38.82The Liaison Committee, first appointed in 1979,1 comprises the Chairs of all the principal select committees.2 The Committee's role, as set out in Standing Order No 145, is to consider general matters relating to the work of select committees, to give such advice on their work as is sought by the House of Commons Commission, to allocate subjects for debate at Thursday sittings in Westminster Hall under para (7) of Standing Order No 10 and to choose which Estimates will be debated on Estimates Days under Standing Order No 54 (see para 34.26 ff).3
It has power to appoint two sub-committees, one of which deals exclusively with the allocation of national policy statements for scrutiny under the Planning Act 2008 (see above); the other may be given any remit, though in practice the Committee has not used the power to appoint such a sub-committee, preferring to work instead through informal working or steering groups.
While the committee has the normal power to take evidence, it does not have power to meet away from Westminster, nor the power to appoint specialist advisers. Since 2002, on the initiative of the then Prime Minister, the practice has been established that the serving Prime Minister regularly gives oral evidence to the Liaison Committee. In light of the previous convention that a Prime Minister did not give evidence to select committees, this procedure was incorporated in para (2) of the Committee's Standing Order.4 In recent Parliaments, the practice has been agreed that these hearings should be held three times a year.5
In its role of advising the House of Commons Commission, the Committee manages the allocation of funds set aside for overseas travel by select committees (see para 38.29 ). It also advises the Commission on the overall level of funding for support of the House's scrutiny functions.
The Committee enables the joint views of committee Chairs and their committees to be expressed. Periodically it has made reports to the House on the work of the select committee system in the form of an annual or end-of-Parliament report on the work of committees.6 It has also from time to time produced reports reviewing the role of select committees in the wider parliamentary and constitutional context.7 It works as a co-ordinating body in looking at best practice by select committees in respect of specific or novel matters such as the process for pre-appointment hearings,8 and in taking steps to reduce the possibility of two or more committees inquiring into the same issues. It has reported on the role of select committees in the House's arrangements for financial scrutiny.9 The Committee has been allocated specific functions under various standing orders or otherwise, including responsibilities for allocation of national policy statements under the Planning Act 2008 (under Standing Order No 152H(1)) and of draft orders under s 11 of the Public Bodies Act 2011 (under Standing Order No 152K(2)), and determining whether the premature disclosure of a draft report constitutes a substantial interference in the work of the select committee system of the House (see para 38.56 ). It is also charged by the House with reviewing the list of ‘core tasks’ for committees (see above, para 38.64 ).
- 1. An unofficial Chairmen's liaison committee had existed in the period 1967–1979. For a description of its activities, see First Report from the Procedure Committee of Session 1977–78, HC 588-I, para 6.54 ff.
- 2. For example, CJ (2010–12) 104. Since 2001, this has been by means of an order made at the start of a Parliament naming the committees whose Chairs are to be on the Committee, so that the membership of the Committee changes automatically if the Chair of one of the listed committees changes. In the 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005 Parliaments (see for example CJ (2004–05) 120), a Member who has was not Chair of another committee was named in the order, that Member then being elected its Chair. In the 1983, 1987 and 1992 Parliaments, a representative of the third largest party was added.
- 3. In 2018, under a process endorsed by the Procedure Committee (Third Report of Session 2017–19, Debates on Estimates days: piloting new arrangements, HC 739), the Committee agreed with the Backbench Business Committee informally to allow the latter committee to select the Estimates for debate on Estimates Days, in exchange for the Liaison Committee having days from the Backbench Business Committee's allocation put at its disposal to schedule debates on select committee business in the Chamber (see for example HC Deb (26 April 2018) 639, c 1053).
- 4. For example, Session 2009–10, HC 346-i; Session 2017–19, HC 1393 (18 July 2018). It has also heard evidence from the Deputy Prime Minister (Liaison Committee, Oral Evidence: Evidence From the Deputy Prime Minister, Session 2012–13, 18 July 2013, HC 958-i and -ii), and on cross-cutting issues from Sir John Chilcott, former Chair of the Inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq (Liaison Committee, Session 2016–17, Oral Evidence: Follow up to the Chilcot Report, 2 November 2016, HC 689), and from the Minister for the Cabinet Office and others on the cross-government response to collapse of Carillion (Liaison Committee, Session 2017–19, Oral Evidence: The Collapse of Carillion, 7 February 2018, HC 770), on the basis that these were matters relating to the work of select committees.
- 5. For example, Liaison Committee, Formal Minutes, Session 2010–12, 17 May 2011, 6 September 2011, and 8 November 2011; Formal Minutes, Session 2017–19, 27 March 2018, 18 July 2018, and 29 November 2018.
- 6. For example, Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2014–15, The work of committees in session 2008–09, HC 426 (2009–10); Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 2014–15, Legacy Report, HC 954 (2014–15).
- 7. For example, Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 1999–2000, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, HC 300; Liaison Committee, Second Report of the Session 1999–2000, Independence or Control?: The Government's Reply to the Committee's First Report of Session 1999–2000, HC 841; Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2001–02, Select Committees: Modernisation Proposals, HC 692; Liaison Committee, First Report of Session 2009–10, Rebuilding the House: Select committee issues, HC 272; Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2012–13, Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers, HC 697.
- 8. For example, First Report of Session 2010–12, Select Committees and Public Appointments, HC 830; Second Report of Session 2017–19, Witness gender diversity, HC 1033.
- 9. For example, Second Report of Session 2007–08, HC 426 and Second Report of Session 2008–09, HC 804.