I beg to move,
That, pursuant to paragraph (3) of Standing Order No. 122B (Election of Committee Chairs), the chairs of those select committees subject to the Standing Order be allocated as indicated in the following Table:
Select committees appointed under SO No. 152:
Business, Innovation and Skills
Children, Schools and Families
Communities and Local Government
Culture, Media and Sport
Energy and Climate Change
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Science and Technology
Work and Pensions
Other specified select committees:
On a more consensual note, I am pleased to move the motion on the Order Paper standing in the names of the leaders of the three main parties. This motion paves the way for the first election of Select Committee Chairs by secret ballot of the whole House, by allocating each Chair to a specific party in accordance with the proportions that you have notified to the party leaders, Mr Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order No. 122B.
This is something of a landmark moment for Parliament. It is a clear break from the past. Gone are the days when the Government had the upper hand in appointing who scrutinised the Government. Now we are passing that power to the House. This is what was overwhelmingly endorsed in the previous Parliament, in accordance with the recommendations of the Wright report. We supported that from the Opposition Benches, and I am pleased to bring it before the House now from the Government Benches.
Although all hon. Members will be entitled to vote in the ballot for each Chair, only members of the party specified in the motion will be eligible to stand as candidates for that post. If the motion is agreed to, arrangements for a ballot will be made under your supervision, Mr Speaker, in accordance with the remaining provisions of the Standing Order. Nominations will close at 5 pm on Tuesday 8 June. The ballot will take place the following day, Wednesday 9 June, between 10 am and 5 pm.
The Wright Committee recommended that Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries should voluntarily abstain from voting in the ballot for the Chair of the Select Committee that shadows their Department. The Government accept that recommendation, and I urge ministerial colleagues to abide by it.
The House may have spotted that the motion refers to the Children, Schools and Families Committee. It is the Government’s intention to change the name of that Committee to the Education Committee, reflecting the new name of the Department. However, our priority today is to press ahead without further delay, so we will seek the House’s approval for the change of name at a later date, along with any further changes that may be proposed to the Select Committee structure.
Hon. Members have sought clarification on the scrutiny that the House will undertake of the Deputy Prime Minister and his role. As well as answering questions as part of the questions rota, it is our intention to bring forward proposals for the establishment of another Select Committee to complement the scrutiny that will take place every five weeks at oral questions. This will happen in due course. I commend the motion to the House.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment as Leader of the House. I know that he spent some years shadowing in opposition. I am also grateful to him for advance sight of his statement.
The work of Select Committees is an extremely important part of the work of this House. I know from my time as a Minister how rigorous Select Committee Chairs and members are in holding Ministers and their Departments to account. It is therefore important that we get on with the business of electing Chairs, which is a departure for the House in how we establish Select Committees, and part of the Wright Committee proposals, which we welcomed.
Because this is such a new approach, I want to say gently that it is unfortunate that hon. Members have not had more notice of this motion, as that may have enabled more of them to contribute to the debate. If we had had the statement at the end of business today, or tomorrow, it would not have eaten into the time available for debating the Queen’s Speech.
In addition, the Leader of the House made no mention of the future of regional Select Committees. That is unfortunate, given the huge impact that £6 billion of cuts will have on our regional economies and what the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has said about the popularity contests that he intends to run to decide the future of regional development agencies and the support that they give to businesses.
The motion makes no mention of the Back-Bench business committee, which this House unanimously agreed should be created within one week of a general election. I appreciate that there are some practical difficulties, but more than 60 Members of this House from all parties have requested that the committee be brought forward. In the light of that, will my right hon. Friend press the Leader of the House to let us know when Back Benchers will be able to decide their own business, as opposed to having people on the Front Benches decide it for them?
I have no doubt that the Leader of the House will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments and that he will respond to them.
I hope that the Leader of the House will give us more information about the Government’s intentions for the important work carried out by the regional Select Committees, and that he will come back to us as quickly as possible with further details of the Select Committee that he stated would scrutinise the work of the Deputy Prime Minister. Obviously, the Leader of the House may not be in a position to answer all the questions today, but I hope that he will be able to clarify the Government’s intentions on the points raised soon.
With the leave of the House, it may not come as a surprise to the right hon. Member for Doncaster Central (Ms Winterton) if I say that we do not propose to establish regional Select Committees.
On the issue of timing, it is important that Select Committees are established quickly in order to hold the Government to account. That is why we put this motion on the Order Paper at the first possible opportunity, in order that due progress might be made.
If the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen) comes to business questions tomorrow, he may find a hint of an answer to the question that he posed.
We will, of course, keep the House fully informed about the future of the Select Committee to monitor the activities of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Question put and agreed to.