In a post on my blog, I have drawn attention to the report from the Procedure Committee which was agreed yesterday by the House. Part of the report was to inform the House that in future the names of Government Departments that failed to respond to reports from select committees within two months would be listed in House of Lords Business.
Departments that fail to respond within the expected ten working days to written questions are already listed. It is a useful way of naming and shaming. It struck me that it would be appropriate to extend the practice to select committee reports. I put down a question at the end of last year raising the proposal and the Leader of the House, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, said she would take it to the Procedure Committee. They have now agreed to it. It is a modest way of shaming Departments, but it means any Department that takes a long time to reply – and some can take many months – will now be regularly shown to be remiss and likely to be pursued by the Leader of the House to respond.
It may not have much impact on the quality of responses. A delay in replying does not usually mean that a Department is deep in thought, but rather is having to clear responses with other Departments, resulting in an agreed response that represent the lowest common denominator. However, it may encourage Departments to be more efficient and at least alert to the need to respond. They can no longer hope that their tardiness in responding has fallen below the parliamentary radar.