Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:15 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Minister of State), Government Equalities Office, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 10:15 pm, 28th October 2008

I shall have to come back to the hon. Gentleman on that. It is my understanding that the number is usually six, but if I have to correct that statement later after having been more suitably informed, I reserve the right to do so. In the end, it is for the Committee of Selection to decide.

Part B provides that the Chairman of the new Committee shall be a member of the Liaison Committee. Part C provides for European Union documents falling within the Department's responsibility to be referred by the European Scrutiny Committee to a European General Committee for debate.

All departmental Select Committees operate under the same system. There are, however, two Committees of the House that have rather different functions: the Public Accounts Committee, which dates back to 1861 and is the oldest of the House's Committees, and the Environmental Audit Committee, which, as I have said, was established as a result of a Labour manifesto commitment in 1997. That Committee, chaired by the hon. Member for South Suffolk, has taken the lead in examining climate change issues across Government and has covered wider topics, for instance through its highly respected annual analysis of the environmental implications of the pre-Budget report and its work on sustainable development. I pay tribute to its members, many of whom have, both personally and from within the Committee, led the debate on these issues, as we have witnessed today in the Chamber.

Clearly, there is the potential for overlap between the Environmental Audit Committee and the new Committee that we hope to set up tonight, but that is nothing new. Both departmental and non-departmental Select Committees have always adopted a flexible approach to their terms of reference, which is a good thing as it allows for joined-up scrutiny free from the sometimes artificial boundaries of departmental responsibilities. Moreover, the Environmental Audit Committee is very much akin to the Public Accounts Committee, whose cross-departmental remit has not been obviated by the existence of the Treasury Committee. We are reluctant to abolish the Environmental Audit Committee, as we believe it still performs an effective and important role in monitoring environmental issues at a cross-departmental level. We would, therefore, like to wait and see how the two Committees work together before taking any long-term decisions about the future of the Environmental Audit Committee.

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