Parliament: Accountability - MPs Want More Independence for Select Committees

By Sarah Schaefer Political Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), November 1, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Parliament: Accountability - MPs Want More Independence for Select Committees


Sarah Schaefer Political Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)


SENIOR BACKBENCHERS have increased their pressure on the Government to end its control over membership of Commons select committees.

The MPs urged the Government to accept their proposal to strengthen Parliament by making the select committees more independent from government whips.

Robert Sheldon, the chairman of the Standards and Privileges Select Committee, said members should be chosen by four senior MPs on the basis of "knowledge and commitment" and not party loyalty.

The proposal is included in a report, by the Liaison Committee of select committee chairmen, about the relationship between their bodies and the Government.

One of its recommendations is for a panel of members of the Liaison Committee to be responsible for proposing membership of the committees, a process that is now, in effect, controlled by party managers.

Mr Sheldon said: "Members have been kept off these committees or even in some cases removed because of their perceived lack of party loyalty It's wholly unacceptable for governments, through their whips, to choose the very members who will be examining aspects of government.

"Nor should the charge, however unfairly, be made that the basis for membership of the select committee should be at the disposal of a party rather than on the basis of the member's knowledge, understanding and commitment."

While he acknowledged whips had detailed knowledge of the interests and concerns of members, he said that their expertise should be demonstrated to the panel to inform its choice.

The backbenchers are also requesting a half-hour debate after Question Time on a select committee report, to give MPs more of a chance to hear and talk about its findings.

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