In an earlier post, I drew attention to the fact that I had suggested that whenever Government Departments failed to respond to select committee reports within two months, the name of the Department should be listed in House of Lords Business. This already happens in respect of Departments that do not reply within ten working days to written questions. The Leader of the House, Baroness Evans, responded positively and said she would take the proposal to the Procedure Committee. The Committee’s Third Report of the session was approved by the House yesterday. The report contained only two items. One was on the timing of Private Notice Questions, which required the approval of the House. The other was for information. I am pleased to report that it constituted an acceptance of the recommendation:
Noting overdue Government responses to select committee reports in House of Lords Business
3. The Government aims to respond to select committee reports within two months. The undertaking forms part of the Osmotherly Rules, which provide guidance to Government departments about their engagement with select committees in both Houses.
4. On 14 November 2017, in a Question for Written Answer (HL3234) regarding the quality and timeliness of Government responses, Lord Norton of Louth asked what consideration had been given to listing in House of Lords Business the names of Government departments that had failed to respond to reports of Lords select committees, and joint committees, within two months. In her response on 27 November, the Leader of the House undertook to submit such a proposal to the Procedure Committee.
5. We have considered the Leader’s proposal and agreed that the House should be informed of the status of Government responses to select committee reports through the inclusion of a new section in the House of Lords Business document. The proposed section is predicated upon the following assumptions:
It will be printed in the Business once a week, every Monday.
Only reports for which a Government response has not been received within two months will be included.
The two-month period will be interpreted as a full two months. For example, a report published on 20 February would be due for response on 21 April.
Only responses to reports which were published from the beginning of the 2017–19 session, and in subsequent sessions, will be included.
Only substantive reports by investigatory and post-legislative scrutiny committees will be covered, excluding reports published for information only. Reports by domestic committees and legislative scrutiny reports will be excluded.
In the past, extensions for submitting Government responses have often been agreed between the department and committee concerned but not necessarily on a formal basis and with no precise date set. Such agreements will in future always need to be agreed in writing and the revised date will be indicated in the list.
Although it is not uncommon for more than one Government department to be involved in responding to select committee reports, only the lead department will be indicated.
6. The new section will be included in House of Lords Business when the House returns from the forthcoming Easter recess. We report this to the House for information.