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Liaison Committee

Volume 826: debated on Thursday 15 December 2022

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the Report from the Select Committee New committee activity in 2023 (3rd Report, HL Paper 104) be agreed to.

At the start of this year, the House appointed three special inquiry committees, on adult social care, land use in England, and the Fraud Act 2006 and digital fraud. A post-legislative scrutiny committee was also appointed to examine the Children and Families Act 2014. All of these committees have now published their reports, and I thank all Members who contributed to those inquiries and indeed to all of our committee work during the year. I also place on record my thanks to the staff who supported the work of your Lordships’ Select Committees this year.

Turning to the proposed committees for next year, the Liaison Committee received 20 high-quality suggestions from noble Lords, illustrating the range of interest and expertise across the House. All of these proposals have been published on the committee’s website. As ever, the Liaison Committee faced a difficult task. We assessed the proposals against our published criteria, which are that a committee should

“make best use of the knowledge and experience of Members”,

“complement the work” of Commons committees, address areas of policy that “cross departmental boundaries” and be capable of being completed within a year. We also took into account wider factors, such as the overall balance of topics selected and work being undertaken by other Lords committees and within government.

As our report sets out, we decided to propose four special inquiry committees: on the

“Integration of primary and community care”,

for which the lead proposer was the noble Lord, Lord Patel; on

“Education for 11-16 year olds”,

with reference to the skills necessary for the digital and green economy, for which the lead proposer was the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking; on the “Horticultural sector”, for which the lead proposer was the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes; and on the

“Use of artificial intelligence in weapon systems”,

for which the lead proposer was the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I hope that noble Lords agree that the committee’s recommendations cover a wide range of subjects, will make excellent use of Members’ backgrounds, and will contribute to debate and policy-making in a range of topical and cross-cutting areas.

Because of the strength of the proposals for special inquiries this year, the committee has decided to recommend that the available allocation of four Select Committees should all be undertaken with special inquiries. This means that we have decided not to propose a post-legislative scrutiny committee for the coming year. The Liaison Committee has recommended this on occasions in the past. However, I reassure noble Lords that post-legislative scrutiny, an area where the House has established a strong reputation over the past decade, remains an important field of activity. With that said, I am pleased to recommend these four special inquiry committees to your Lordships. I beg to move.

I believe I first have to say, “The Question is that this Motion be agreed to”. Actually, the noble Lord is right—he should come in now.

That is the first time that anyone has admitted that I am right. It is a red-letter day, and it could not have come from a better person than my friend the noble Lord, Lord Duncan.

As the Senior Deputy Speaker will know, I sometimes get concerned that there is a tendency to forget that this Parliament represents the whole of the United Kingdom, not just England. There could be a danger that, in two of these topics in particular, the consideration might cover just England. Can the Liaison Committee or the Senior Deputy Speaker give the House some assurance that advice will be given to the members of the Select Committees, to the clerks and to others, that they should take account of the situation in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as England before making their reports? Otherwise, they will not reflect our responsibilities as part of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord makes a very important point. Obviously, these matters come under our consideration. If there are areas where there is devolved policy-making, we are very keen that part of the consideration by the special inquiries is on what is happening in other parts of the United Kingdom. If there were a situation where a policy had a devolved arrangement for all of the Parliaments or a number of them, we would be keen—this is part of our suggestion and strong advice—for that always to be kept in mind. I can definitely reassure the noble Lord today, but it is useful for him to have put it like that, as a constant reminder that we are a United Kingdom and our discourse is on that basis. If there are no further questions—

I understand that we will not have any post-legislative scrutiny committees this year. Learning from our mistakes is one of the most important things that we can do when things have not gone as well as we wished. Could my noble friend the Senior Deputy Speaker explain why we felt on this occasion that there were no lessons to be learned?

I wish to add to that, because my noble friend has made a very important point, and one that I was going to seek to make anyway. Should it not be almost automatic that all major Bills of a highly contentious nature—we have had a number of them this year—should be subject to a degree of post-legislative scrutiny? I fear for many of these Bills and their impact. Your Lordships’ House has a wonderful record of post-legislative scrutiny, as my noble friend the Senior Deputy Speaker said in his opening remarks, and we should try to move to a situation where it is an automatic follow-through for all major Bills—not necessarily in the year after a Bill has been passed but within a cycle of five years, at the very outside.

My Lords, further to those last two interventions, can I say what a privilege it was to chair the post-legislative scrutiny committee on the Licensing Act 2003 and to have a follow-up inquiry as well? My noble friend the Senior Deputy Speaker is aware of the backlog for debating these. In recognising the importance that my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts has specified, I think it is extremely important for the whole House to have the opportunity to debate these issues at an opportune moment.

My Lords, very briefly, I have sat on the Children and Families Act post-legislative scrutiny committee this year, and one of our findings was that the committee taking eight years to sit was rather too long. I concur with my noble friends that we should try as often as possible to have a post-legislative scrutiny committee every year.

Again, my Lords, that is very helpful feedback. As I say, the Liaison Committee did consider this matter—I want to say this categorically, because we usually have a post-legislative scrutiny committee, but on this occasion we thought we should suggest to the House these other four committees. Last year, we had not only post-legislative scrutiny in its entirety but the post-legislative scrutiny of the Fraud Act 2006, alongside a very excellent special inquiry on fraud.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that I am working extremely strongly with the Government Chief Whip and other offices to ensure that we get as many opportunities as possible for debates in the Chamber and Grand Committee. I am very pleased that we have five debates on Select Committee reports in Forthcoming Business. Obviously, I am looking for more, and I have the sympathy of the Government Chief Whip. I assure your Lordships that I place great importance on the consideration of these reports in either the Chamber or Grand Committee. With those considerations and very important points, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.