It is without exaggeration that I write that I was quite saddened to learn today that my favourite UK House of Commons Select Committee, The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) has been abolished. Yes, I am that much of a parliament geek that I had a favourite select committee.
The PCRC was created at the start of the previous Parliament, in 2010, to scrutinize the work of the Deputy Minister Nick Clegg who was responsible for the coalition government’s rather ambitious constitutional reform agenda. The Committee did just that, and much more, as Andrew Blick reports, and there would have been a lot more good work to be done in this new Parliament.
I thought that the decision to abolish the PCRC might have had something to do with the creation of the new Petitions Committee. In the previous Parliament, during the Procedure Committee’s study on implementing e-petitions, there was concern expressed over the possibility of creating a new committee. Then Leader of the House William Hague argued that it would be better to assign the responsibility for e-petitions to an existing committee — perhaps even the Procedure Committee. He warned that if a new committee was formed, it would most likely be at the expense of an existing committee. As the new kid on the committee block, I feared that the PCRC would be the one to go.
However, there are two new committees in this new Parliament — the aforementioned Petitions Committee, as well as the Women and Equalities Committee. As far as I can tell, the PCRC is the only committee from the previous Parliament to have been cut, so Hague’s assertion that a new committee would come at the cost of an existing committee obviously didn’t hold true. Or at least, it wasn’t a clear one for one trade-off.
Interestingly, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) appears to have had its mandate broadened. It is now called the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, so perhaps it will be taking over some of the work that would have gone to the PCRC.
Luckily, the excellent work done by the PCRC during its brief five years of existence will still be accessible on the UK Parliament website. It will be relegated to the “Former Committees” section, but its reports will still be available to anyone pondering questions such as government formation, Parliament’s role in conflict decisions, MP recall, role and powers of the Prime Minister, rules of succession, ensuring standards in the quality of legislation, voter engagement and much more. You may not agree with their conclusions — I didn’t always, but you will respect the work that they did.