POINT OF ORDER – ESTABLISHMENT OF SELECT COMMITTEES – 23 October 2017
Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your reply to the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Sarah Wollaston), you mentioned certain Committees that have not yet been constituted, including the Liaison Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee, but you did not mention another one that has not yet been constituted, which is the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. Since hearing your strong response to that earlier point of order, I have received a letter from the National Security Adviser, Mark Sedwill, in which he declines to appear before the Defence Committee to discuss the review of national security capabilities because as he points out, not unreasonably:
“As you note in your letter, the established procedure is that I appear before the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy on these issues. Although it has not yet been constituted in the new Parliament…you are an ex-officio member.”
What can I do to turn to practical advantage my being an ex-officio member of a Committee that has not yet been constituted this far into the new Parliament?
[Mr Speaker: The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the best thing he can do is to seek, in a matter of days, to persuade his colleagues who are in a position to facilitate the establishment of those Committees without further delay. Traditionally, I do not think that it will be objected to – certainly not by any serious Whip – if I say that the Whips have not regarded it as their prime concern to establish Select Committees to scrutinise the Executive, of which they are the defenders. That is to put it mildly. However, they do have a responsibility in this matter. The Leader of the House, as the House’s representative in the Government, has a particular responsibility, supported by the shadow Leader of the House and the Opposition Chief Whip, to bring about the constitution of those Committees.
For those who were not here earlier, the matter was raised in respect of the Liaison Committee, and I pointed out that the same concern applied to the European Scrutiny Committee and to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is not a Select Committee, but an important Committee none the less. The right hon. Gentleman has now identified how it applies with such force to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. He has also explained how the failure to constitute the Committee has effectively created a void for an important potential witness. This is now an embarrassment and it needs to be sorted, preferably this week.]