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.