Select Committees

Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 13 November 2008.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 10:30, 13 November 2008

If she will bring forward proposals for Select Committees to conduct more of their business in public.

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

We have no plans to do so, because we believe that the historical tradition of this House, whereby Select Committees deliberate in private but take evidence in public, is the right way forward.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

Will the Deputy Leader of the House reflect on the fact that last night, despite all the efforts of the Labour Whips, our motion to open up the European Scrutiny Committee to the public was defeated by only six votes? The Committee sifts European proposals, which are eventually responsible for more than half of all the laws and regulations in this country. Will he therefore introduce amended proposals to allow the public into our proceedings, so that they can see what we do, on their behalf, about that torrent of legislation? If not, will he stop pretending that the Government are in any way in favour of the public's right to know and their engagement with the political process, as that will have been exposed as a hollow sham?

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

The right hon. Gentleman certainly lost the argument comprehensively. There is a more important point to be made. If we changed the rules on when Select Committees meet in private and when they meet in public, he would immediately start to complain —[ Interruption. ] The shadow Leader of the House will have her moment. If we changed the rules in the House regarding when Select Committees meet in private and in public, the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to complain when a member of a Select Committee started to release private information from the Committee's process of deliberation when a report was being drafted. We know perfectly well that it is up to Select Committees to choose when they meet in private or in public, but the historic tradition enforced by successive Speakers is the right one.