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Liaison Committee

Volume 816: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2021

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the Report from the Select Committee Designation of responsible committee of the House of Lords for the purposes of section 3 of the Trade Act 2021 (3rd Report, HL Paper 78) be agreed to.

My Lords, in moving this Motion I will also speak to the second Liaison Committee Motion, in my name, which concerns new committee activity in 2022. [Interruption.] It would be courteous to those committees that I am discussing if I might be heard.

The first Motion in my name invites the House to agree that the International Relations and Defence Committee be designated as the responsible committee of the House of Lords for the purposes of Section 3 of the Trade Act 2021 and be empowered to appoint a Sub-Committee for the purposes of carrying out this work. The report briefly sets out the history of Section 3 of the Trade Act, which was added by an amendment first moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. Section 3 authorises each House to designate a responsible committee to consider whether there exist credible reports of genocide in the territory of a prospective FTA counterparty, and to report accordingly, having taken such evidence as it considers appropriate. The role and powers—

Those of us who are following the business cannot hear it. I urge fellow Members to conduct their conversations, and perhaps their consternation, outside the Chamber.

I sense the mood of the House, and I agree.

Only one committee may be designated as the responsible committee. The Liaison Committee’s consideration of this matter has been informed by the views of the chairs of the International Agreements Committee and the International Relations and Defence Committee. Both have heavy existing workloads, and neither would be able to fulfil this statutory requirement without additional resource. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns, chair of the International Relations and Defence Committee, for agreeing that if the need arises for such scrutiny, a Sub-Committee of her committee would perform this task to fulfil the statutory requirement.

Following discussion with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, Chair of the International Agreements Committee, we suggested that it could be helpful for there to be a memorandum of understanding between the two committees to ensure effective and timely communication between them regarding this matter. I am pleased to report that a draft memorandum has already been prepared and is being discussed between the chairs of the two committees.

I am sure that we all hope that this will be an aspect of our committee scrutiny that will need to be used little. It is, however, right that we have the necessary arrangements in place so that scrutiny can take place in a timely way if required. I am very grateful to all those involved behind the scenes in reaching the agreement that has made this possible.

Turning to new committee activity in 2022, the three special inquiry committees which the House set up last year, together with the Covid-19 committee, have all now agreed their reports, as they were required to do by the end of November. In anticipation, in July I invited Members of the House to put forward proposals for new committees to start in January 2022. All the proposals we received have been published online.

I am, once again, very grateful to all Members of the House who put forward proposals for special inquiry committees next year. The Liaison Committee had a good range of topics to choose from, and the proposals underline the range and breadth of expertise in your Lordships’ House. The committee always has a difficult task in choosing which committees to recommend, and this year was no exception. We considered all the proposals against our published set of criteria. We considered which would make best use of the knowledge and experience of Members of the House; which would complement the work of Commons departmental Select Committees; which would address areas of policy that cross departmental boundaries; and where the inquiry proposed could be capable of being confined to one year. We also took into account the balance of topics across the special inquiry committees and the work being undertaken by other committees and within government, and the feasibility of doing a topic justice in the time available to the committee.

With all those points in mind, we agreed to recommend the following proposals for three special inquiry committees, to start work in January 2022: adult social care provision, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Laming; the Fraud Act 2006 and digital fraud, a combination of related subjects proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham; and, thirdly, land use in England, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone.

Since the appointment of the first House of Lords post-legislative scrutiny committee in May 2012, the House has established a strong reputation for this relatively new aspect of its work, which plays an important part in maintaining legislative standards. Last year, in the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, we paused this activity to free up resources for a special committee to scrutinise Covid-19. In doing so, we determined to resume post-legislative scrutiny as soon as possible, and I am delighted that we are now able to do so.

In selecting legislation to recommend for post-legislative scrutiny, we were conscious that hitherto, no legislation from the Department for Education had been subject to post-legislative scrutiny by a House of Lords committee. We therefore agreed to recommend a post-legislative scrutiny committee to consider the important and wide-ranging Children and Families Act 2014.

The Liaison Committee also considered a number of other requests for additional committee resources. These matters are dealt with in our report. The committee took care and time in coming to its conclusions, and I hope that your Lordships will agree that the committee’s recommendations cover a wide range of subjects which will make excellent use of Members’ talents and contribute to debate and policy-making in a range of topical and cross-cutting areas.

I end on the same note of gratitude with which I began. All our committees, both sessional and special inquiry committees, perform vital work on behalf of us all and, in doing so, assist the national discourse. The enthusiasm with which Members across the House approach this aspect of our work is exemplary, and the dedication of the staff who support our committees is also to be very strongly commended.

So, although we are perhaps not sufficiently so on occasion, I believe that we should all be proud of the work that our committees and their staff undertake. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.