Review of House of Commons management

I’ve just received this note about the review of House of Commons management. Its a majestic restatement of the status quo.

So when the taxpayer shells out the hundreds of millions of pounds to renew the Palace of Westminster over the next decade, you’ll know who is responsible for the success or failure of the project. It will be the “Executive Committee (in effect a sub-committee of the Commission).”

House of Commons Governance Committee

Publication of Report: House of Commons Governance

The House of Commons Governance Committee is today publishing its Report.

Launching the Report, the Chair of the Committee, Jack Straw, said:

“We were set up to solve a particular problem, but behind that problem we found a governance system in need of wider reform. At the centre of our recommendations is a commitment to openness, clarity and transparency.

“This has been a demanding inquiry to tackle in the time available to us. It is the first Member-led investigation into how the Commons itself is run for 40 years. I would like to thank the Members, other witnesses and especially the many staff from all Departments of the House who have engaged with our inquiry and provided so much useful evidence. It became clear early on that there was a real thirst particularly amongst the many hundreds of staff of the Commons service for a fresh look at its management structures, led by MPs themselves.

“Identifying the best possible governance arrangements in such a complex parliamentary environment is not easy: we have worked together to agree a set of proposals which we hope the House will now come together to support.

“Our unanimous report sets out a coherent management and strategic leadership structure. The Member and official elements will be properly integrated for the first time. Clarity is brought to the respective roles of Members and officials. Taken together, our proposals provide a framework which enable the House of Commons to operate more effectively and efficiently and provide reinforcement to the development of a unified House Service.”

The Committee’s main conclusions were:

· The House of Commons Commission should have an additional explicit statutory responsibility: to set the strategic framework for the provision of services to the House, its Members and the public;

· To support this enhanced role, and to reflect wider principles of good governance, its membership should be:

1. The current ex officio members (Speaker (Chair), Leader of the House, Shadow Leader of the House);

2. Four backbench members elected by the whole House and drawn one each from the three largest parties and the remaining Members;

3. Two external members;

4. Two official members;

· The separate responsibilities of the Finance and Services Committee and the Administration Committee should be more clearly defined. Finance and Services should become a Finance Committee. The Administration Committee should have no more than 11 members;

· The four backbench Members of the Commission should have portfolio responsibilities, allocated to them by the Commission. For two of them this would include chairing the new Finance and Administration Committees. The other two should take on key strategic priorities;

· The Clerk of the House should remain Head of the House service, appointed by Letters Patent, but should not also be titled Chief Executive;

· A new post of Director General of the House of Commons should be created, reporting to the Clerk but with clearly delineated autonomous responsibilities for the delivery of services;

· The Clerk and the Director General of the House of Commons should be the two official members of the Commission;

· The Management Board should be replaced with an Executive Committee (in effect a sub-committee of the Commission) chaired by the Director General of the House of Commons and comprising in addition the Clerk, the Director of Finance and up to three other officials.

· Structural changes are not enough to reform how an organisation operates: we have made important recommendations about changes to the culture of the House and its service which will be necessary to deliver the reforms we look for.

· We were asked to report by 12 January, but to ensure that the House had as much time as possible to consider and act on our report before dissolution at the end of March, we set ourselves the tighter timetable of reporting by Christmas. We have set out a timetable for implementation which we believe is realistic and practicable, but will require support from across the House.

· The ‘paused’ recruitment process for Clerk of the House/Chief Executive should be formally terminated.

· We propose new recruitment processes for the Clerk of the House and the Director General of the House of Commons which are in line with modern recruitment practice.

For more information, and interviews with the Chair, Jack Straw, please call Liz Parratt 07917 488978.

The report can be ordered from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3474) or from the Houses of Parliament Shop (020 7219 3890). It can also be viewed here from 10am on Wednesday 17 December 2014.

Rt Hon Jack Straw (Chair), Labour, Blackburn
Mr David Heath, Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome
Sir Oliver Heald, Conservative, North East Hertfordshire
Jesse Norman, Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire
Ian Paisley, Democratic Unionist, North Antrim
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative, North East Somerset
Valerie Vaz, Labour, Walsall South
Mr Dave Watts, Labour, St Helens North

Response to the Exaro/Sunday People allegations

Exaro and the Sunday People have published a story regarding allegations of child murder. Here’s my response:

The allegations of cruelty, torture and murder are truly shocking and go far beyond the case I raised with the Prime Minister two years ago. The public will be deeply concerned which is why it is vital the police quickly establish the facts. It’s such a disturbing allegation that I have no doubt the resources will be found to conduct a thorough investigation.

If true, this is a vital piece of the jigsaw in the pursuit of organised child abuse.

We are at the point where the government should consider a national police inquiry made up of specialists from around the country. It is unfair to ask the police in London alone to investigate alleged crimes that took place in many regions of the UK. I am writing to the PM to make this request.

Definition of Passion

1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
a. Ardent love.
b. Strong sexual desire; lust.
c. The object of such love or desire.
a. Boundless enthusiasm: His skills as a player don’t quite match his passion for the game.
b. The object of such enthusiasm: Soccer is her passion.
4. An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger: He’s been known to fly into a passion without warning.
5. Passion
a. The sufferings of Jesus in the period following the Last Supper and including the Crucifixion, as related in the New Testament.
b. A narrative, musical setting, or pictorial representation of Jesus’s sufferings.
6. Archaic Martyrdom.
7. Archaic Passivity

The child abuse inquiry

The Home Secretary appointed Fiona Woolf to chair the child abuse inquiry on Friday. Since then, a number of people have asked for my views on the matter, some of them quite high profile survivors.

I’d never heard of Fiona Woolf until I saw the announcement but I know her type – successful, rich and married to a big Tory.

A number of survivors are concerned she’s too close to the establishment and seems to have some kind of social or informal links to Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary who was recently interviewed under caution by the police.

Believe me, I understand the concerns of survivors but I’m supporting the appointment all the same.

The way I look at the situation is this:

A year ago, there was no chance of an inquiry.

Theresa May has done the right thing despite considerable internal pressure not to act. She has also listened to concerns of many survivors and MPs by assembling a panel of people who do not share the background of Fiona Woolf.

I’m desperate to see the inquiry get moving because I’m now convinced that members of organised criminal networks have evaded justice – and that some very powerful people need to be exposed.

As soon as the inquiry starts to take a look at documents as well as testimonies of survivors and former police officers,I believe the weight of evidence will be so great that even more will have to be done.

This might take the form of a bigger police inquiry team, made up of investigators from around the country but managed nationally. Then we really might see some powerful people brought to justice.

To oppose Fiona Woolf will have the effect of further delaying the evidence gathering, leaving survivors in limbo for longer and perpetrators evading scrutiny.

From what I’ve seen so far, we risk losing more with a delay than we do with a chair who has not yet won the confidence of a number of survivors. It’s for her to build trust with them through her leadership of the inquiry team.

I know enough about the panel members and their expert advisers to be certain that they will not tolerate an establishment whitewash. If more revelations come out about Fiona Woolf then I’m sure they will make their opinions known to Theresa May.

They should be allowed to examine the institutional failings of the past in order to understand how vulnerable children were abused by powerful people who were not held to account.

So, I’m giving Theresa May the benefit of the doubt.

It’s time for this inquiry to get moving. The team leading it should be judged on the tenacity of their research and the strength of their investigations.

I hope you can give them your support in what will be a very distressing inquiry.