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Select Committee Reports

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

2. What plans he has to increase the opportunities available for debate of Select Committee reports on the Floor of the House. (18987)

Select Committees have been strengthened by the introduction of election procedures for members and Chairs. Powers to set the agenda of the House have also been given to the Backbench Business Committee, which with the Liaison Committee is providing opportunities to debate Select Committee reports in Westminster Hall and on the Floor of the House. Those two measures have increased the ability of the House effectively to hold the Government to account.

The Wright Committee recommended that there should be more opportunities to debate Select Committee reports on the Floor of the House. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to make that a reality, or is he just leaving that to the Backbench Business Committee?

With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, he is in a much better position than I am to ensure that more Select Committee reports are debated on the Floor of the House, because following the implementation of the Wright Committee, the days for those debates have been handed over to the Backbench Business Committee, on which he sits. The Committee has the freedom to decide whether to debate Select Committee reports or other matters; that power no longer rests with the Government.

If more Select Committee reports are debated on the Floor of the House, can we avoid situations such as the one that occurred recently, when a Treasury Minister told the Public Administration Committee that he could not give the figure for compensation to Equitable Life policyholders because it had to be announced the following week in the comprehensive spending review, before leaking the information to the press that weekend? Could that be one way around this problem?

I reject the hon. Gentleman’s implication that there was any impropriety in the discharge of information relating to Equitable Life. The figure was given in the CSR statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last week.