):
- Clerk of the House (Chair)
- Director General
- Clerk Assistant and Managing Director, Chamber and Committees
- Librarian and Managing Director, Participation and Research and Information; Managing Director,
- Corporate Services and Finance Director
- Managing Director, In-House Services
- Director of the Parliamentary Digital Service
- Director of Security for Parliament
- Managing Director, Strategic Estates
In addition, regular attendees will include:
- The Head of the Governance Office
- The Head of Communications
- The Customer Director
- The Director of People
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 one of the external members of the Commission. 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 team 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 team by the Clerk.