Nomination of members
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38.5The members of a select committee, other than a Chair elected by the House, are nominated by a motion in the House. Motions in respect of most select committees may be tabled and moved only on behalf of the Committee of Selection1 (by the Chair or another member of that committee) although amendments may be tabled by other members.2
Motions to nominate the Liaison Committee, the Committee of Selection, the Committee on Standards, the Committee of Privileges and any committee established under a temporary standing order are normally tabled and moved by a member of the Government, although on occasion the nomination of other committees has been delegated to the Committee of Selection.3 A motion to agree with a report from the Liaison Committee to appoint, and nominate Members to, a National Policy Statement Committee under Standing Order No 152H may be made on behalf of the Liaison Committee by the Chair or another member of that committee. The House has endorsed the principle that, in proposing nominations for select committee membership for the Committee of Selection or the Government to put to the House, parties should elect members of select committees in a secret ballot by whichever transparent and democratic method they choose.4
Standing Order No 121 requires notice to be given of the names of Members intended to be proposed as members of select committees, and two sitting days' notice in the case of nominations to select committees other than the Liaison Committee, the Committee of Selection, the Committee on Standards, the Committee of Privileges and any committee established under a temporary standing order.5
A Member intending to move for the nomination, addition or substitution of members of a select committee must endeavour to ascertain previously whether each Member proposed to be named by them to serve on the committee will give their attendance thereupon and must endeavour to give notice to any Member whom they propose to be discharged from a select committee (Standing Order No 121).6 But a Member cannot be relieved from their obligation to obey the commands of the House by declining to serve on a committee.7
Although in principle a motion might be made, and a question put, in respect of each Member proposed as a member of a committee, in practice the Speaker treats the nomination of all the proposed members of a select committee as a single motion. If no objection is taken to any of the proposed names, they are considered to have been accepted by the House. Otherwise, questions may be put separately on the name of each Member being proposed.8 Amendments may be tabled to replace one name with another.9 In July 2001, objection to the omission of two specific Members from two departmental select committees was expressed by voting against the nomination of the committees as a whole.10
In general, the membership of select committees is drawn from the backbenches. There are exceptions: Government and Opposition Whips regularly serve on internally-facing select committees concerned with proceedings and arrangements within the House, for example on the Committee of Selection, and on the Finance and Administration Committees; specific government Ministers are members of the Committee of Public Accounts and the Environmental Audit Committee (but by convention do not attend their meetings);11 and successive Leaders of the House chaired the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons between 1997 and 2010.12 In general, it has also been the practice that Opposition frontbench spokespersons and Whips have not been members of departmental select committees or other select committees the principal responsibility of which is the scrutiny of government. The Liaison Committee has stated that it is ‘strongly opposed … in principle’ to the nomination of Opposition frontbench spokespersons or Whips to serve on departmental select committees.13 Previously, it was also the case that Parliamentary Private Secretaries were not generally appointed to select committees; although, in reflection of the growing number of select committee places to be filled, this practice is not now rigidly followed, it remains irregular for such a Member to be appointed to the departmental committee scrutinising the department to which their Minister is attached.14 It is accepted practice that no single party should have a majority on the Committees on Standards and of Privileges and that Parliamentary Private Secretaries should be excluded from their membership.15
The House has approved the principle that the principal select committees should be nominated within six weeks of the beginning of the first session of a new Parliament.16 There are a number of steps required for this process to be completed: allocation of committee Chairs to parties; the election of Chairs by the House; the election of committee members within their parties; the tabling of nomination motions via the Committee of Selection; and the agreement of those motions by the House.17
- 1. For the 2017 Parliament, the role of the Committee of Selection was replaced by a Selection Committee established for the remainder of the Parliament: Votes and Proceedings, 12 September 2017.
- 2. For example, Votes and Proceedings, 12 July 2010. Until 2004, the Committee of Selection was only responsible for nominating departmental and domestic select committees under SO Nos 142 and 152, see HC Deb (2003–04) 422, cc 94–115.
- 3. For example, select committees on hybrid bills (see paras 43.11, 45.11 and Erskine May (21st edn, 1989), Ch 38). The committees on the New Forest Bill 1949, and the New Forest Bill [Lords] 1964, both hybrid bills, were appointed partly by the House and partly by the Committee of Selection, CJ (1948–49) 365; ibid (1963–64) 229. The committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill, also a hybrid bill, was wholly appointed by the Committee of Selection, HC Deb (1985–86) 98, cc 1195–276 and CJ (1985–86) 397; see also CJ (1990–91) 216, 243; ibid (1991–92) 101, 118; ibid (2005–06) 318. Committees on opposed private bills are not designated select committees in the Commons. The power for a backbench Member to move the nomination of members of a select committee under SO No 23 (motions for leave to bring in bills and nomination of select committees at commencement of public business) has not been used since 26 February 1975, CJ (1974–75) 248–49.
- 4. CJ (2009–10) 293 (4 March 2010).
- 5. SO No 121. In July 2001, the House resolved to set aside this rule so that certain select committees could be set up before the House rose for the summer adjournment, CJ (2001–02) 98, and HC Deb (2001–02) 372, cc 506–7. Since 1983, the Committee of Selection has resolved early in each session that no motion to alter the membership of select committees it is responsible for appointing may be tabled on behalf of the committee unless previously approved at a meeting of the Committee of Selection, eg CJ (2010–12) 49, Votes and Proceedings, 13 September 2017.
- 6. CJ (1714–18) 59; Chandler Deb 19; 7 Parl Hist 58. See HC Deb (1992–93) 211, cc 828–29, 913 and ibid (1991–92) 211, c 829. On three occasions, on each of which there were special circumstances, a Member has been nominated to serve on a committee before taking the oath; see para 8.28, fn 6.
- 7. As the Speaker has reminded the House, it could order a Member to attend, HC Deb (1988–89) 144, c 297.
- 8. Parl Deb (1857) 147, c 1011. For orders allowing all names to be put as a single question, see CJ (1990–91) 115; ibid (1992–93) 132. See also Erskine May (20th edn, 1983), pp 683–84.
- 9. CJ (2002–03) 148–49.
- 10. CJ (2001–02) 79, 80.
- 11. A Treasury Minister and a Minister with appropriate responsibilities for the environment and/or sustainable development, respectively.
- 12. In the past, Leaders of the House regularly chaired the Privileges Committee and the Services Committee. The Leader of the House also served on the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege between 1997 and 1999, see CJ (1997–98) 157.
- 13. Second Report of Session 2001–02, HC 692, para 35. See also the First Report of the House of Commons Reform Committee of Session 2008–09, HC 1117, paras 53–55. In 1979, when the House was debating the first motions from the Committee of Selection for the nomination of the select committees relating to government departments, the Chair of the Committee of Selection indicated that the Committee would not for the time being propose members of the Government, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and regular Opposition frontbench spokesmen (ibid (1979–80) 974, cc 3W and 1029–36).
- 14. Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, First Report of Session 2008–09, HC 1117, para 53
- 15. HC Deb (2002–03) 407, c 1240.
- 16. CJ (2009–10) 240.
- 17. For allocation of committee Chairs to parties, see 26 May 2010, 3 June 2015, and 4 July 2017; for election of Chairs by the House, see 10 June 2010, 18 June 2015, and 12 July 2017; for agreement to nomination of committee members, see 30 June 2010, 6 July 2015, and 11 September 2017.