HC Deb 07 August 1975 vol 897 cc318-22W
Mr. Spence

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will list in the Official Report the existing Select Committees (and Sub-Committees) of the House, including Standing Order and ad hoc committees, defining briefly the function of each and stating when each last reported to the House; and if he will make a statement, particularly so far as the burden of work falling on the Committee Office is concerned and the adequacy of the financial resources for the staffing of that office.

Mr. Edward Short

The existing Select Committees and Sub-Committees—other than the Business Committee on allocation of time orders on Bills, Committees on unopposed Bills and the Court of Referees—are listed below, with the requested information about each.

The Committee Office is responsible for the servicing of these committees, some of which do not require full-time staff. The Office is manned by 24 established Clerks in the Department of the Clerk of the House, in addition to supporting staff and the specialist advisers which many of the Committees have the power to engage. Where necessary, as at present, it is the practice for Committee work also to be undertaken by Clerks in other offices of the Department. The burden of work has much increased in recent Sessions, but I have had no representations that the financial resources for the staffing of the office are not adequate.

Abortion (Amendment) Bill—An ad hoc Committee was set up in February 1975 to consider the Bill. Most recent (Special) report—30th July.

Assistance of Private Members—This ad hoc Committee, appointed in December 1974 for the 1974–75 Session, is examining the present support facilities available to Private Members in carrying out their duties in the House, in particular research assistance. Most recent report—12th May.

Consolidation etc. Bills (Joint Committee)—Nominated by Standing Order at the commencement of every Session to join with the Lords Committee to consider Consolidation Bills, Statute Law Revisions Bills, etc.

European Secondary Legislation, etc.—This Committee, appointed for the duration of the Parliament, considers draft proposals by the Commission of the European Economic Community for secondary legislation, and other documents published by the Commission for submission to the Council of Ministers, and reports whether these raise questions of legal or political importance, affecting matters of principle or policy, and to what extent United Kingdom law may be affected.

A sifting Sub-Committee carries out a preliminary sift when required.

Most recent report—5th August.

Expenditure Committee—This Committee is appointed under Standing Order to examine and report on public expenditure papers presented to the House, and on the Estimates. It operates through a number of Sub-Committees covering specific areas of public expenditure, e.g. Defence and External Affairs; Environment; Trade and Industry; Education, Arts and Home Office; Social Services and Employment. Most recent report—30th July.

House of Commons (Services)—This Committee advises Mr. Speaker on control of accommodation and services in that part of the Palace of Westminster and its precincts occupied by, or on behalf of, the House of Commons. It has four Sub-Committees dealing with Accommodation and Administration, Catering, the Library, and Broadcasting (of House of Commons proceedings) respectively. It is appointed for the duration of the Parliament. Most recent report—30th July.

Members' Interests (Declaration)—An ad hoc Committee was set up to make proposals for the implementation of the House's Resolutions on this subject. Most recent report—12th December 1974.

Nationalised Industries—Its function is to examine the reports and accounts of the nationalised industries established by statute whose controlling boards are appointed by Ministers of the Crown and whose annual receipts are not wholly or mainly derived from moneys provided by Parliament or advanced from the Exchequer, and various other bodies.

The Committee is nominated for the duration of the Parliament, and has three Sub-Committees.

Most recent report—23rd April.

Overseas Development—Its function is to consider United Kingdom assistance for overseas development and to report thereon. It is appointed for the duration of the Parliament. Most recent report—15th January.

Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration—Examines the annual and other reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration set up under the Parliamentary Commissioners Act of 1967 and of the Health Service Commissioners for England, for Scotland and Wales, and matters in connection therewith. It is nominated for a Parliament. Most recent report—2nd July.

Committee of Privileges—Complaints of breach of privilege are referred to the Committee as the occasion arises. It considers matters referred to it for an opinion as well as complaints of alleged breaches, or contempts. It is appointed for the duration of Parliament. Most recent report—8th April.

Procedure—The Committee was appointed for the current Session to consider what alterations, if any, are desirable for the despatch of business in the House relating to European subordinate legislation, etc., referred to it; the possibility of restricting the length of speeches; possible changes in the Standing Orders to empower the Speaker to more than one amendment for Division at the end of a debate; and how the number of late sittings might be reduced. Most recent Report—7th July.

Committee of Public Accounts—Appointed under Standing Order. Its function is to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the Committee may think fit. Most recent report—24th July.

Race Relations and Immigration—Its function is to review policies, but not individual cases, in relation to the operation of the Race Relations Act, 1968, with particular reference to the work of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission, and to the admission into the United Kingdom of Commonwealth citizens and foreign nationals for settlement. It is appointed for the duration of the Parliament. Most recent report—1st July.

The Right Honourable Member for Walsall, North—An ad hoc committee was set up to consider the position of the right honourable Member. Most recent report—10th June.

Science and Technology—Its function is to consider Science and Technology and report thereon. In 1974–75 Session had the following three sub-committees: Energy Resources, Science, and General Purposes. It exists for the duration of the Parliament. Most recent report—23rd July.

Committee of Selection—Its functions are to appoint members of Standing Committees on Bills, Statutory Instruments and other matters referred to Standing Committees by the House. It also appoints Members to opposed Private Bill Committees. It exists under Standing Order. The Committee reports frequently.

Standing Orders Committee—Considers any applications for dispensing with compliance with the Standing Orders in the case of private or hybrid Bills. It exists under Standing Order. Most recent report—13th June 1975.

Joint and Select Committees on Statutory Instruments—The function of these Committees is to scrutinise the form (but not the merits) of statutory instruments and certain other types of delegated legislation. The Committees may draw instruments to the special attention of Parliament where it believes this to be justified on any of a series of grounds specified in its orders of reference. The Commons Members of the Joint Committee comprise the Commons-only Select Committee which scrutinises instruments laid before and subject to proceedings in the Commons only. The Committees are appointed anew each Session. Most recent report—4th August.

Violence in Marriage—This ad hoc Committee was appointed in February 1975 to consider the extent, nature and causes of the problems of families where there is violence between partners or where children suffer non-accidental injury. Most recent report—30th July.

Wealth Tax—An ad hoc Committee appointed to consider proposals for a wealth tax. It has two Sub-Committees. It has not yet reported.