Headlines: February 13th, 2002

A modernisation committee, set up to review one the processes of the House of Commons, has announced plans to enhance the role of select committees.The announcement comes after some MPs have begun to question the power of select committees. The Government has been accused in the past of slowing the work of potentially challenging committees by dawdling over the appointment of its share of members.

‘Select Committees, a report by the Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons’ proposes a new system of appointment by a Committee of Nominations. The new body is promised to be independent, its procedure transparent and authoritative. There is also a promise of extra resources for select committees. This will enable specialists to be called upon to scrutinise complex issues such as finance.

In a move mirroring what’s happened in local government, a strengthened scrutiny process is now seen to offer an alternative career structure for MPs as chairs of committees

In return for new resources and higher status, departmental select committees will have clear responsibilities, including a duty to be consistent, to co-ordinate with independent regulators and, if appropriate, report on major public appointments.