House of Commons Commission
The House of Commons Commission is the overall supervisory body of the House of Commons Administration in the United Kingdom. The Commission is a corporate body established by the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 (c.36). The Commission continues to exist during the dissolution period and the person who was Speaker continues in office as a member of the Commission until a Speaker is chosen by the new Parliament.
The commission is responsible for the Administration Department and the departments of the Speaker, Clerk of the House of Commons, Serjeant at Arms, Library, and Official Report of the House of Commons. Its responsibilities are:
- Setting the number and pay (in line with the civil service) of House staff
- Appointing staff of the House (excluding the Clerk of the House of Commons, Clerk Assistant, Serjeant at Arms, and Speaker's personal staff)
- Preparing and laying before the House the Estimates for the House of Commons Service
- Allocating functions to House departments
- Reporting annually to the House on its actions and on financial estimates for the financial year
Members of Parliament can question the spokesperson of the commission in the same way as they can question government ministers. The House of Commons Commission claims not to be a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Currently, funding for the House of Commons is divided into two blocs: the Administration Estimate and the Members Estimate. The Administration Estimate provides for the Commons portion of the Parliamentary Estates, the Chamber, and Commons staff. The Commission takes direct responsibility for the Administration Estimate and is assisted by the Administration Audit Committee (made up of three MPs and outside three members) in auditing the Estimate.
The Members Estimate includes funds for MPs' pay, expenses, and staffs, as well as Short Money (financial assistance to opposition parties). The House of Commons created the Members Estimate Committee (MEC) to oversee it, but provided that its membership be the same as that of the Commission. The MEC has appointed a Members Estimate Audit Committee with the same membership as the Administration Audit Committee.
The House also created the Members' Allowances Committee to advise the MEC on its functions. It was also created to advise the MEC, Speaker, and Leader of the House on other allowances issues; to approve guidance for MPs on allowances, and to resolve questions regarding allowances rules referred by MPs.
With the creation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, funds for pay, allowances, and staffing are no longer part of the Members Estimate, reducing it by 80%. Because IPSA only took responsibility for MPs' pay during the 2010/11 financial year, there will still be a substantial Members' Estimate. But, the Director of General Resources has recommended folding the rump of the Members Estimate into the Administration Estimate beginning with 2011/12, and in their advice to the House of Commons during consideration of the bill that created IPSA, the members of the Estimates Audit Committees anticipated that would happen. Eliminating the Members Estimate would lead to the elimination of the MEC and Members Estimates Audit Committee, and quite possibly the Members' Allowances Committee.
The Commission consists of the Speaker, who serves as its chair, and five other members: the Leader of the House of Commons, a member named by the Leader of the Opposition, and three members who are not Ministers of the Crown. The Speaker remains a member, despite a dissolution of Parliament, until a new Speaker is elected. Aside from the Leader of the House (who remains a member until a new Leader is appointed), the others also remain members during a dissolution unless they do not seek nomination as an MP or fail to be re-elected at the general election.
The membership of the Members Estimates Committee is identical to that of the Commission. However, because it is a committee, it ceases to exist during a dissolution of Parliament.
While Unite the Union has not been recognised under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act for the purpose of collective bargaining with the House Service, the House Administration has agreed a draft memorandum of understanding with Unite and the Members' and Peers' Staff Association.
- Schedule 1 of the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 (c.36)
- House of Commons Commission from the BBC
- Guide to Parliament: Parliamentary Questions from the Cabinet Office
- Future of the Members Estimate
- Parliamentary Standards Bill: Memorandum from the House of Commons Audits Committees