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Palace of Westminster Committee

Volume 764: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

Membership Motion

Moved by

That the Commons message of 16 July be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster;

That the following members be appointed to the Committee:

Lord Carter of Coles, Lord Deighton, Lord Laming, Baroness Smith of Basildon, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, Lord Wallace of Tankerness;

That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the reports of the Committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House; and

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

My Lords, I am not sure whether it is in order for me to ask the Chairman of Committees this question, but why is he not in the delegation of six? I raised this matter last week on the basis that this House needs the same quality of representation as the House of Commons. As I understand it, the man who has the equivalent duties to those of the Chairman of Committees in relation to the fabric of the House in the House of Commons is going to be on the committee, while the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees is not. That seems to be a little odd, and I would be grateful for some explanation as to why this was decided upon.

My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend has just said. A number of people raised this issue in the short debate we had last week, to which the Leader of the House replied. A number of people also raised the matter of equivalence of membership between the Commons and the Lords. My quite clear recollection is that the Leader of the House said that there would be two joint chairmen, but this Motion provides for the appointment of “a chairman”. We cannot have two joint chairmen, one from the Commons and one from the Lords, which is the ideal we wanted, if there is to be the appointment of a chairman. I hope that the Chairman of Committees will clarify that and give us an assurance that there will be a joint chairperson from the Commons and the Lords.

My Lords, I should say first that I think we are fortunate that the two Back-Bench Members of the Joint Committee from this House will bring to its deliberations a very deep level of expertise and experience of the issues. I do not think that we could have selected two stronger candidates.

On the particular issues that the noble Lords raised, the basis of selection for the Joint Committee is party allocation. I understand that the usual channels in both Houses decided a party allocation to represent the relative strength and standing of the parties in the two Houses. Of course, in this House the three officeholders—the Lord Speaker, the Chairman of Committees and the Deputy Chairman of Committees—put aside all party affiliations during their terms of office, so clearly could not be considered in a scheme based on party allocations. I also point out that the individual who does my equivalent job in the House of Commons has not been nominated as a member of the Joint Committee.

The Leader—sorry, he is the Chairman of Committees. He would be better as Leader of the House, but that is another story. Will the Chairman of Committees clarify the position of the joint chairman? It was made absolutely clear by the Leader of the House in our debate last week that there would be equal chairs from both Houses.

I am sorry that I forgot the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes—a sin of omission indeed. My understanding is that the committee will operate on the basis of Mr Grayling in the Commons chairing one session and the Leader of this House chairing the alternate session. I understand that that is how they will proceed.

Before the noble Lord concludes, for the purpose of clarity can I ensure that, as the representation from this House is six, the representation from the House of Commons is also six, and not more?

Motion agreed.