Reforming committees

I have just done a post on Lords of the Blog about reforming committees in the Lords.  When I chaired the Commission to Strengthen Parliament, which reported in 2000, we recommended that each Bill in the Lords should normally be sent to a select committee prior to having its normal committee stage.  When I chaired the Constitution Committee in the Lords, we produced in 2004 a report on Parliament and the Legislative Process in which we recommended that each Bill should at some stage during its passage through Parliament be sent to an evidence-taking committee.

We have yet to make progress in this regard.  The recent report of the Leader’s Group on Working Practices recommended the creation of a Legislative Standards Committee which could recommend that a Bill be sent to an evidence-taking committee, either a one-day session with Government or a full committee.  This is a step in the right direction, but I am keen that the House should go further with a full evidence-taking committee as standard practice for Bills originating in the Lords.  It would enable the House to play to its strengths, enabling experts and those with experience in the field to engage with informed groups and individuals outside the House.  It would be a major step in the right direction.

The Commons in 2006 began utilising evidence-taking Public Bill Committees for the committee stage of Bills.  It is important that we adopt the equivalent.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to Reforming committees

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    Was that stage in an evidence taking Committee recommended as mostly a matter of procedure or rules or as a formal legal requirement. Perhaps if it is as a formal legal requirement then a certain number of Parliamentarians would always resist such a measure unless it is openly and explicitly accompanied by a provision that is would not be required in the event of a national emergency requiring fast-track action. Such persons (unknown in fact but known in theory) would not only be concerned about the real possibility of a dangerous delay but by the possible popular perception that Parliament could not respond quickly to a crisis…

    I hope to read but have not read the three linked reports which may answer my question amply. If they do I will perhaps briefly comment to that effect.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: It is a matter purely of procedure and to be determined by each House. There is no intention of making it a legal requirement. If it were a statutory requirement, there is always the danger of the courts getting involved and both parliamentarians and judges are keen to keep the courts out of parliamentary proceedings.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Lord Norton,
        Much as I expected and you rightly make it seem nearly inevitable. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the reply which leaves no doubt and clarifies my own picture of things at least…

  2. ladytizzy says:

    As I write up my response to Lords’ Reform I am acutely aware that I bring no expertise or even particular knowledge of the subject; it will be no more, no less, than my observations but it won’t be evidence.

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