HC Deb 17 July 2001 vol 372 cc152-4
45. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

What plans he has to bring forward proposals to reform the way in which the House scrutinises the Executive and proposed legislation. [2626]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Stephen Twigg)

Improvements have already been made. Not only is there a new forum in Westminster Hall, but the Standing Order changes agreed by the House on 5 July should make it easier for Select Committees to work together and with their counterparts in the Lords to scrutinise Government.

The Government have experimented with Second Reading Committees and Special Standing Committees and brought forward Bills for pre-legislative scrutiny, as my right hon. Friend the President of the Council said. We will continue to do so.

Fiona Mactaggart

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and welcome him to his new post. Over the past 24 hours, we have spoken a lot about pre-legislative scrutiny. It is my view that, in the debate yesterday, there was a certain amount of complacency about the great respect in which Select Committees are held. Our right hon. Friend the President of the Council has given an undertaking to arrange for an inquiry into Select Committee membership. Will he ensure that the Modernisation Committee follows that up with a good look at other ways to improve the powers of Select Committees, in order that they can more effectively scrutinise the Executive? Unless they have the power—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call the Minister.

Mr. Twigg

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind remarks in welcoming me to my post. My right hon. Friend the President of the Council made it clear yesterday that the methods for the appointment of Members to Select Committees would be at the top of the agenda of the new Modernisation Committee, which is convened tomorrow. That does not preclude our looking at broader issues about the powers and role of Select Committees. That will form part of the work of the Modernisation Committee, and be raised in broader debates involving other Committees.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Speaking as one who has been recently re-elected to the House, one of my observations is that, in the past four years, all too often Ministers have made statements on radio programmes or in arenas other than the House, whereas they should have come to the House to explain their actions to hon. Members. What will the Minister do to put that right?

Mr. Twigg

I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the House. I believe that it is important that, whenever possible, statements be made in the Chamber. We shall do our best to ensure that that happens.

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