I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the polite parliamentary row between two Liberal Democrat MPs, Sir Alan Beith and David Heath, over proposals to give select committees the power to table amendments to legislation in their own name. This suggestion, which would strengthen the powers of backbenchers, was supported by Sir Alan but opposed, on behalf of the Government, by David Heath. At that time Government opposition was strong enough to stop the proposal moving forward.
Now it seems that the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow MP, has given his backing to the idea. Or at least deemed the idea “worth discussion”.
In a speech to the Hansard Society to mark the centenary of the 1911 Parliament Act, Speaker Bercow praised the strengthening of the independence of the select committee system that has occurred over recent years. But he argued that it was now time to strengthen the authority of select committees and had three proposals of how to do this. These were:
- New powers to compel the attendance of witnesses
- Greater influence over significant public appointments
- Further ways to “link the output of select committees to the chamber itself”
It was as part of the last of these that he suggested that allowing select committee amendments should be considered. Something, I suspect, that will have caused various mutterings within government.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.