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Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

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To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps he is taking to improve the mechanisms for accountability of the Commission to the House. [121030]

The Commission makes considerable efforts to be open and accountable. I answer both written and oral questions, and the Commission's annual report contains full information about the work, performance and plans of the House's administration. The House may like to know that the latest edition, in a revised and improved format, will be published in a fortnight's time. It is not quite Harry Potter, but it will repay careful study.

In recent months, the Commission has also introduced pages on the parliamentary website describing its role and work, and it now also publishes its minutes on the internet. The Commission is financially accountable through the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee. Finally, the Commission is supported and advised by six Committees of right hon. and hon. Members, who represent the interests of Members generally and act as a channel for their views.

I am grateful for that long answer from my hon. Friend, who has a good record on freedom of information, so I do not doubt his commitment to the accountability of the Commission. However, does he accept that the way in which the House administration is organised, with its myriad Committees—Broadcasting, Catering, Accommodation and Works, and so on—obscures accountability? Would not it be more sensible if the House managed itself in a way that reduced the number of Committees?

We are always interested in Members' views on how we might reform the system that we use to administer the House. The consultation involved in the six existing Committees that sit under the Commission is a sophisticated and sensitive method of consultation that hon. Members have used to great effect in the past. I would be reluctant to change that unless there was a real reason for doing so.