Select Committees

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North 12:00 am, 29th February 1988

To ask the hon. Member for Berwick upon Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what will be the total spending by each Select Committee on overseas visits by the end of financial year 1987–88; and what submissions were made by each committee to justify their journey.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

It is anticipated that the gross total outturn for 1987–88 for overseas travel will be the £290,865. I shall arrange for the total for each Committee to be published in the Official Report. The Commission has no knowledge of submissions made by individual Committees, as responsibility for deciding on such submissions within the budget determined by the Commission has been delegated to the Liaison Committee.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

I am not one of those hon. Members who feel that hon. Members should never travel abroad.

Anything that broadens the minds of hon. Members. particularly of Conservative Members, is welcome. However, will the hon. Gentleman concede that for hon. Members to go abroad with no programme of work, but just a desire to go abroad, brings an honourable system into disrepute? It may be seen as being part of a free-trips policy, with which I am sure hon. Members would not wish to be associated. In future, will the hon. Gentleman try to ensure that before hon. Members go abroad on Select Committee visits, the Select Committee has put forward a sensible programme of work to him, which should include the reasons for the visit?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

a: Some time ago the Commission took the decision that these matters were best dealt with by the Liaison Committee, to which each Committee must defend its proposed visits. The House has seen fit to set up Select Committees and give them responsibilities, which include considering the overseas activities of Government Departments and the implications for the House of matters that take place overseas. It is now the job of the Liaison Committee to spend appropriately within a budget on that work.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the opposite of broad-mindedness is narrow-mindedness? It would not be in the best interests of Parliament or the Government if the House were to adopt the policies that the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Allen) has espoused. Insulting remarks have been directed towards the Chairmen of Committees, but those Chairmen go to a great deal of trouble to ensure that the work is correct for those who go overseas and that reports that the Committees make to the House are in the best interests of everyone.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Liaison Committee is chaired by the right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who takes these considerations into account very carefully when doing his work.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether this expenditure on Select Committees is a record? As they were set up so late, they seem to have got through a remarkable amount of money.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

The total amount budgeted for has increased by roughly no more than the rate of inflation year by year, but the Commission has taken the view that the expenditure for the current year should be underspent in view of the late time in the Session that the Committees were set up. No doubt, when the total outturn is seen, that will be taken into account by the Commission when looking at next year's total.

Following is the information:

The gross total expenditure expected to be incurred by each select committee on overseas travel in financial year 1987–88 is as follows:
Select CommitteesProjected yearending out-turn
Education Science and Arts10,043(10,043)
European Legislation28,993(1,730)
Foreign Affairs42,616(748)
Home Affairs15,139(206)
Select CommitteesProjected yearending out-turn
Social Services2,235(2,235)
Trade and Industry49,142(4,788)
Treasury and Civil Service316(316)


The figures in brackets show expenditure incurred in respect of visits made prior to 31 March 1987, which has been brought to account in the current financial year. Much of the rest of the projected expenditure comprises estimates of the cost of overseas travel not yet undertaken but planned for the period up to 31 March. Actual expenditures may eventually be somewhat lower, depending on the number of persons travelling.