House of Committees

Baroness Deech

The House of Lords is settling the new membership of its Select Committees, all of which fell into abeyance with the general election. There are 16 of them, and the European Union one has 7 subcommittees. I am pleased to have been appointed a member of the House of Lords Communications Committee, the remit of which is to consider the media and the creative industries.  That will make a change from my previous committee, Merits of Statutory Instruments, on which I served for 3 years, and which scrutinised over 1000 statutory instruments (delelgated legislation) a year.

I have said before that there is less scientific expertise in the Commons after the election than there was before.  So it was especially interesting to note the new membership of the Lords Science and Technology Committee, announced on 22 June.  It includes, amongst others, Lord Cunningham (PhD in Chemistry); Lord Krebs, Professor of Zoology and former chair of the Food Standards Agency; Lord Methuen, electrical engineer; Baroness Neuberger, long associated with the NHS and medical ethics; Lord Patel, former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Lord Rees, astronomer and President of the Royal Society; Earl Selborne, biologist and environmentalist; Lord Wade, food industry; Lord  Warner, former NHS Minister and Lord Winston, baby expert and polymath.  Match that, Commons, if you can.  If the Lords were all elected, that level of scientific expertise would never be attained.  It serves to inform, curb or sometimes extend Government policies on science.

13 comments for “House of Committees

  1. Len
    28/06/2010 at 2:50 am

    My lady, upon the basis of this timely evidence, I was wondering if you understood the government’s position when they endorsed the view that there should not be a Lords’ Foreign Affairs committee considering that both the Commons and Lords have a Science and Technology Committee with no visible problems between the two? I certainly didn’t.

    It seems highly suspect that such a committee is allowed to go ahead while foreign affairs is denied the opportunity of having a select committee on it. Quite why the establishment in the Lords is happy to go along with one ‘anomaly’ whilst blocking another supposed ‘anomaly’ is beyond me.

    Indeed, the level of expertise in the Lords is my prime reason for supporting it in its current incarnation. I may have an ideal Lords in my mind, but I recognise the current one is the best we can reach for now.

    • Baroness Deech
      baronessdeech
      28/06/2010 at 12:39 pm

      I agree

  2. Gareth Howell
    28/06/2010 at 7:52 am

    And the right to attend and listen to that committee in person, as a member of the public?

    • Baroness Deech
      baronessdeech
      28/06/2010 at 12:37 pm

      The investigative sessions are open to the public. And minutes are published.

      • 28/06/2010 at 7:32 pm

        Your word “The investigative sessions are open to the public. And minutes are published” :
        How far does that mean the televising of sessions, the inclusion of Notes to Minutes
        (far too often at all levels vital suggestions and questions are not only left off the minutes entirely but no note is ever attached as to their existence and verbatim serious content; they have ‘slipped through cracks in the table, or between gaps in the floorboards’)
        and the Participation-by-the-public/individual-citizen in the factors-collection for future or existing legislation ?

        In televised recordings we need a tiny second-handed clock, too; so that any monitoring member of the public can the more quickly and accurately point to a place where a comment, correction, question or relevant-material might need to be revisited or noted.
        ———-
        re The public ‘attending’ and ‘listening’, I have previously submitted (re MEPs passes)that the Chamber and every Committee Room should have its viewing-public area fully screened-off by reinforced bomb- & bullet-proof glass.

        I submit that we each and all need to insist on very clearly differentiated thinking and use-of-words; for instance, Who is required to ‘attend’ the Meeting [one would think only the required responsible members thereof]; who to be in non-participatory attendance at the meeting [one would think only the official scribes, security-personnel, and suchlike]; and who is permitted to be in non-participatory observation of the meeting [one would think all Others – and keep them behind sound-proof and weapon-proof screens, one would say].

        We aspire to being a participatorily cooperative Democracy, including all and every single one of The People; so Scope, Multiplication, and Percentages factors are vital Tasks to be completed, and to be seen-to-have-been-completed, very preferably before a Bill becomes the Act.
        We are 60 million odd participation-entitled people; of which only six or so would be likely to be seen actually observing, in the Committee Room ?

        We have a need, so does the whole World, to be clear in matters of Overlap and Underlap; particularly in showing the percentages therein. [e.g. What was the Scope of the Bankers’ embezzlements; contrasted with the (much smaller scope) of (say) Parliamentarians’ expenses-embezzlements; with the scope of the Benefit-fraudsters embezzlements ; or with the scope of honest citizen Z’s necessary-and-sufficient lifesupports-allowance within which the government has been secretly making small overpayments for years without citizen Z’s knowledge ? ]
        ——————————-
        How make this Democracy top-down visible to and comprehensible by all ?
        Certainly that would appear to be more complete-able than to make People-upwards initiation and participation complete-able in the same Parliamentary span of time ?
        Else (GH) what point in anyone attending or listening ?
        —————————-
        Noble baroness, inescapably there will be compromises quickly set up where what is needed is ‘win-win-win’ resolution for the long-term.

        For those who are not clear of the difference between a compromise and a win-win-win resolution, consider a young school-age brother and sister at breakfast-time, rushing to pack their lunches, with only one orange left in the family fruitbowl: “I need the orange” says the boy, ”No, I’ve got to have it” says the girl. (The school train hoots in the distance). “Quick, let’s cut it down the middle !”
        Brilliant ! Compromises satisfy all parties.

        However, that evening when the Parents wished to know what the kivuffle was that morning, it turned out that the girl only needed the outside rind as zest for her Cookery class, and the boy only needed the juicy flesh to succour him through a day containing athletics as well as a Test. A win-win (-win including partly-overlapping others such as peers and parents) solution would have been possible.
        (Illustration-source: Shoshana Faire in The Australian Conflict-Resolution Network 1994).

        —————————
        (jsdm 19320M2806).

    • Gareth Howell
      30/06/2010 at 9:14 am

      “16 of them, and the European Union one has 7 subcommittees”

      I would be interested to know the proportion of time spent on the EU sub committees to the rest of the committees.

      It has been my contention for a long time that the other committees are a mere duplication of the Committees of the other place, however fine the intellects of the
      personages mentioned by the noble Baroness.

      ALL of those luminaries in their scientific fields can perfectly well give evidence to the Commons committees if so asked; why trouble with committees of their own?

      Committees, committees, committees! BUT the EU committees are essential to the proper functioning of parliament as a parliament of a nation state of the European Union.

      We hear far too little about what they are doing, and the last time I went to one in person, was advised after a few minutes that it was now going in to closed session, (mainly it seemed because I had turned up.

      The Baroness Deech really cannot escape from the insult that I convey! It is an exclusivist chamber; it has no regard for
      democracy; it promotes elitism amongst men of science who might otherwise be approachable as human beings! If the HofC committees wish to find givers of evidence to it, I would not be at all surprised if the Scientists mentioned by her keep quiet, telling themselves that their committee is perfectly adequate for the purpose, and that there is no point in duplicating the information or knowledge.

      I regret that the acquisition of knowledge is something that learnéd people frequently want for themselves and for nobody else at all.
      If they can possibly avoid wasting time, giving knowledge to others, they will do.

      I fear that applies to the ethos of the house of Lords committees as well.

  3. 28/06/2010 at 11:01 am

    I see neither an expert in (both) Modern English Language and All-Round Thinking Skills & Method III Problem Solving Facilitation; nor a Modern Individual & Collective Human Development expertise, in any Committee so far .
    How do the respective Houses fill, or intend to fill, the now existential and vitally necessary governance need for a Facilitator, on each committee , I mean simply to maximise or optimise multi-way communication and Method III Needs & Hows Identification and win-win-win Cooperative problem-solving ?
    ——-
    One is mindful of the ‘Dawkins versus the Judges’ tense-moment during a talk about the origin of us the human species, where ‘the judges’ in the audience insisted they be told at which precise moment in History we the Human Race became a separate species from our evolutionary ancestor the Red Chimpanzee ?

    The reply was one of a necessary distinction between ‘Discontinuous-mind thinking’ as in a court of law, a competitive debate, and suchlike ‘black-or-white, win-lose’ methodologies, and ‘Continuous-mind thinking’ as in Evolution and sustainability.
    (Dawkins):
    (“) Consider the white European herring-gull, which like most wildlife families pressures its younger-generations to ’emigrate’.
    White herring-gulls appeared in Scotland, then in Iceland, even across the North Pole and into Canada; but of course only over periods measured in units of 1000 or 10000 years.
    The gull continued emigrating across Canada ever westwards, into Alaska; then across into Siberia. How many hundreds of thousands of years gone by, now ?
    The changing environments had by now changed some of its ‘architecture’ and by the time it arrived back in Europe it had become the Black-backed gull. Furthermore it could no longer interbreed with the white herring-gull. It had become a distinctly separate species.

    So, worshipful judges, at which precise point did some of the herring-gull species actually become the black-backed gull species ?
    The thinking is precisely the same for the Human Race arising as a separate species from its Originator the Red Chimpanzee. That thinking I call ‘Continuous’. The other sort for the ‘which- straw-broke-the- camel’s-back’ kind of ‘black-or-white’ thinking, I call ‘Discontinuous’. (“)
    ————————
    My Lords,
    I would submit that whilst Richard Dawkins has met the above instantiated Thinking stand-off problem, Britain’s, and possibly Europe’s, overall and underpinning Governance-Thinking needs a much more All-Round reliable methodology; such as the Six Thinking Skills (Dr Edward de Bono, Englishman), and (ampersand) the ‘friendly’ Method III win-win-win Cooperative problem-solving (Dr Thomas Gordon, USA).

    It has already been submitted that both Houses need a Non-Legislative support institution (which I suggested be called “The British Non-Legislative House of Knowledge and Life-Experience”) whose Task would be to assemble all the Facts, list possible Priorities, suggest wordings for Bills, and generally take the main non-legislative Preparation burdens of time, volume, and comparative-evaluation of material, off the two Legislative Houses such that the reliability, all-round strength, and effective oould achieved.

    Meanwhile, I beg to continue feeling reasonably comfortable to continue with such abilities as ‘We’ have, and to trust the new committees, one and all, to succeed in our evidently now much greater governance-needs for response-able resilience in all fact-finding, thinking, and decision-making responsibilities.

  4. 28/06/2010 at 11:06 am

    I see neither an expert in (both) Modern English Language and All-Round Thinking Skills & Method III Problem Solving Facilitation; nor a Modern Individual & Collective Human Development expertise, in any Committee so far .
    How do the respective Houses fill, or intend to fill, the now existential and vitally necessary governance need for a Facilitator, on each committee , I mean simply to maximise or optimise multi-way communication and Method III Needs & Hows Identification and win-win-win Cooperative problem-solving ?
    ——-
    One is mindful of the ‘Dawkins versus the Judges’ tense-moment during a talk about the origin of us the human species, where ‘the judges’ in the audience insisted they be told at which precise moment in History we the Human Race became a separate species from our evolutionary ancestor the Red Chimpanzee ?

    The reply was one of a necessary distinction between ‘Discontinuous-mind thinking’ as in a court of law, a competitive debate, and suchlike ‘black-or-white, win-lose’ methodologies, and ‘Continuous-mind thinking’ as in Evolution and sustainability.
    (Dawkins):
    (“) Consider the white European herring-gull, which like most wildlife families pressures its younger-generations to ’emigrate’.
    White herring-gulls appeared in Scotland, then in Iceland, even across the North Pole and into Canada; but of course only over periods measured in units of 1000 or 10000 years.
    The gull continued emigrating across Canada ever westwards, into Alaska; then across into Siberia. How many hundreds of thousands of years gone by, now ?
    The changing environments had by now changed some of its ‘architecture’ and by the time it arrived back in Europe it had become the Black-backed gull. Furthermore it could no longer interbreed with the white herring-gull. It had become a distinctly separate species.

    So, worshipful judges, at which precise point did some of the herring-gull species actually become the black-backed gull species ?
    The thinking is precisely the same for the Human Race arising as a separate species from its Originator the Red Chimpanzee. That thinking I call ‘Continuous’. The other sort for the ‘which- straw-broke-the- camel’s-back’ kind of ‘black-or-white’ thinking, I call ‘Discontinuous’. (“)
    ————————
    My Lords,
    I would submit that whilst Richard Dawkins has met the above instantiated Thinking stand-off problem, Britain’s, and possibly Europe’s, overall and underpinning Governance-Thinking needs a much more All-Round reliable methodology; such as the Six Thinking Skills (Dr Edward de Bono, Englishman), and (ampersand) the ‘friendly’ Method III win-win-win Cooperative problem-solving (Dr Thomas Gordon, USA).

    It has already been submitted that both Houses need a Non-Legislative support institution (which I suggested be called “The British Non-Legislative House of Knowledge and Life-Experience”) whose Task would be to assemble all the Facts, list possible Priorities, suggest wordings for Bills, and generally take the main non-legislative Preparation burdens of time, volume, and comparative-evaluation of material, off the two Legislative Houses such that the reliability, all-round strength, and effectiveness of every piece of legislation oould be achieved.

    Meanwhile, I beg to continue feeling reasonably comfortable to continue with such abilities as ‘We’ have, and to trust the new committees, one and all, to succeed in our evidently now much greater Governance-Needs for response-able resilience in all fact-finding, thinking, and decision-making responsibilities.

    • jm
      30/06/2010 at 4:58 pm

      Oh dear ! Sorry; I wrongly thought that my 1101 a.m. submission above would be replaced by my corrected version submitted five minutes later.

      Such had happened once before when I tried it.

      Nevetheless, I should and now shall draft first outside-of-the-box and take enough fresh-minded time to complete editing myself, before clicking ‘Post comment’:
      incidentally, should not that button be labelled “Submit comment/reply” (only member-Lords and Ladies being authorised to ‘Post’) ?

  5. ZAROVE
    28/06/2010 at 5:51 pm

    I agree. I actually don’t think the Lords should be elected at all. This is a perfect example of why. I know that, in our day and age the working assumption is that only Democracy is Legitimate and only those duly elected by the People should serve, but I wonder why.

    That is my Great Heresy, in that I see advantage in unelected Leaders. I find it a comfort that a shy, perhaps socially awkward man who is nevertheless a Skilled Lawyer can serve on the Lords, I find it incredibly comforting that skilled experts like Rees could serve. But Rees isn’t a Politician and I don’t think he’d have ever chosen to run, and if he did I doubt he’d have won as he doesn’t seem the type to really throw himself into shameless self promotion, which is of course necessary if you want to win an election.

    Politicians have to spend all of their time grooming their image and tailoring their presentations and looking at poll numbers, and as a result become the same as Actors managing a personal image for marketability. Scientists really don’t do that. Well, not if they are good Scientists anyeay, because that’d prevent them from actual Study.

    The lack of election also means that they can focus on Sensable legislation, not the heat of the moment poll numbers by a Public which may be uninformed.

    Personally I think we’re better off if th Lords aren’t Elected.

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    28/06/2010 at 6:47 pm

    Is there any shorter way of saying that?

    ————–

    On the subject of lord foreign Affairs such a committee would be completely wasted effort.
    The commons committee is effective for the purpose and is there not Baroness Ashton from the Lords beavering away on a Foreign policy for the EU in Brusselles?

  7. Lord Blagger
    28/06/2010 at 8:26 pm

    Mind you, the benefits cuts have started

    So the government is going to get tough on benefits.

    You know the target. People who are old, been sacked from their jobs, get a friendly mate to sign them off on the sick. They then sit around all day, talking and not doing anything, when they could be out there in the real world earning money and paying taxes.


    Peers face a 10 per cent cut in their allowances under a new House of Lords expenses regime set to be announced today.

    Yep, its a small start.

    Lord Blagger.

    • jm
      30/06/2010 at 5:28 pm

      Something’s wrong there somewhere; for instance “earning money” and “paying taxes” , both respectively and jointly.

      Bankers as individual human-beings are certainly “given”, and therein probably “take”, obscenely-excessive numbers of livings and amounts of pocket-monies from the Common Purse; but they do not “earn” that much nor do they pay a ‘fair’ amount (big-enough percentage) of It in Taxes.

      Whereas a single impaired-citizen, living austerely (but healthily, happily and citizenlike) is “awarded” just one living, is growing herbs and flowers and shrubs, conserving water, conserving elec and gas (the term ‘energy’ should be definitively double-entrenched as ‘dead-fuel energy’ to enable It, as distinct from human-energy, to be more responsibly accounted)… and is paying a huge percentage of that one-living in taxes, every day !
      [To be concluded].
      ————
      (jm1729W3006).

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