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Decisions 21 October 2002

Monday 21 October 2002 at 5pm in Speaker's House


The Speaker, in the Chair
Mr Stuart Bell
Mr Robin Cook
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr Eric Forth
Mr Archy Kirkwood 

1.  Reports from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the National Audit Office (NAO) : Portcullis House, the construction of the new Parliamentary building

The Director of Finance and Administration and the Director of Finance Policy were present.

The Commission agreed its response to the reports of the PAC and NAO [published on 30 October as HC 1261.]

The House of Commons Commission - First Report

2.  Retention of records in the Department of Finance and Administration

The Director of Finance and Administration was present.

On the advice of the Director of Finance and Administration, the Commission approved the following approach to the retention of financial documents in the Department of Finance and Administration:

Information about pensions

up to 12 years after payment of last benefit under the policy concerned

Aggregate accounting information from the general ledger

6 years after the year of  transaction

Detailed information about individual transactions including receipts, invoices, warrants etc

3 years after the year of transaction

3.  Report of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons: Modernisation of the House of Commons: a reform programme

The Director of Finance and Administration was present.

The Commission noted that the Modernisation Committee's Report was due to be debated in the House the following week.  Commissioners agreed that, if the Report's recommendations were agreed, it would be difficult to make firm estimates of financial and staffing implications until the House and Committees had begun adapting to the new hours.  There would be major implications in three key areas relating to staffing: late night duty, morning start times and leave arrangements.  The Commission asked the Board of Management to monitor the effects of any changes approved by the House, and to keep the Commission informed of emerging implications.

The Commission agreed that in the debate Mr Bell should set out the Commission's position, and that it would seek to ensure that staff were enabled to continue to deliver high quality services and were not overall disadvantaged or demotivated by changes.

4.  Broadcasting Committee: request for access to Commission papers on the operation and funding of parliamentary broadcasting

The Broadcasting Committee had requested copies of the papers of the Commission at the time that the licences for parliamentary broadcasting were last agreed.  The Commission did not accede to this request, but agreed that the Committee should be asked to advise when the present licences and contracts were due for renewal.

5.  Catering Committee Report: Refreshment Facilities in the House of Commons

The Commission reviewed the recommendations made by the Catering Committee in its Report and asked for an analysis of their implications from House officials. 

6.  Information Committee Report: Digital Technology: Working for Parliament and the public

The Commission referred the Report to the Finance and Services Committee for advice on the financial implications.

7.  Visitor tours: progress

The Commission reviewed the progress that had been made in implementing its decisions on visitor tours (see April to July 2002 termly report), and asked that Members be informed of the details of the new arrangements.

8.  Works of Art

The Commission considered the role and work of the Advisory Committee on Works of Art and asked for information on the implications of formally registering the House's art collection with Resource.  Points made during discussion included:

  • that the Commons Advisory Committee and the Lords Panel had a constructive relationship and occasionally met jointly, but that since the two Houses' collections were separate (although complementary) the greater formality of a joint committee was not needed;
  • that acquiring museum status for the House's collection would confirm the high standards of care and conservation which the House maintained, but might be seen to detract from the House's primary roles.

The Commission agreed to task the Finance and Services Committee with consideration of merchandising works of art, with the advice of the Advisory Committee on Works of Art.