PROCEDURE – GOVERNANCE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS – 22 January 2015

Dr Julian Lewis: Given that there is going to be a split and that there will be an authoritative figure in charge of the management of the House of Commons, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what would happen if there were a decision about management taken by the new Director General with which the Clerk disagreed? What would happen then?

(The Chairman of the Governance Committee) Mr Jack Straw: Let me go through the arrangements. Once I have done that, it will become easier to answer the hon. Gentleman’s point. To secure a unified House service, we concluded, as paragraph 166 sets out, that the Clerk should continue to be head of the House service and thus formally the line manager of the Director General. However, the new Director General will have a considerable degree of autonomy. Since delivery will be their responsibility, it is the Director General, not the Clerk, who will chair the new Executive Committee. She or he will sit on the Commission with the Clerk, and will have direct access to Mr Speaker and other Commission members. So the answer to the hon. Gentleman is that if there were a dispute between the Clerk and the chief executive, the matter would go to Mr Speaker and be resolved by the Commission. Crucially, unlike the current arrangements where the Management Board is free-floating and separate from the Commission, the Executive Committee will formally be a committee of the Commission. I hope that that answers his question.

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Mr Peter Hain: At the risk of sounding boringly repetitive, may I ask whether my hon. Friend (Angela Eagle) sees any reason why the post of Director General could not be advertised at the very least before the Dissolution?

(TheShadow Leader of the House of Commons) Ms Angela Eagle: I see absolutely no reason why not. I know that the Commission will, if the House passes the motion, have that issue on its agenda on Monday. I for one – I am not the only one – am anxious to get on with both appointments as speedily as possible.

Dr Lewis: Does the hon. Lady agree that any advertisement should make it absolutely clear that the Director General will have very considerable autonomy in the execution of his or her duties?

Mr Hain: And authority.

Dr Lewis: Indeed. That very considerable autonomy was emphasised by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) in his report and his speech.

Ms Eagle: I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that anyone who wishes to apply for the post will read the Committee’s report, as well as all the fascinating evidence people gave in such a short time, so that they are well aware of the nature of the job and the authority that we intend should go with it.

[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]