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Select Committees

Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 5th March 2015.

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Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Conservative, Daventry 9:30 am, 5th March 2015

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Select Committees since 2010.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

During this Parliament, reforms have been implemented to elect Chairs of Select Committees and to allow them to make statements on the Floor of the House and in Westminster Hall. That has led to a stronger mandate for Chairs of Select Committees, increased visibility of their recommendations and therefore a corresponding increase in their effectiveness.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Conservative, Daventry

Using his 26 years of experience of this place, will the Leader of the House agree that the election of Select Committee Chairs has been a significant development in the reform of this place and in giving power back to Back Benchers? What ideas does he have to give more power to Back Benchers in the future?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It has been a very significant reform. Indeed, it is one of the most significant reforms since the establishment in 1979 of the Select Committee system as we know it today. Both that reform in 1979 and this reform in 2010 took place under Conservative Leaders of the House of Commons. Members across the House will continue to use the increased opportunities that are now provided for greater independence for Back-Bench Members, but consideration of what procedural changes are needed for that are really now matters for the next Parliament.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I confess that I have several ideas on that front. I will send Chris Heaton-Harris a copy of my lecture to the Hansard Society of last Monday. If he fancies a cup of tea with me at any time I am happy to encourage him.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I speak as a member both of the Public Administration Committee and of the European Scrutiny Committee. Does the Leader of the House accept that the effectiveness of such Committees depends more on the Government responding to their conclusions and recommendations than on what the Select Committees do?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Of course that is an important part of it. The Government do respond thoroughly to Select Committee reports and bring many recommendations to the Floor of the House. We will be announcing in Business Questions a debate on the Floor of the House on two recommendations of the European Scrutiny Committee. Of course it is important for Governments to respond constructively.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

Select Committees are a highly effective way of holding Governments to account. Does the Leader of the House agree with the all-party group on women in Parliament, ably led by my hon. Friend Mary Macleod, that, on the day we will be debating international women’s day, it is time to set up a women and equalities Select Committee, which is led by this House, to ensure that continued progress on these important matters is maintained?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The all-party group on women in Parliament made some very interesting and important recommendations that need to be considered by parties in the House as well as by the House as a whole. With regard to the specific recommendation to set up a Select Committee, it is not feasible to do so in the final few weeks of a Parliament; that is a matter for a new Parliament. Personally, I have a lot of sympathy with the idea, but it will be necessary to find a reduction elsewhere in the number of Select Committees to accommodate a new one.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

Does the Leader of the House agree that sufficient time should be allowed for the pre-legislative scrutiny by Select Committees? For example, the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, of which I am a member, was critical of the way in which the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was steamrollered through Parliament by the Deputy Prime Minister in 2011.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It is of course important to carry out such scrutiny whenever possible. In this Parliament, we have a good record in that regard; there has been more pre-legislative scrutiny than has happened before under any previous Parliament. There will still be scope for improvement in Parliaments to come.