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by Emma Petela 11th June, 2015
3 min read

Will we miss the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee?

A significant political event occurred recently which appears to have gone under the radar. Blink and you may have missed the fact that the new Government has abolished the dedicated Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

At first glance the decision to tack “Constitutional Affairs” onto the remit of the Public Administration Committee seems like a good compromise. However, when you take into account the number of Bills outlined in the Queen’s Speech which will impact on the UK’s political and constitutional landscape, the decision to abolish a Committee dedicated to scrutinising these policies becomes a cause for concern.

How useful are Select Committees anyway you may ask?

During the past two parliaments the power of Select Committees rose sharply. During the Coalition years they were frequently a serious influence on government policy. Even towards the dying days of the Coalition Government the Public Accounts Committee, for example, undertook a session on quotes for assessments for the Disabled Students’ Allowance which led to some rushed policy implementation from BIS to address the issues raised.

As we wait for the election of the Committee Chairs, those in favour of holding the Government to account via Select Committees will be cheered by the number of ambitious, independent-minded MPs putting themselves forward. The Justice Committee has some exciting contenders for the chairmanship including Jonathan Djanogly, a former justice minister, and backbenchers John Howell and David Burrowes, known for leading the Commons’ opposition to gay marriage in the last parliament.

With the power of Select Committees therefore likely to continue on an upwards trajectory, it’s yet to be seen what impact the loss of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee will have.  However, with some controversial policies planned, such as the repeal or replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998, and ‘English Votes for English Laws’, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is likely to have a busy Parliament ahead if it’s to succeed in holding the government to account in these areas!

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