HL Deb 14 November 2002 vol 641 cc26-7

11.8 a. m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That in accordance with Standing Order 64 a Committee of Selection be appointed to select and propose to the House the names of the Lords to form each Select Committee of the House (except the Committee of Selection itself and any committee otherwise provided for by statute or by order of the House) or any other body not being a Select Committee referred to it by the Chairman of Committees, and the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees; and that the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees he named of the Committee:

Lord Barnett

My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, especially as the noble Lord is making his first appearance as the new Chairman of Committees. I congratulate the noble Lord on assuming that office but I must ask him to think again about the Motion. We are appointing a Committee of Selection that will decide on the membership of all Select Committees. The role of Select Committees is to hold government to account for much of the time. Should that selection be done wholly by the Front Benches? There are only three non-Front-Benchers on the list all of whom, I am sure, will do an excellent job. The committee will be totally dominated by the Front Benches. The new Chairman of Committees will be conscious of the problem. When my noble friend Lord Sheldon was chairman of the Liaison Committee in another place, he fought very hard to ensure that the Government did not dominate the selection of members of committees.

I hope that noble Lords will consider this matter and that the Chairman of Committees will do so further. We are today starting for the first time on a Thursday at 11 o'clock, and it cannot be right or the best way to proceed if we also continue with the same procedure. Is the Chairman of Committees willing to think again?

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I associate myself very much with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. He is a very wise man and although I cannot always follow him in the restraint that he shows, on this occasion I applaud it and am doing my best to copy it.

Lord Sheldon

My Lords, I add to the comments of my noble friend Lord Barnett. I was chairman of the Liaison Committee in another place. We produced a unanimous report that these matters should be decided by the whole House of Commons. The present Leader of the House agreed with that, and there was a vote in the House of Commons. Under a surprisingly whipped vote—done from behind the scenes—the proposal was lost although the Leader of the House wished it to be implemented. I hope that we shall not proceed along similar lines here. Members of this House need to have control of these matters.

Lord Roper

My Lords, before any vote, it is important to read what the Committee of Selection does. It does not make decisions; it makes recommendations and proposes to this House. The composition of Select Committees in this House is in the hands of noble Lords.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I find the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Roper, very puzzling. I normally agree with what he says. Would any of us ever name a Member of your Lordships' House as someone whom we should rather not have on a committee and—even more preposterously—name someone else whom we should prefer? The fact is that the usual channels dominate this matter. My noble friend is simply asking for some further thought in view of our total commitment to modernisation and similar matters. Everyone on my own committee, of course, is quite perfect. It would never occur to me to criticise any of them. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, is not suggesting that we should get into the business of discussing named persons. I should find that deeply disturbing.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, for his kind words, although perhaps I do not thank him so much for his intervention on my first outing. I take his point. I say only that there are three Back-Bench Peers on the committee: the chairman of the Conservative Peers, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne; the noble Lord, Lord Dubs; and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim. Therefore, it is not entirely a "usual channels" affair. However, it is for the parties to decide how they proceed in this matter, and this is the way proposed today. At this stage, I cannot say much more than that. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.