Performance and Innovation Unit Report: Implementation

– in the House of Lords at 2:50 pm on 31st January 2000.

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Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat 2:50 pm, 31st January 2000

asked the Leader of the House:

What steps she plans to take to implement Conclusions 28 and 29 of Wiring it Up, the January report of the Performance and Innovation Unit, in so far as they relate to the House of Lords.

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, the Government fully endorse the overall conclusions of the PIU report that cross-cutting policy issues should be more effectively handled. On the specific conclusions to which the noble Lord's Question refers--on extending and improving the work of cross-cutting committees in the House of Lords--the House does, of course, already have cross-cutting committees such as the one on science and technology and the ad hoc committee on the public service. In the short term, changes to those committees and their workings would need to be decided by the Liaison Committee. In the longer-term, general changes might best be considered in the context of further reform of the House.

Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept from me that that was a typically disappointing Answer? Whenever questions are raised about having more Select Committees in your Lordships' House, the Government always give reasons for an amazing amount of delay. Will the noble Baroness give an assurance on two points: first, that this issue, which is of considerable importance to the management of government policy in this country, will be addressed by the authorities of the House in this Parliament as a matter of urgency; and, secondly, when it is addressed, that the establishment of any new Select Committees will not be delayed or rejected because of a shortage of Clerks, rooms or any other resource?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord finds my Answer disappointing. I thought I was illustrating that your Lordships' House is rather well advanced in tackling these cross-cutting issues, as the PIU report suggested Parliament should be. Apart from the two examples that I gave in my original Answer, we also have a cross-cutting committee on Europe and had one on sustainable development. All of those committees look at cross-cutting policy issues. Of course, the practical arrangements for the establishment of these committees are, as I said originally, in the hands of your Lordships in general and the specific committees of the House.

Photo of Lord Peston Lord Peston Labour

My Lords, can my noble friend enlarge on her Answer? One of the points that puzzles some of us who have been here for quite a time is that, for the most part, nothing ever happens in the House. If one wants something to happen, either one has to be extremely disagreeable or one must accept that no progress will be made. Can my noble friend say who, on a matter of this kind, we should regard as the driving force? If we wish to see more resources made available so that noble Lords can do their job properly, who is the person who not merely answers questions but actually sees to it that something happens?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am delighted to say to my noble friend that I hope that it is not necessary to be disagreeable, although sometimes I have been described in that way in seeking to effect change in your Lordships' House, which on the whole has been successful. My noble friend raised the question of responsibility for the arrangements in your Lordships' House. I say to my noble friend--I speak to him as someone of far greater experience in terms of his membership of the House than I--that these matters have always been a question of self-regulation and of decision by the relevant committees and that they will be taken forward in that way. As I said in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, we entirely agree with the underlying need to improve the organisation and scrutiny of cross-cutting issues within government. The role played by your Lordships in that has, I should have thought, been usefully demonstrated in the number of committees to which I have already referred.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

My Lords, it is very interesting to hear the noble Baroness refer to the changes which so far have been "successful". Perhaps she would like to expand on that rather novel thought, particularly as the changes are, from the point of view of a very detached observer, hardly complete.

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will recognise that I did not refer to anything being complete. In fact, in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, I said that further consideration of these issues in a more general context was probably appropriately dealt with in the context of further reform. On this side of the House at least, we believe that some of the changes that have occurred have been very useful and successful.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, my noble friend, no doubt inadvertently, did not reply to the specific point raised by my noble friend Lord Peston as to whom one should mither to achieve objectives about the management of your Lordships' House. At the moment, as far as concerns costs, as I am sure my noble friend will agree, we spend far less than the other place. I hope my noble friend can confirm that the question of costs will not apply to the setting up of new Select Committees. I have in mind in particular the proposal put forward from all sides of the House to set up a Select Committee on the Bank of England and its Monetary Policy Committee. Can she confirm that that will still be dealt with properly by her or whoever is responsible?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am fascinated to receive this sequence of questions from very experienced Members of your Lordships' House which appear to suggest that the Government have executive power in the House. I sometimes wish that that were so. It is unfortunately not so. My noble friend referred to "mithering". If I interpret his point correctly, he is asking to whom he should complain. In my view, he should complain, if that is what he is suggesting, to the relevant chairmen of the relevant committees which make these decisions about the Select Committees that are in existence or are proposed.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Donington Lord Bruce of Donington Labour

My Lords, without in any way querying the desirability of having innovations in the proceedings of your Lordships' House, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness whether the Government are prepared at long last to ensure that the committee rooms are improved from the acoustic standpoint. Your Lordships will recall that I have raised this matter on many previous occasions. May we have a little action in order to ensure that these innovations may come to their full fruition so that everyone in the committee rooms can be heard?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am sure that there would be no question of my noble friend not being heard. On his broader point, I am sure that all those involved in making these executive decisions are either hearing directly the exchanges in your Lordships' House this afternoon or will read and appreciate them in Hansard.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, am I right in thinking that there is no committee on the Bank of England? Therefore, how does one go to the chairman of a non-existent committee?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I was making reference to the point that I thought my noble friend Lord Barnett was making--I may have misinterpreted him--that he wanted to make representations about the establishment of a new committee. As I said in my very first Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that would presumably be a question for the Liaison Committee and, in so far as it was a question of broader policy on committee structure, it might be very helpful for him to talk to the Chairman of Committees.