HC Deb 17 July 2001 vol 372 c154
46. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

What proposals he has to enhance the scrutiny role of parliamentary committees. [2627]

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook)

I have already responded to recommendations of the Liaison Committee to give greater freedom to Select Committees to decide for themselves to appoint Sub-Committees or Joint Committees. There are further proposals in the reports of the Liaison Committee and of the Hansard Society on which I want to consult, such as the proposal for a weekly slot of a half hour after Question Time to consider topical reports. I have given the House an undertaking that, tomorrow, I shall ask the Modernisation Committee to review the process of nominations to Select Committees to ensure their independence. If we reach agreement, I would intend to report to the House in the autumn.

Helen Jackson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a tendency in the House for every hon. Member—100 per cent. of us—to mouth the platitude that it is absolutely crucial that we enhance Parliament's role of scrutinising the Executive? However, do we not also tend to vote to leave the House's procedures largely unchanged? Does he agree that keeping our procedures as they are will neither modernise Committees nor enhance their powers? Does he also agree that every hon. Member should be allocated work on a Committee to enhance their role as a Member of Parliament?

Mr. Cook

I very much welcome the momentum for reform that was gathered last night, and I hope that we shall be able to take that forward to achieve real reforms both in the ways in which Select Committees are set up and the ways in which they are able to exercise their powers of scrutiny.

My hon. Friend raised the possibility of all hon. Members being members of Select Committees. In the final analysis, it is for hon. Members themselves to decide whether they wish to serve. However, I would not resist the conclusion reached from yesterday's debate that the House might benefit from having larger numbers on Select Committees. It is an issue to which I would wish to return in the autumn.

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