Guide to impact of Election on work of parliamentary committees, especially relating to Heathrow NPS
For those of us who are unfamiliar with the way parliament works etc, and especially in relation to select committees and the effect of a general election, here is a short briefing on what will happen in the coming months, especially in relation to Heathrow. From the 3rd May Parliament is dissolved. The parliamentary select committees have also ceased to function. The chairs of these committees need to be elected first, and the decision made on which party will chair each committee, according to the strength of the party in the House. It could be mid July before committee chairs are appointed. Then members of the committees have to be appointed, and that needs a motion setting out the membership of each committee, agreed on the floor of the House. In both 2010 and 2015, this took approximately six weeks to be agreed. Therefore, the earliest the final composition of select committees will be known is likely to be September 2017. The election means that any current inquiries not completed (such as the Transport Committee one on the draft NPS) have been paused. It will be up to the members of the new Transport Select Committee if they wish to pick up this inquiry and continue with it. There is also an inquiry by 4 select committees into air quality. That will also have to be picked up by the new committees.
All Select Committees in the House of Commons will have to be reconstituted once Parliament returns after the Election. Since 2010 the Chairs of the Select Committees have been elected by all members of the House in a secret ballot. The individual political parties also now arrange elections to help choose their members of select committees. This process has to be done in a transparent and democratic way but each party group can decide on its own method of election. This results in MPs lobbying their colleagues for their support if they desire to serve on a specific committee.
However, before the election of committee chairs can begin, the House must first allocate the posts of particular committee chairs to specific parties. The Speaker of the House of Commons writes to the party leaders on the day following his/her election at the start of a new Parliament, indicating the numbers of chairs that should be allotted to each party, according to their strength in the House.
Within a week of the Queen’s Speech, a motion is put to the House (in the name of all the leaders of the parties entitled to a chair) to allocate the chair of each committee to a specific party. If no such motion is tabled within two weeks, the Standing Order allows a motion allocating chairs to be brought in the name of any MP.
The ballot for the select committee chairs must take place within 14 days of the motion being approved. This means that the new chairs should be in place before the Summer Recess begins.
The process for electing committee members kicks off once the results of the chair elections are known so that unsuccessful candidates can stand. The party balance of committee membership is intended to reflect the balance of seats in the House. Once each party has decided who will represent it on each committee, a motion setting out the membership of each committee has to be agreed on the floor of the House. In both 2010 and 2015, this took approximately six weeks to be agreed. Therefore, the earliest the final composition of select committees will be known is likely to be September 2017.
The election means that any current inquiries not completed (such as the Transport Committee one on the draft NPS) have been paused. It will be up to the members of the new Transport Select Committee if they wish to pick up this inquiry and continue with it.
After a General Election, every All Party Parliamentary Group needs to hold an AGM to formally reconstitute the Group. This provides an opportunity to encourage new MPs and peers to join and for a new programme of work to be agreed. The APPG on Heathrow and the Wider Economy will thus need to be reconstituted.
Though the NPS process may be delayed, it has not been changed by the announcement of the General Election. The consultation on the draft NPS will close on 25th as planned and the Government is expected to publish an official response before the Summer Recess.
The vote on the final NPS may be slightly delayed by the disruption caused by the General Election and the dominance of Brexit negotiations including the Great Repeal Bill. It is likely to be in spring 2018.
If there is a large Conservative majority that could mean the government pushes the NPS process through as fast as it can. Whatever the outcome of the General Election there will be reshuffles of Ministerial teams and possibly even some changes to Government departments.
Purdah begins – 21st April
Dissolution – 3rd May
Local Elections – 4th May
Party Manifestos expected to be published – Week commencing 8th May
Deadline for nomination papers to be submitted to returning officer for General Election – 11th May
Consultation on draft NPS on airports closes – 25th May
General Election – 8th June
1st possible date of new Parliament – 14th June
1st possible date of State Opening – 21st June
Possible date for ballots of election of Select Committee Chairs – 13th July
Summer Recess – 20th July
Parliament Returns – 5th September
Parliament in Recess – 15th September
TUC conference – 10th until 13th September
Lib Dem Party Conference – 16th until 19th September
Labour Party Conference – 24th until 27th September
Conservative Party Conference – 1st until 4th October
SNP Party conference – 6th until 9th October
Parliament Returns – 10th October
Four Select Committees launch an unprecedented joint inquiry into air pollution
MP’s from four Parliamentary select committees have combined forces to launch an unprecedented joint inquiry on air quality to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle urban pollution hotspots. The Environmental Audit Committee, Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Health, and Transport Committees will hold four evidence sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental impacts of outdoor air pollution. The Government has lost two UK court cases about its plans to tackle the key pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The High Court has ordered the Government to publish a draft new clean air plan to tackle NO2 by 24 April, with a final plan by 31 July. The European Commission has also threatened enforcement which could see the UK pay millions of pounds in fines if the Government does not within two months take steps to bring 16 UK zones within legal pollution limits. Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee (dealing with the draft NPS on Heathrow), said emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions: “We will be asking what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.” Deadline was 12th May 2017 but that has been suspended due to General Election.
Transport Committee announces start of its inquiry into (Heathrow) Airports NPS (24th March deadline for evidence)
The Transport Select Committee (a supporter of airport expansion and of a larger Heathrow) is the parliamentary committee that was given the task of running an inquiry into the draft Airports NPS. The deadline for commenting was 24th March. The committee had intended to submit its report to government by early July. But due to the election, the work of the committee has halted. Staff can continue to consider the responses they were sent. However, the committee needs to be re-constituted after the election. There may be a different chair, and different members. The process of establishing a new committee could take many months and the committee is not likely to be up and running before mid-September at the earliest. The election means that any current inquiries not completed, like this one, have been paused. It will be up to the members of the new Transport Select Committee if they wish to pick up this inquiry and continue with it. Whether this would cause a delay to the timetable for the government getting its NPS voted for in Parliament is uncertain. The vote is not now likely before spring 2018 rather than by November or December 2017, as originally intended.