The following evidence was given to the Select Committee on Procedure on 19 May 1965 and printed in its 4th Report of Session 1964-65, HC 303, pp 51-68. See also Appendix 2 to the Minutes of Evidence (p. 131-42).
WEDNESDAY, 19TH MAY, 1965.
Mr. A. J. Irvine, in the Chair
|Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop.||Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.|
|Mr. H. P. G. Channon.||Dame Edith Pitt.|
|Mr. Donald Chapman.||Sir William Robson Brown.|
|Mr. Michael English.||Sir George Sinclair.|
|Mr. Eric S. Heffer.||Mr. Julian Snow.|
|Mr. Carol Johnson.||Mr. Thomas Steele.|
|Mr. James Johnson.||Mr. R. H. Turton.|
Professor P. A. Bromhead, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol, Professor A. H. Hanson, Professor of Politics, University of Leeds, and Professor H. Wiseman, Professor of Government, University of Exeter, called in and examined.
212. Gentlemen, we are very much obliged to you for coming here to assist us. We are to have the advantage of evidence from Professor Hanson, who is the Professor of Politics in the University of Leeds, Professor Wiseman, who is the Professor of Government in the University of Exeter, and Professor Bromhead, who is the Professor of Politics in the University of Bristol. Now, we have had a memorandum submitted by the Study of Parliament Group [Footnote: See Appendix 2.] Am I right in thinking that you are all members of that Group but that you are giving evidence today as individuals who have studied problems of government? Is that right?—-(Professor Hanson.) That is right. (Professor Wiseman.) That is so, yes.
213. If I may begin by referring to the memorandum which we have received from the Group, there is a passage in paragraph 16 which I would like to refer to. The memorandum is there dealing with the matter of scrutiny and investigation of policy and administration and the passage appears: “It is surely obvious that to enable the House”–that is, the House of Commons–“to arrive at a correct judgment on the working of administration and on the Government’s conduct of affairs, some process of inquiry is needed. Our proposals would entail more work ‘upstairs’ but such work would not replace debate upon the Floor of the House, it would but prepare the ground for it”. We are concerned, among other matters, with the possibility of extending the work of scrutiny of administration and expenditure by specialist committees. We would be very greatly advantaged by hearing comments at large upon that matter from people, if I may so express myself, outside the House. Would one of the witnesses care to develop that part of the memorandum and make a comment to us?—-(Professor Wiseman.) May I first of all say, Sir, that all of us are honoured by this invitation to give evidence here; and we come with a very appropriate sense of humility because it is quite obvious that no one who does not know the working of the Parliamentary machine from the inside can profess even to be a general practitioner, still less an expert. But we have all of us given a certain amount of attention to what we regard as the broad problem of enabling Members of Parliament more effectively to influence, advise, scrutinise and criticise the activities of Government; and rightly or wrongly we start from the presupposition that as much of the work of Parliament as possible should be open to such advice, scrutiny and criticism within the framework of, on the one hand, public security and, on the other hand, the traditional limitations of Ministerial responsibility. I think, following on, that we believe that the House is, perhaps, less effective in these fields because of inadequate opportunities of acquiring the kind of detailed and specialist information and knowledge which would place ordinary Members of Parliament not completely on terms of equality with Government–this is obviously impossible–but at least on greater terms of equality than we believe, looking at it on the outside, exist at the moment. Following this, our suggestion is that debate, scrutiny and investigation would all be more effective if Members of Parliament were able to specialise a great deal more than they do at the moment. I am not, of course, referring to the extent to which members of the political parties specialise but the way in which all-party committees are able to specialise in the acquisition of knowledge and information and the acquiring of evidence on particular problems that present themselves to the House. We believe that some system of specialised committees associated either with particular Departments or groups of Departments or with particular fields of policy and administration with whatever necessary expert and technical help might be required for this, would provide the framework for such specialisation and such effective scrutiny and criticism. I think, Sir, if I may I would leave it at this for the moment; because the follow-up of this really involves consideration of all sorts of details about what kinds of committees we envisage, the kinds of powers they would have and how we see their broad role in the working of Parliament.
214. Yes, we are much obliged. Still dealing with the matter generally, do you regard the Estimates Committee as possessing the character that you have just indicated is desirable in this kind of work?—-I think we all agree the Estimates Committee does a very useful and very effective job of work, within certain limitations. But because of the fact that with its present terms of reference it is, at any rate, rather loosely tied–I think “loosely” is correct–to a consideration of Estimates, we believe that there may be certain unnecessary limitations on the kind of investigation it could carry out. Perhaps I may make just three quick observations on that and then ask you, Sir, if I may, to question Professor Hanson who is much more of an expert on the working of the Estimates Committee than either Professor Bromhead or myself. But we do feel, for instance, that the Estimates Committee at the moment cannot take a broad look at the way in which legislation and statutory instruments made under legislation are working because of the inevitable limitation that results from the necessity to link its enquiries specifically to Estimates. We feel, secondly, that there may be a number of problems connected with what we call the impact of administration and services provided by the Government on individuals, consumers, call them what you will, for instance in the field of hospital administration, the effect of government legislation on industrial concerns, and so on, which could be more adequately investigated by a committee which, again, was not tied down by the kinds of restrictions that exist in the Estimates Committee; and, thirdly, that the Estimates Committee is not able to do what we feel is one of the most important jobs that ought to be done, to investigate what we call the factual assumptions on which policies are made and the factual assumptions on which policy might be made in the future and which would not necessarily involve even an indirect consideration of Estimates as such. We are thinking, for instance, of general problems of transport co-ordination, general problems of the development of nuclear power, and so on. My own favourite example is related to the Robbins Committee, the great weakness of which, I feel, was that it discussed the possible demands for university places purely and simply on the basis of what demand might be forthcoming from students, and at no point did it seek to investigate the needs of the community in various fields. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing that a Parliamentary committee might have asked very awkward questions about, but it might not have been able to do so if it was restricted to the kind of field that the Estimates Committee is concerned with.
215. Professor Hanson, arising out of that, if the view were taken that the scrutiny of administration and expenditure could be, perhaps, usefully shifted from Committee of Supply of the Whole House to a specialist committee, on that hypothesis and if that committee were really concerned to discover whether value was being got for money expended, if that was the object of the exercise rather than any separate matter of questioning the assumptions behind policy and so forth, would you think that the Estimates Committee offers a useful starting point for that kind of work? In other words, would you think that any committee set up with the sort of purpose that I have adumbrated to you in this question could be similar to the Estimates Committee, of like character?—-(Professor Hanson.) Yes, Sir, I envisage that the procedure of the specialised committees in terms of which we are thinking should be very similar to the procedure which is at present adopted by the sub-committees of the Estimates Committee. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that, even if a series of specialised committees were established, perhaps each connected with a Government Department or a group of Departments, there still could be work left for the Estimates Committee to do in so far as there are what might be described as across-the-board matters concerning a whole number of Departments rather than one Department or a small number of them which would still need to be investigated. There is still the matter, to which I understand Parliament pays great attention nowadays, of variations in the Estimates and Supplementary Estimates which are referred to the Estimates Committee. So, I would envisage that, even if this new system of specialised committees were established and even though the specialised committees would be very much concerned with, so to speak, getting 20s. worth of value for every pound spent, among other things, there would still be a good deal of across-the-board work which would be left to the Estimates Committee; and I certainly would not envisage the abolition of the Estimates Committee when and if the specialised committees were established.
216. And you would think, I would expect, that considerable resources by way of information and research should be available to any such specialist committee?—-Well, in this sense, Sir, that I think a specialised committee should be empowered by the House of Commons to employ expert or technical assistance on an ad hoc basis. I would not envisage a vast expansion of the House of Commons staff by the creation of a large research apparatus, but it does seem to me that if a specialised committee was examining a particular question of policy or administration and came to the conclusion that it could not express a sort of sensible or informed opinion without the assistance of outside advice it should be empowered to employ, shall we say, an accountant or an economist or a sociologist or whoever was appropriate, to bring him in as a witness and also to make use of his services, if necessary, during the course of their deliberations.
217. Could Professor Hanson explain this to me: he talks about a specialised committee, but would that be a select committee?—-It would be a select committee, yes, Sir.
218. You say it would have the same procedure as the Estimates Committee. Would it produce a report with recommendations?—-Yes.
219. Professor Wiseman talked about committees acquiring knowledge. As I understand it, an Estimates Committee must come to a decision?—-I think there is an analogy here with the Estimates Committee, and there is also an analogy, is there not, Sir, with the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries which does from time to time make recommendations but the main function of which, as far as I can see, is to provide the House of Commons with impartial and sifted information about the nationalised industries; and I should envisage the specialised committee doing the same type of job in relation to the area of administration which, so to speak, fell within its jurisdiction. It would from time to time, I should have thought, make recommendations to the House of Commons but I should rather like to emphasise the provision of tested and sifted and fully authenticated information for the benefit of Members of Parliament.
220. That is incidental is it not to the recommendation? You cannot make the recommendation until you have the knowledge of the subject to base your recommendation on. Is that right?—-That is so, Sir, but at the same time, surely, it is possible that a specialised committee would content itself with providing Members of Parliament with background information on the basis of which they can make up their minds rather than making some specific recommendation for their benefit. It seems to me that the specialised committee could do both, and it would be largely at the discretion of the committee which it chose to do.
221. I do not want to labour this point, but the remit of a select committee always ends us with the words “and to make recommendations”. You would still have that?—-Yes.
222. Could I just follow on that point? You are saying that in your view the Estimates Committee is not a suitable body, even though possibly extended or changed. I just wondered if that would still be your view if the terms of reference of the Estimates Committee were to be widened, rather than thinking in terms of establishing another and to some extent parallel set of committees?—-I think this, Sir, would be one way of doing the type of thing which we are advocating. On the other hand, I think there would be certain disadvantages. I think it would be difficult, would it not, to widen the terms of reference of the Estimates Committee in that sense and still call it an Estimates Committee; and, secondly, I think one might very easily lose the advantage of specialisation which is one of the main advantages which we expect to accrue from this system of specialised committees in so far as you have a series of committees which are continuously concerned with the same subject matter.
223. There would be no obvious reason, though, why that should not be done, even through the existing Estimates Committee?—-I should have thought it could be done through the existing Estimates Committee if the House of Commons were prepared to widen very considerably the terms of reference; in which case it would, I suppose, cease to be an Estimates Committee in the original sense.
224. You are suggesting widening the terms of reference to a very considerable extent so that they would have power to investigate, if not matters of policy, at least something very closely related to them; is that right?—-Yes, Sir, I would say that. I think it is largely a matter of discretion and of the good sense of a select committee as to how far it does go into matters of policy. I think there is a very useful sanction here in so far as if a select committee does not report unanimously and if it divides upon party lines then its influence, to say the least, is extremely limited; and I should have thought that the experience both of the Estimates Committee and of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries did suggest that Members of the House of Commons serving on these committees are very, very well aware of what they can usefully investigate and usefully recommend and what they should avoid as being matters of acute Party controversy.
225. You are aware that the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries has had its terms of reference widened, and do I take it that that type of term of reference would be the type of term of reference you would envisage?—-Yes, Sir, in the report to which you, Sir, referred, we suggested that the terms of reference for a specialised committee should be along these lines: “to examine the assumptions on which policy decisions have been made and to report on the implementation of policy in the field of”, whatever it is.
226. There is only one other point, which is, do you envisage witnesses being called to such select committees, either a revised form of Estimates Committee or a wholly new committee established, the witnesses being called including civil servants?—-Oh, yes, Sir.
227. Do you think it would be practicable to expect civil servants to express views on matters of policy?—-(Professor Wiseman.) If I may intervene here, we understand from our outside knowledge that civil servants are extremely skilled in discerning when matters of policy are implicit in the questions that are being asked and they are, in fact, extremely adept at indicating that on this particular point it would not be proper for them to express an opinion; and I think this is a matter of judgment, on the one hand, of the Chairman of the Committee and, on the other hand, of the civil servant concerned. If the committee really felt that here was a high matter of policy that it would like to probe a little further, then at one point in our memorandum we do suggest that at least the Minister might be invited, if he so wished, to come and discuss it with the committee; but obviously he would have the right to say that the time was not appropriate for him to do this. I know this is very general but it does seem to me to provide the framework for a pragmatic working out of this kind of problem in any given circumstance.
228. There would have to be a borderline, would there not? In other words, you would agree that it is undesirable that a civil servant should provide a committee with, in effect, material for the cross-examination of his own Minister?—-Yes, I think this is so. We envisage the civil servant being able to provide, at least up to a point, the kind of factual material and arguments upon which the Minister reached his decision. But beyond that, if the committee said: “It still does not seem to us that these facts lead inevitably to the Minister’s decision”, then the civil servant would have to say: “Well, you know, this is beyond the possibility of my commenting on to you”.
229. On page 13 of the Study of Parliament Group’s memorandum at item (f) you say: “The proposed specialist committees might eventually at least form the nucleus for the standing committees. We note other suggestions for committees to examine proposals for legislation before bills are drafted”. I wondered if you would like to expound upon what you consider to be the relationship between the membership of the specialist committees as you have indicated and their possible future legislative functions were they set up?—-(Professor Bromhead.) I think there we are envisaging, Sir, that the standing committee would continue to have this somewhat misleading name, being not, of course, really standing; but using the term in the way it is generally used now, that the standing committee would be concerned specifically, as now, with taking the business of going through bills clause by clause and proposing amendments to them. This is rather different from the sort of work that the proposed committees of investigation and scrutiny would be doing, and it seemed on the whole desirable, we thought, to keep these two jobs separate. Now, we refer to the possibility of establishing select committees for bills. We were suggesting that rather more bills should be sent to select committees than is the case now, and if a bill is sent to a select committee the select committee should have a preliminary proceeding in relation to the bill which would be essentially similar in kind, in the way it would work, to the sort of thing that the Estimates Committee does now in calling people to give evidence, and so forth.
230. In private?—-Probably in private, though we are envisaging, I think, that the matter would be reported, at any rate, and that a select committee in that case should precede a meeting of the standing committee to take the bill clause by clause. Now, the precise relation between a permanent committee of investigation and this particular sub-committee on a bill, the standing committee, would be somewhat difficult to work out. It would probably be better that the select committee should be small, probably smaller than the standing committee on a bill, which might need to be 35 or 40 members if there was a strong desire to be in it unless the other proposals put forward were to be adopted, but that is another matter really. Assuming that the standing committee was large, the people in the permanent committee could form the select committee to which the bill was remitted for inquiry and there could be an element in the standing committee considering the bill—-
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.
231. Could I interrupt on that? You do appreciate that what you have just said would involve a very considerable addition to the amount of work done by the individual Member in the House of Commons?—-We do remember that, yes, Sir, and we realise this is—-
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.] That would necessarily detract, and have to detract, from other work that Members do?
Mr. Carol Johnson.
232. On the Floor of the House?—-I think our justification for putting this forward, Sir, although we realise that we would be greatly increasing the burden, is an expectation that the work done in this form might be more satisfying, more constructive, more coherent, perhaps, than the kind of work that is able to be done under the present arrangements. The idea is that a particular Member should be year after year taking up the affairs of a particular Department, and by being on the select committee from time to time in connection with matters connected with that Department, all this would perhaps give the Member the capacity to develop a very considerable familiarity with that particular Department. There are, of course, disadvantages in increasing the burden on Members in this fashion. One possible effect of the whole of this memorandum might conceivably be to reduce the amount of work done in the House as a whole. This is a question whether, given a total number of hours in the week, people would really prefer to switch some of those hours to committee work of this sort.
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.] I am sorry to interrupt. I thought that came in there.
233. If I might, I would like to open up a subject which is within the matter discussed in paragraph 20 of your memorandum. One of your recommendations is that there should be a select committee on expenditure which, I take it, is really a special sort of specialist committee, in a way, of the sort mentioned by Professor Hanson, covering a subject general to Government as a whole. This select committee you envisage considering the five year “forward looks” at Government expenditure which at present are not published, but which you recommend should be published?—-(Professor Hanson.) Yes.
234. I wondered if you would like to comment on that at all?—- I do not know that I can comment on that at much greater length than what is set out in the memorandum.
235. Could I ask you specific questions, then? Are you of the opinion that these five-year “forward looks” should be published at all? Your memorandum says so, but you as individuals may, of course, have different opinions?—-Yes, Sir, I personally am in favour of their publication and their remission for discussion to a select committee on public expenditure.
236. You do not think that they might be so, not, perhaps, uncertain but subject to revision, in the fourth, third, second and first years, as it were, as to lead any Government to be chary of publishing such a rather uncertain forecast?—-Well, if I may express a personal opinion on this, I think Governments generally are a bit too chary of giving this kind of information. I think one of our objects in the memorandum which we have produced is to ask you for less secrecy than there is at the present moment in public affairs; and if the Treasury and various other Government Departments are thinking in terms of five-year “forward looks”, then I think that Parliament itself should have the opportunity of thinking in the same terms.
237. You feel that one particular select committee should consider this as a whole rather than the individual specialist committees considering it, each in relation to its own province of government?—-Yes, in so far as one is very much concerned here with the balance of expenditure between different Departments and areas of Government, and the new specialised committees would not be in a position to be able to consider such matters in so far as other terms of reference would be related to one particular Department of Government of one group of Departments.
Sir William Robson Brown.
238. May I ask the authors of what is to me a very comprehensive memorandum: were you influenced at all by any investigations that you yourselves were able to institute in other Parliaments in other countries?—-(Professor Wiseman.) Well, Sir, we have been taught by the experts in Parliamentary procedure, ranging on the one hand from Lord Butler and on the other hand to Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that we should only examine foreign systems of government more for avoidance than for example; and I would ask you to forgive me for putting it in this way. In a sense it is an unfair pushing of the ball back into the other man’s court, but I would personally prefer to deal with any criticisms that might be made which alleged that any introduction of specialised committees of this kind into the British system might lead to the same kind of defects and disadvantages as, I think we would all agree, exist in the United States and in France. I think, as far as I am concerned, at any rate, and I think Professor Hanson is in the same position, we have not argued in favour of specialised committees on the grounds of what happens in the United States and France. We have argued for them on their merits and have been hard put to defend their merits against what, we think, are mistaken criticisms which rest on the false assumption that the same defects which exist either across the Channel or across the Atlantic would inevitably be introduced into our own system here. I am not trying to burke the issue, I am trying to put the kind of approach which we have on this problem.
Sir William Robson Brown.] If I may make the comment, an excellent reply.
239. If I may interpolate, what do you consider those defects to be?—-If I may just state what I think the defects are without going into the reasons for them, they are, first of all, that in both countries the specialist committees have been able to set themselves up as very powerful rivals to the Executive for one reason or another; that they have not approached their task primarily with a view to constructive criticism of what the Executive is doing but very largely in order to try to enhance the reputation of the Legislature and the committee as against the Executive; and that, instead of indulging in a kind of co-operative dialogue on the problems of particular legislative proposals or administrative policy, there has been a kind of battle royal between the two sides. I think this has resulted in the case of the United States for obvious reasons, because of the separation of powers, and in France because of the obvious weakness of the National Assembly and the Executive. My view of the specialist committee role here is that while it is able in an informed manner to scrutinise, criticise and advise on Government policy, its main object is to improve Government policy. It seems to us that in many cases in the United States, for instance, chairman of committees have been more concerned to set themselves up as rivals to the President or to members of the President’s office or the heads of Departments; and in France the chairman of the Commissions have been more concerned to establish a claim to a ministerial appointment in the next Government, which is usually only six weeks around the corner. This kind of general atmosphere makes it invalid, I think, to make comparisons between these two countries on the one hand and this country.
Sir William Robson Brown.
240. I am very grateful. I think the Committee would find this very helpful. I was intrigued by a comment you made about “background information”. As I listened it seemed to me that you were leaving it in the air at that point. Collecting background information and submitting it to the House of Commons without conclusions I think would have great weakness. It may be I misunderstood what you intended. I would feel that any committee worth its salt if it had a job to do and had collected information ought to be competent enough to arrive at certain conclusions with regard to this?—-I thought Professor Hanson made this clear in reply to an earlier question, that in fact this would not be just a question of, so to speak, providing a brief but at least indicating what kind of deductions the committee would make from the information contained in the brief.
241. Just moving rapidly to another point, we have been playing for a long time with the words “Select Committee on Estimates” and you, Gentlemen, have made it perfectly clear–abundantly clear–that you do not think that the Estimates Committee in its present form, or even revised, would meet what you really have in mind. The Select Committee on Estimates is a well known phrase. I do not remember whether you in fact suggested a name for this new type of committee that you were thinking about, but one of you gentlemen did use the words “investigation and scrutiny”. Is that the sort of description of the functions of this committee, because the description of the functions seems to me to be of paramount importance to any of these new committees that we are thinking about, so that their functions are clearly defined and their territory is reasonably defined?—-(Professor Hanson.) Yes, Sir, I should have thought that the title “Committee of Investigation and Scrutiny” would be a very appropriate one. However, I am not so much concerned with what the committee should be called as with giving it terms of reference which would enable it to do the kinds of things which we have outlined and which we consider would be desirable if the committee should be set up.
242. It would be very difficult to say: “We do not want to call it an Estimates Committee, we will call it Committees Nos. 1, 2 and 3”, but may I ask, on the sort of committee, are you thinking of one committee covering everything with sub-committees or are you thinking of special committees to deal with different subjects, and what sort of numbers of Members of Parliament do you envisage would be needed for this sort of work?—-I think there is some disagreement on this subject between the people who were responsible for this memorandum. There are some of us who would be in favour of establishing committees to deal with certain subject matters, such as those set out in paragraph 21 of the memorandum, scientific development, the prevention and punishment of crime, and so on. This would mean to say that the terms of reference of the committee would be, so to speak, cross-departmental. Its jurisdiction would concern a number of Departments. There are others of us, I think, who would be in favour of associating a committee with one Department or with a group of related Departments and, personally, I am rather of that opinion. We are not thinking in terms of the establishment of one large committee which would divide, as the Estimates Committee divides, into sub-committees but rather of the establishment of a series of quite distinct, specialised committees. As for the membership, we speak with very great hesitation on this subject but we were thinking in terms of, perhaps, not less than 15 and not more than 20.
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.
243. On each committee?—-Yes.
Sir William Robson Brown.
244. Finally, gentleman, you were asked a question about calling witnesses. First of all, do you believe that the calling of expert witnesses is an absolute for civil service witnesses and outside witnesses, and would you consider that the evidence should be in camera or should be available for all Members of the House?—-I personally believe, Sir, that the procedure should be, broadly speaking, that which is at present followed by the Estimates Committee and the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, that most of the information which the committee obtains should be derived from oral examination of witnesses and from the presentation of memoranda. I would not, I think, be in favour of making the proceedings of such a committee open to the public; and I really have not made up my mind on the question whether the committee should publish its evidence day by day or publish it, as the Estimates Committee at present does, together with its Report at the end of its investigations. I have not got the experience to be able to express an opinion on that subject.
Mr. Carol Johnson.
245. I should like to begin by broaching a subject which you have not directly dealt with but which, I think, require some consideration. It is this, that one of the reasons for the existence of this Committee and one of the objectives have in view is to make such improvement in the procedure of the House that there will be time for more general debates. That is one of the assumptions that is constantly raised. It seems to me that if we ever could arrange for increased time for that purpose in the House a good deal of that would overlap with the subjects which you have mind for these specialist committees; and, therefore, I want to put to you, assuming your plans for specialist committees, either related to Department or to subject matters, came into existence, would that in your view have any effect upon the existing arrangements in the House for Supply Days, and if so, what effect? That is my first broad, general question because I think it is one that follows inevitably from any change of a logical character such as we have in mind?—-(Professor Wiseman.) If I may make one first comment on this, we do not envisage the investigation function of these committees as in any way replacing general debates in the House. We would hope, perhaps, in our ignorance, that there would be adequate time for both functions to be performed adequately–that is, the detailed investigation by specialist committees and the general debates on topics that Members wished to discuss. What we would hope is that there might be a link between the two in the sense that, although obviously no one can dictate to the House when it should debate particular topics, it would as far as possible try to arrange debates in such a way that, if they were dealing with topics already under consideration by the various specialist committees, they would time these debates so that the findings of the specialist committees would be available for consideration during these debates. In other words, perhaps rather idealistically we are hoping that the effect of the specialist committees might be to provide more information and more constructive criticism in the course of general debates in the House. Obviously, we cannot speak in detail about how this could be done procedurally. This would be the purpose, we hope, which would be served or one of the purposes which would be served.
246. But that, of course, would inevitably tie the hands of the Opposition, which after all choose Supply subjects, if they could be fobbed off by the Government of the day saying: “You ought not to discuss this at this particular moment because this is the very subject a specialist committee has under review”?—-With respect, it would not be possible to fob them off, surely, and if I am wrong you will correct me, because it is an understanding in the House that if the Opposition selects a subject on a Supply Day or puts down a Vote of No Confidence then time is found for this; but I think both Professor Hanson and I found a few years ago, when we were investigating some of the debates in the House, that the then Opposition missed some glorious opportunities by not waiting for a week or two until the Estimates Committee had reported, because the Estimates Committee would have provided far more effective ammunition for hurling at the Government than the vague and unsubstantiated generalities which were, in fact, used in the course of those debates. (Professor Hanson.) If I might add something to that, I do think it would be extremely undesirable if the House took a sort of self-denying ordinance not to hold a debate on any subject until the matter had been, so to speak, pre-digested by a specialist committee. Nevertheless, it does seem to me that the material which can be provided for the House by a specialist committee can very often improve the quality and the usefulness of the debate. I had a look at this in a fair amount of detail when I was writing a book about Parliament and public ownership, and one of the things I found, or thought I found, was that some of the debates on the nationalised industries were enormously improved when they took place, not merely on the basis of the Reports laid before the House, but on the basis of the Report produced by the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries on one particular industry which was being debated.
247. In regard to the meetings of the specialist committees, if they come into existence, is it common ground amongst the three of you that these should be held in private, because I think you will agree that the growth of the American system has, to some extent, arisen from the fact that there publicity is given and often the subjects are raised for the purpose of meeting that publicity. But is it common ground that if they were introduced in the British system they should be private?—-My own view there is that these select committee proceedings should be entirely private and there should be no publicity until the publication of the report. It seems to me that if they are to be held in public there, perhaps, you would have the thin end of the wedge of the television cameras.
248. Yes. Have you considered when these committees should meet? You see, at the moment the Standing Committees dealing with the committee stages of bills invariably meet in the mornings, and the Select Committees of the House meet in the afternoons at four or five o’clock. Under your scheme there is to be a substantial number of these specialist committees with a membership of, I think you suggested, between 15 and 20. That is going to occupy the attention of a considerable proportion of the membership of the House. When do you visualise they should meet conveniently without putting too great a burden on the members?—-(Professor Wiseman.) We had thought this would occupy something between 120 and 140 Members of the House when there was a fully fledged system of select committees covering the whole field of administration. Now, so far as when they meet is concerned, we have assumed that normally they would meet in the afternoons, which I understand happens now. I realise this would be on a much larger scale than at present exists. One would hope, incidentally, that there would not be too many division bells to interrupt their continuity of deliberation. As to whether or not it would ever be possible for them to meet in the mornings, I think we all felt in a way that involves such a decision of high policy about the whole organisation of the work of the House of Commons that we did not dare to put forward a recommendation on it. The other thing if I may, Sir, just throw it out, is that it is the view of some of us academics that it is a pity that, so far, no use whatever has ever been made of Standing Order No. 10 which permits the adjournment of the House in order to enable committees to meet. Some of us feel, rightly or wrongly, that perhaps even one afternoon a week or one afternoon a fortnight, as the case may be, could more profitably be spent in this kind of committee work than in some of the things that occupy the time of the House as a whole. You will forgive me; this is just sticking my neck out.
249. Could I raise two other minor points of detail? You visualise a fairly comprehensive system of specialist committees which would cover the whole field of Governmental activity. It might well be that if Parliament is persuaded to accept this they would rather go in almost the traditional British way step by step in this regard. If you had to choose any particular subject or particular group of Departments, could you advise us as to what you think would be a convenient starting point?—-(Professor Hanson.) I think I should probably plump for the social services. I have here a list of Reports from the Estimates Committee which have been produced since 1960 and it does seem to me that among these very interesting Reports the social services have been rather badly neglected, for one reason or another. It seems to me a subject or series of subjects in which a very large number of Members of Parliament take a deep interest and a constituency interest, and it is not the sort of subject like Defence or Colonial Affairs upon which the Government, perhaps, would feel a bit chary of establishing a specialised committee, for fairly obvious reasons. So, if I were asked my opinion, as I have been, I think I would start there.
250. Lastly, Professor Wiseman used as one of the claims in favour of this system that it could deal with problems connected with the impact of the administration on individuals. That, of course, brings in the public. Have you visualised that members of the public with any grievance against a particular public department should have access to these specialist committees, and if so, what form would it take?—-I personally, Sir, have not envisaged that that would be one of the duties of the select committee. I think that would be placing an enormous and probably unnecessary burden on its shoulders. It seems to me that members of the public who have grievances should either get in touch individually with their Members of Parliament or, if an Ombudsman is produced, this obviously provides another avenue of access to the House of Commons; and you may note that in the memorandum which we have produced we have suggested that in the event of a Parliamentary Commissioner being established he should be associated for this purpose with a select committee of the House of Commons. It seem to me it is that committee which would concern itself with individual grievances rather than the specialised committees which we have envisaged. (Professor Wiseman.) I would, if I may, just quickly add on this that at one point in our deliberations we did suggest that if Members found that they were getting a whole series of similar complaints about a particular Department which seemed to suggest that there might be a pattern of inefficient or unhappy administration, then, of course, they would be open to go to the specialist committee and say: “Is there anything here that you think might be worth investigating”, but I do not press this. I think it would probably be undesirable.
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.
251. I think the evidence you have all three given is based on the argument that individual Members of Parliament ought to specialise more and know more about some particular subject or set of subjects. Is that right?—-I would rather modify that a little and say that I would say that the House would be the more effective in performing its watchdog function over the Government if a larger proportion of Members of Parliament did, in fact, specialise in particular topics. I am not, so to speak, ruling out the kind of Member of Parliament who has a roving commission but who does not, in fact, spend half his time on a specialist committee. I am not suggesting that all 630 Members of Parliament, or, whatever the number of legislators may be, about 400 of them, the rest of the back-benchers, should spend the whole of their time specialising, but I would suggest a bigger proportion of specialists. (Professor Hanson.) I think I would put it in this way: I should like to see particular opportunities provided to Members of the House of Commons to specialise effectively in the things in which they are already interested.
252. But your proposals go a little further than that, do they not? They would require, in fact, that something over 100 Members should to some considerable extent specialise?—-(Professor Wiseman.) Yes.
253. How do you contemplate that these Members should be chosen?—-(Professor Hanson.) There are two alternative ways, I should have thought, in which they could be chosen. You could use the Committee of Selection for the purpose, presumably, or you could appoint them in the same way as other select committees are appointed today, by motion.
254. But, of course, at the present time a select committee is a fairly ephemeral concern. You may sit on it some time but you may only be on for a month or less and there is no very great degree of specialisation required. You are contemplating something much longer-term, I think one of you said, year after year?—-(Professor Bromhead.) I should have thought, Sir, you have the example of local authorities where the appointment of members to particular committees does not cause any very great difficulty, I think. The real problem which perhaps you are raising, Sir, is whether the people would be appointed essentially by the Whips or by the Parties on the one hand or by some non-partisan thing like the Committee of Selection acting not unduly under the influence of the Government.
255. I am not saying that, you are saying it?—-This is the problem which arises, I should have said. I should have thought that probably an informal kind of undefined but adequate relation between the Selection Committee and the Whips could be built up. Essentially it could be on the initiative of the people concerned. (Professor Wiseman.) We have thought that, at any rate, there is a hint of how the thing might begin in the fact that in the Party committees a large number of Members of Parliament do take a continuous interest in particular specialist topics. Presumably the interest of those same Members, if they found the opportunity of service on an all-party committee in a similar field, might carry over from this; but this is simply another way of saying that, surely, the initiative would come from the individual members of Parliament who indicated their desire to serve on a particular specialist committee. I know how this thing works in local government but I do not know it works in the House of Commons and to what extent the preferences of individuals have to be interfered with in order to get a balance of parties or to accommodate Mr. X, Mr. Y, and so on. We must plead ignorance about the hidden techniques of resolving this kind of problem ultimately. (Professor Hanson.) I think we are really making two assumptions here: one is that a very large number of Members of Parliament would want to do this and, secondly, once a Member of Parliament had been appointed to one of these specialist committees there is a presumption that he would wish to continue serving session after session, by means of which a certain continuity of experience would be built up as, indeed, it has already been built up in the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries.
Chairman.] There is a third assumption, is there not, that the electorate does not intervene to put a sharp limit to the length of the specialisation!
Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth.
256. To change from that, could you tell us something more about what you think would be the relationship between these committees and Ministers? I think it was Professor Wiseman who said that he thought it might be necessary occasionally to have Ministers as witnesses?—-(Professor Wiseman.) In answer to a question about civil servants who would reach the stage where they would not feel it proper to comment on matters of policy, what I said was that if the committee really felt that it was desirable to pursue the matter further than the civil servant was prepared to go, then obviously they would have the right to invite the Minister, if he so wished, to come and talk about the matter with them. Equally, the Minister would have the right to say: “I do not propose to do this”. Conversely, I would have thought that occasionally Ministers would find it a useful exercise, so to speak, to try it out on the dog, and ask to talk to committees, to discuss a legislative proposal or, indeed, the way in which a particular administrative policy was working out; and the Minister would clearly have the right to request that he be invited to discuss. But I do not think any of us are envisaging a situation in which the power to send for persons and papers would include the Minister as one of the persons. This is the kind of American and French experience that all of us would, I think, wish to guard against completely.
257. If a Minister were once called how do you contemplate that it would be possible to avoid Members putting to him questions about his function and his policy?—-I would not want to avoid it, frankly, but I have assumed that Ministers would be at least as adept before committees as they are before the House at not giving away anything that they did not want to give away.
258. You do not contemplate, then, that he should ordinarily, at any rate, answer any questions on policy before such a committee?—-I do not contemplate that he could be compelled to answer anything that he did not want to answer; but, on the other hand, again, we may be, so to speak, talking about a platonic republic and not the realities of Government. I should have thought there might be many occasions when Ministers were only too happy to have an opportunity of explaining things in rather more detail than normally they get the opportunity of doing at Question Time in response to Questions and Supplementaries. In other words, if a Minister has a good case, surely he not going to be reluctant to discuss it with the committee. If he has a bad case then he is no worse off than if there is no committee at all.
259. Will not the ordinary deduction be, if a Minister refuses to come, that he has not got much of a case?—-I am certain, Sir, that you are in a much better position to assess the implications in this kind of thing than I am. I can only say that we, as members of the general public, do not always accept that when a Minister says it would not be in the public interest to answer, he is just burking the issue. We sometimes believe that he has very good reason for giving an answer of this sort. (Professor Hanson.) I should have thought one of the safeguards here would be the fact that each of these committees would have a Government majority, and if the majority was not in favour of sending for the Minister then the Minister simply would not be sent for or requested to attend.
260. Does that answer not really mean this, that if you do much more to enlarge the powers of a committee such as the Estimates Committee you are at once introducing Party controversy; that is really what you have just said, is it not?—-I really do not think, Sir, that Party controversy will necessarily be introduced, mainly for the reason that the pattern of work of select committees, I think, has already been fairly clearly established through the Estimates Committee and the Nationalised Industries Committee and others, and that there is this very natural tendency to avoid matters which are matters of acute Party controversy for the simple reason that a majority Party report on such matters would really carry very little weight in the House of Commons. Consequently, I am inclined to rely upon the discretion and good sense which has already been so admirably displayed by the Select Committee on Estimates and the Nationalised Industries Committee to avoid this kind of situation arising. I certainly would not contemplate such a committee sending for the Minister or requesting the attendance of the Minister except on very rare occasions when it was concerned with a matter of very important public policy and where it felt that it could not get the necessary information on this matter except by hearing it from the Ministerial mouth, so to speak. I should feel that the sort of specialised committee which we are proposing had really failed in its task, and was confessing its failure really, if it was constantly requesting a Minister’s presence; because I should have thought that would mean it had got deeply into a question of Party policy which it was not really fitted to discuss and had ceased to be the type of investigatory as distinct from debating committee that we think it should be if it is to do the sort of job which it is for.
261. How do you think, Professor Hanson, the public can be protected in this matter of the selection of the membership of the select committees? I do not myself hold the view that the Party spokesmen are necessarily the best people or the party leaders, in the plural sense, are the best judges in this matter. I have in mind, for instance, the case of the argument and dispute which went on almost throughout the war on the quality of British tanks, where an outsider, the late Dick Stokes, in the cleaning up and investigations of the post-war period was demonstrated to have been probably right all along the line. That is a generality, of course. How do you think therefore that if there is going to be an excess demand to serve on these select committees, as might be the case for instance in a foreign affairs select committee, that you are going to see you get the best people and how do you ensure that unpopular non-established views will be represented?—-I am afraid I find it rather difficult to answer that question, Sir, because I am not fully acquainted with the discussions which go on between Whips and behind the Speaker’s Chair when select committees are being appointed. I should have thought that the aim should be, and as far as I can see the aim is, in the appointment of existing select committees, to produce the widest possible cross-section of opinion in the House, compatible with the preservation of a Government majority, which I think is necessary in every case. But how it can be ensured that non-establishment figures do actually provide part of the membership of a select committee I think is a subject upon which I cannot express any opinion.
262. I quite understand. Now, as to the question of the subjects which are selected for investigation, my own view of the work of the Estimates Committee is that if you look over its work during the past decade the selection of subjects amongst the thousands of potential subjects is very haphazard?—-Yes.
263. If you have, for instance, a select committee on the machinery of national or regional local government administration what do you think should be the method of selecting the really important things, bearing in mind that there is a limitation on members’ time?—-I should have thought that the problem of selection would be easier as soon as you had established a specialised committee, in so far as the committee would know what the area of its jurisdiction was and would become more and more familiar with the area of jurisdiction and the problems coming within it. I would think that the specific problems for investigation would be decided from time to time by the select committee itself, and I have no doubt that other Members of the House of Commons–not members of the select committee–would be prepared frequently to make representations and would say: “Look here, do you not think you ought to investigate this or that?”. I think the main problem, perhaps, would be to strike a balance between continuous, or more or less continuous or long-term, investigations and ad hoc investigations. For instance, if you have a select committee attached to the Home Office it might be conducting fairly long-term investigations into the problems of treating juvenile delinquency, for instance, and then something rather extraordinary and scandalous might happen, such as the Thurso boy incident, and the committee might say: “We will have to stop this long-term investigation for the time being in order to investigate this scandal, or untoward incident, or this thing which everybody is talking about”. I think it might be difficult from time to time to strike this balance between long-term and the very many short-term things which the select committee, I think, would really have to investigate in so far as the House of Commons was interested in them and wanted information about them immediately or, at least, very soon.
264. Professor Wiseman, in an earlier answer you let out just a very brief and half joking comment about your attitude regarding practices in America and France when asked a question by Sir William Robson Brown. Also, I think you said that a select committee might ideally be made up of an optimum figure of 15 to 20, or something like that?—-15 to 20, yes.
265. I am rather interested in the question put by Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth about the degree of specialisation that this implies, because in the case of France, for instance, the tendency has been for the National Assembly for one reason or another to be somewhat disregarded and for a new corps of technologues to be developed who replace the democratically elected people whose job you are seeking to define. Have you any further observations to make on that?—-(Professor Wiseman.) I think the role of the technician in France at the present time, really, is derived from the total Government set-up, the kind of Cabinet that has been formed and the kind of role that has been given to the civil servant. In many cases the civil servant has now become a Minister; and if it is a question of maintaining the balance between the lay representative, the elected member of Parliament, on the one hand and the specialist on the other in our own system it seems to me that this is adequately safeguarded by two things, firstly that the civil servant still remains a servant as much of the committee in a broad sense as of the Minister and, secondly, any specialised and technical advice that is given is given by way of a document or by way of evidence and the final recommendation that comes from the committee is based entirely on the committee’s lay assessment of the information and advice it has received either from civil servants or from outside witnesses. I do not personally see any sort of danger of the kind of infiltration of the decision-making process itself which has obviously developed in the Fifth French Republic. I think there are very different reasons for this in France and those reasons would not obtain here.
266. You do not think that the responsibility for what I think applies in most countries, the attention to the humdrum problems of the constituency, can suffer by the development of the type of Parliamentarian who is a technologue?—-I should not have thought so under present conditions. There is a tremendous amount of argument, of course, about how much assiduous nursing of one’s constituency is worth, 200 or 500 votes, or whatever it may be, but I should have thought there was a sufficient number of marginal constituencies (and how one defines “marginal” is equally at issue), to ensure that, given the background of our kind of political system, the vast majority of Members of Parliament are going to be just as attentive to constituency matters even though they are specialising in the House on committees as they do at present. This is anybody’s guess, but this is how I see the likely situation. I certainly do not envisage a group of Members of Parliament who would say: “The constituency party is just a machine to ensure my election and then for five years I am free to be a technologist.” It seems to me that the traditions of British politics are such that this would not happen here anyhow.
Mr. Snow.] I am much obliged.
Sir George Sinclair.
267. I think it was Professor Hanson who said that he contemplated calling civil servants before the specialist committees and in that I think he was in agreement with Professor Wiseman. I wonder how often they would consider that a specialist committee would be calling the Permanent Secretary of a Ministry, for instance, to come before it in the course of a year?—-(Professor Hanson.) I am afraid I have not given very much thought to this matter, Sir. lt would obviously depend, would it not, upon the importance of the subject matter of investigation at a particular time, whether it was necessary to call the Permanent Secretary of a Department or some civil servant lower down the hierarchy. But I think, however, that a specialist committee, or indeed any select committee, would obviously be very much concerned that it would not occupy too much of the attention and time and energy of highly-placed civil servants, in view of the fact that they are working extremely hard and under considerable strain already. I do not know what the opinion of the civil servants is on this as to their appearances before select committees. Meetings of the Public Accounts Committee and the Select Committee on Estimates are fairly frequent, but I am afraid I have done no analysis of this. I do not know how frequently they appear, what the incidence is for a particular Permanent Secretary or for the average Permanent Secretary if there is such a person, but clearly I should have thought the select committee would have to exercise its discretion in this respect and not place an undue burden upon people who already are very hard-worked. But I should also think that in many cases, as in the nationalised industries, the people administratively responsible would be rather glad to come and explain their work to Members of the House of Commons. This, I think, has certainly happened in the case of the Nationalised Industries Committee and I should also think that it might happen in the case of the specialist committees which we are advocating.
268. I do think the nationalised industries are slightly different because a Minister is not so responsible in detail for their operations. But the point I am really worried about is that you are enlarging the occasions on which a permanent civil servant rather than his Minister is exposed to a political cross-examination over the widest possible field of his responsibilities for the Department. On the committees which you mention, the Public Accounts Committee, the Select Committee on Estimates and the rest of them, it is a very narrow questioning on a broad field to which he is subjected. If he is to appear before one of the specialist committees which is examining the actions and informing people widely of the range of various Departments of Government he will be exposed to Members on both sides of the House over the whole range of his responsibilities far more often and far more widely. Now, this could, I think, cut across the direct chain of responsibility which lies from him to his Minister and through him to the public, not directly to the public. If he is to appear over his whole range of responsibilities before a Parliamentary committee, I wonder whether you see any danger in this, in the civil servant becoming even more than at present the public mouthpiece of the Executive and thus diminishing the really direct responsibility of the Minister, especially in relation to the members of this House?—-(Professor Bromhead.) Perhaps one thing that can be said there, Sir, is that, after all, the whole business of administration is becoming so much more technological. There are so many fields in which today it is desirable to have more and more expert knowledge, and this expert knowledge is not necessarily to be confined to particular compartments but needs to spread over into different compartments; and to bring civil servants into Parliamentary discussion in this sort of field, to discuss before a lay body of this sort, seems to create a situation in which each side has a great deal to give to the other. A Member of Parliament who has become a specialist in a particular thing is not exactly a technologue, I think, really, when he has done that because for much of his time he is doing other things. As a Member of Parliament his approach to the subject is different from that of the people who are concerned all their time in actually working the thing.
269. My point was that he was a developed technologue?—-Yes. So that I should have thought the Member of Parliament in this case would be able to contribute something to the civil servant’s thinking by bringing some other kind of approach to the question to bear upon him. As regards the question of responsibility, this is always a very difficult one.
Sir George Sinclair.
270. This is the nub?—-This is a very difficult one. Of course, we so often think of this in terms of a Minister being responsible, that is, answerable, to people who are out for his blood. This is the kind of theory, in a sense. The Minister is responsible to people who can dismiss him, and so forth.
271. There is another side, the positive aspects of the things he is trying to do?—-Yes.
272. Which is equally important. I do not think any of us would say this positive side–the handing, the putting over to the public of the measures which depend on their co-operation to be successful–are not a Minister’s final responsibility?—-(Professor Hanson.) Might I put it this way: it seems to me that one of the things which Members of Parliament really require–at least, as I see it–is a much better knowledge of what is going on inside the administration than they have at the present moment, and the kind of knowledge which the Minister cannot himself provide, first of all, because he has not got the knowledge himself and, secondly, because he has not got time to set it forth in the kind of detail and circumstantiality required. It seems to me that this can only be done, in the nature of things, by the people who are actually concerned with the administrative process, that is, the civil servants; and I do not think it does them any harm and I think it might do them a considerable amount of good to have, not really to justify themselves, but to explain themselves, rather frequently to an audience consisting of Members of Parliament. This happens fairly frequently now with the Select Committee on Estimates, it would obviously happen more frequently if this system of specialised committees were established. But I would not envisage the Permanent Secretary himself being frequently summoned to give evidence because I think probably for most of the time the select committee, the specialist committee, would not be investigating the whole work of the Department but would be taking particular aspects of the work of the Department on which civil servants lower down the hierarchy could probably speak with greater authority than the Permanent Secretary himself.
Sir William Robson Brown.] Could I follow up, while it is fresh in our minds, this question of the Minister having the absolute, 100 per cent. responsibility. That his is to be the only voice at all times seems to me to be one of the weaknesses of the present Parliamentary system of our country. It could not possibly exist in industry. Industry would fall down if the only man anybody ever saw was the head of the company and if he could never tell anybody: “You can go and see so-and-so and explain this or that to him”. The civil servant who comes before the special committee would be answering questions but he would not be, I imagine, committing his Minister in any way. They are men of great skill and experience and they would, once they got on to rough ground, be very capable of dealing with such a situation, and I think the committee themselves would respect it.
273. Mr. Chairman, I have no intention of making a speech, but I would just like to ask a couple of small questions. As I understand it, regarding the specialist committees which you visualise and these expert witnesses, what you have in mind is that they would be able to call on assessors or people who would come not only as witnesses but men or women with knowledge to help the committee in the deliberations on the particular matter which was under consideration?—-Yes, Sir. I am envisaging that and I am envisaging that these appointments, if you can call them such, would be made ad hoc and not permanently. For instance, if the committee was considering, as it might very well consider, the question of the balance between nuclear power stations and conventional power stations, which is very much a matter of controversy at the present moment, it might conceivably call in an expert economist or an expert accountant, or perhaps both of them, in order to do some kind of cost analysis which the Members themselves would not be competent to do and which, indeed, the clerk of the Committee would not be competent to do; but the thing which I envisage is that, when the committee feels itself up against a problem which it cannot solve from its own knowledge or from the knowledge which is made available to it by its clerk, it should have the power to call in some expert who could appear as a witness and who, I should have thought, could also act as a kind of assessor or informed adviser during the course of the committee’s deliberations.
274. It was the second point I had in mind. You visualise that he would be able to sit with the committee to help them and advise them on these matters as discussion went along?—-Yes. I think the committee should be free to request him to do so when it regarded that particular line of procedure as appropriate. (Professor Wiseman.) But not to participate, in the sense of being able to examine and cross-examine witnesses themselves. May I quickly add one point here which is relevant to this? One of the things which really worries me at the moment about our system of government is that we have a whole series of high-powered advisory committees of all sorts–I believe there is an article in “The Times” this morning–about 250 of them in fact, all of which are advising the Government and Government Departments; and Members of Parliament have to take the advice of these high-powered bodies as it were filtered through to them instead of having an opportunity of evaluating the advice of these people. Now, if Robbins, for instance, had not merely made a report to the Government but had had to go before the specialist committee on education in my opinion the Robbins Report would have been very considerably improved.
275. Having been a member of some of these advisory committees, I think we could open up a very wide field of question and answer on this matter; but I am interested in what you say. Do you think, in effect, that so many of these advisory committees are used by the Government to enable the Government to get their point of view across rather than for the Government themselves to take decisions? I do not know that I really ought to pursue this. Professor Hanson, I must say that I am terribly interested in your evidence this afternoon and it is quite clear that all of you show an intense knowledge of the workings of the House. I was with you up to one particular point, but you rather shocked me when you visualised a specialist committee examining juvenile delinquency. This does raise doubts in my mind as to what you have in mind. If, in effect, you mean this committee is going to examine the whole question of juvenile delinquency, then they are going to be doing this and nothing else. Would you rather have in mind that they would be examining what the Department were doing about it and what other bodies were doing, examining rather in our capacity as Members of Parliament to see that something was being done?—-(Professor Hanson.) Yes, Sir, that is exactly what I had in mind. I am afraid I expressed myself rather loosely on that subject. I did not have in mind that the specialised committee concerned with the Home Office would be calling in psychiatrists and sociologists and all kinds of people to give information as to the existence, nature and treatment of juvenile delinquency. What I was considering was that it would from time to time investigate the organisation of the Home Office for coping with this particular matter which, after all, is one of very considerable public importance. Conceivably, it might regard it as necessary, I do not know, to bring in outside experts on the subject to advise in so far as the organisations for the treatment of the disease, so to speak, can hardly be separated from the nature of the disease itself.
Dame Edith Pitt.
276. Do our distinguished Professors have a view or views on whether a Member of Parliament should give his whole time to duties here or whether we should exist on the present arrangement of some doing that and some still having their outside business and professional activities?—-(Professor Bromhead.) We would certainly not take it upon ourselves to make a suggestion of this kind.
277. I think it has an important bearing on this afternoon’s discussion?—-(Professor Hanson.) I will be quite frank about this. I do regard being a Member of Parliament as being a whole-time job, but I do know that this is a very, very controversial statement to make. (Professor Wiseman.) I, Sir, am in the interim, as some Shakespearean character, whose name I forget, once said. I think no Parliament can work effectively, particularly if it develops the kind of specialist committees we have in mind, unless at least half of its membership is prepared to devote full time; but how one deals with that kind of argument about first-class and second-class citizens and which is which, then here even I will not stick my neck out.
278. Is being a Professor at the University of Exeter a full-time job and does this mean that you are denied taking part in other things?—-Well, we can leave to give evidence before a Select Committee. We should probably have to put in three hours extra.
Sir William Robson Brown.
279. For the record, I asked a full-blooded question but Mr. Steele, quite politely, stopped these gentlemen from giving any answer to it. I was talking about this question of civil servants appearing before these specialist committees and I gave some thoughts to you. I do not know whether you would like to develop them or not, quite briefly. Do you agree with me or do you not; shall we put it as simply as that?—-I am sorry, it just escapes me. (Professor Hanson.) I entirely agree with the statement you made on that subject, Sir.
280. Professor Hanson made one reply which I found confusing. He told us he wanted the inquiry by Departments and not subjects, but when I asked what would be the first committee to be set up he said the social service, which has, I think, six departments. Can he explain that?—-I said the social services, and in saying that I was indicating an area. I am still personally in favour of committees being attached to Departments or to groups of Departments according to need. In my reply I was simply suggesting the area of subject matter in which a start might be made, through a committee attached to the Home Office or to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance or a committee which concerned itself with the affairs of a number of different Departments, all of whom had their fingers in the social service pie.
281. Does not my confusion show the complete necessity of having some form of co-ordinating committee if you have a system of such committees, as the Estimates Committee do?—-Oh, yes, Sir, I do agree.
282. One of you, I think, said you should have no co-ordinating committee?—-(Professor Wiseman.) There is a difference of opinion among the members of the Study of Parliament Group on this. The proposals we put forward were partly governed, if I may say so, by trying to work out a compromise in the Group and partly by, of course, an attempt to put forward proposals which we thought might be more acceptable as a starting point. Now, I personally said quite firmly when this discussion first began within the Group that I would nominate the Home Office, the Ministry of Education, as it then was, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government as my three first Ministries to which specialist committees would be attached; and across the board I also said that, in view of the present interest, I would strongly recommend the scientific committee as an effective specialist committee. But I would not like it to be thought that as far as we are concerned the merits of the general principle of specialist committees is in any way weakened, in our opinion, by a difference of view as to where the experiment ought to start.
283. Now, gentlemen, it only remains for me on behalf of the Committee to thank you very much for coming here and for assisting us in the way you have?—-May we, Sir, thank you very much for the opportunity that you have given us.
Prepared by Simon Patrick, 10 August 2001