Thursday, June 26, 2008

Select Cuts

Highlights from Parliament’s select committees

This is very much a test run of an idea of mine: to offer a round-up of what’s been going on in the various parliamentary select committees – subject entirely to my judgement of what’s significant. So:

The Commons Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills has a report on Biosecurity in UK research laboratories, arguing that “there is a striking lack of co-ordination between organisations who sponsor and run high containment laboratories” and that “The Government must ensure that dependable funding is provided to maintain such facilities safely.”

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has a report on Providing budget support for developing countries. It finds that providing budget support directly to developing-country government has led to mixed results in terms of capacity-building. “While there is evidence of better policy-making and planning, there is very little evidence of improved performance in key areas such as financial management.” It says that “DFID has not established the effectiveness of budget support relative to other types of aid” and warns: “The financial risks of putting UK funds through weak national systems are often high.”

The Commons Justice Committee is looking at the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (provisions relating to the Attorney General). It says that the draft bill “makes no substantial change to the current situation”, and believes that “transparency requires separating the political functions of the Attorney General from the legal functions”. It wants greater accountability for the AG and for the AG to be unable to stop Serious Fraud Office investigations. The Committee says that the draft bill “gives greater power to the Executive; and it does not add to transparency”. It also favours “a statutory duty being placed on ministers to observe the Rule of Law”.

The Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee reports on Renewable electricity-generation technologies, saying that “the Government’s targets for renewable electricity generation are wholly inadequate”; the Government must “remove current barriers to technology deployment, and develop a coherent policy framework to bring on the development of pre-commercial technologies”.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has a report on The reorganisation of neonatal services as it affects “vulnerable babies” in England. The new networks “have made progress in reducing the number of times babies have to be transferred long distance to obtain the necessary level of care”, but the Committee cautions that there are capacity constraints and staffing problems.

So that’s what I have. It feels a wee bit thin; I’ve generally gone back about two weeks for material, and I’ve ignored published transcripts of witness sessions and Government responses to earlier committee reports. Possibly any of these selection criteria are worth rethinking – although, of course, if I extend the timespan then the round-ups will become less frequent. And possibly this is just not of enough interest to anyone for it to be worth doing.

(Thanks to Liam for research tips.)


Liam Murray said...

I think it works but then I'm a geek! And I like the name...

Hunch is that monthly would give you more time and make it meatier when it arrived..

Anonymous said...

The first two are interesting enough. I'm a bit disappointed with the first, the committee covered a bit with their pointing out the negligence of 'ministerial oversight', but I was expecting more? The vetting of staff is expected with some of the speculation that arose, but I still appreciated it.

The third --I blank at most detailed things concerning foreign law-- I assume it relates to BAE. Glancing at it, it looked like they were trying to define Scotland's job for her, so she won't repeat any mistakes? I'll have a look at the 2nd one later.

And the last two are generally tales that make people shake their head at their respective governments. (So, I'm going to be lazy and not give them a look, best not to be slightly alarmed at ineptitude this early in the morning, unless it's my own. Sorry.)

The round-up is good, I'm not sure anyone will attempt to chastise you for not making them regular though. Especially, as I believe you may have read every single word of those reports; I think you deserve someone treating you to WHSmith's 3-for-2 sale-- give you some junk literature already. Maybe some travel guides?

I was curious if/how much you cater to your audience-- curiosity satisfied.

Tom Freeman said...

"I believe you may have read every single word of those reports"

Ahem. My Speaker, with your permission I would like to apologise for inadvertently giving the House the impression that I have done any more then skim the summaries for the gist and a quote or two. I would also like to record my smugness at nonetheless having given that impression. ;-)

Anyway. personally, the second and third are the only ones I'd have paid any attention to had I not been doing this. But my own interests are really too random to base a round-up on!

Monthly may well be the way it goes. Another option that's flitting through my mind is to do one post per item as and when they come out. But that might require a separate dedicated blog for it to make much sense.