Members' Exits - And Entrances: Select Committee Membership, 2010-2015

In this blog we look at the 20 select committees whose job is to scrutinise specific government departments. We have excluded 'cross-cutting' and internal committees committees from our analysis because many of these - including the Environmental Audit Committee and all those with non-elected chairs and members - have yet to be established.

Following the election of chairs of select committees, attention has switched to the recent election of select committee members. The charts below look at what happened in the 2010 parliament and the new memberships at the start of the 2015 parliament. This post is co-written with Dr Hannah White, programme director at the Institute for Government, who has recently published a report on the impact of select committees and a guide for new select committee members.

In this blog we look at the 20 select committees whose job is to scrutinise specific government departments. We have excluded 'cross-cutting' and internal committees committees from our analysis because many of these - including the Environmental Audit Committee and all those with non-elected chairs and members - have yet to be established.

Over the last parliament, committees saw overall turnover of more than 80%. The Work and Pensions Committee had the highest turnover and Northern Ireland Affairs the lowest.

In our recent report on select committees we identified turnover on select committees as a factor which could inhibit their ability to identify and learn lessons from their work. In the last parliament eight committees saw turnover at least equivalent to their entire membership over the course of the parliament. The most stable committees - and most able to benefit from institutional memory among MPs - were Northern Ireland Affairs, Energy and Climate Change and Foreign Affairs.

The Work and Pensions Committee was the best launchpad for careers on the frontbench - it saw the most MPs leave to become ministers, shadow frontbenchers or Parliamentary Private Secretaries.

Select committee membership is reserved for backbenchers - any member who is appointed to a front bench role must step down. Parliamentary Private Secretaries are not prevented from sitting on committees, but in practice most tend to give up their seats in order to avoid any perception of a conflict. Ten members of the Work and Pensions committee moved straight from the committee into government roles, while four went straight to the Opposition frontbench. The BIS, Justice, Transport and EFRA committees were the next most effective springboards into government roles.

The devolved committees (Scottish, Northern Ireland and Welsh Affairs) all saw low rates of members moving to such positions - perhaps in part because they included higher proportions of members from smaller parties less likely to reshuffle their members. The Foreign Affairs Committee saw only two members move into government roles - perhaps because its members are typically longer-standing MPs whose ministerial days may be behind them.

At the end of the last parliament Transport was the committee with the shortest-serving membership, while Treasury had retained the most members originally appointed to the committee before 2010.

This chart and all those that follow include committee chairs in the total membership figures for each committee. This chart shows the session in which members of committees at the end of the last parliament were appointed to the committee.

By March 2015 no committee still had more than a third of members who had continued their membership from the previous parliament - three (Health, Education and the newly-formed PCRC) had no MPs appointed before 2010.

Having said that, by the end of the last parliament MPs elected to committees immediately following the 2010 election still made up the majority of committee members. Northern Ireland Affairs and Energy and Climate Change were the committees with the greatest proportion of long-serving members (appointed either before 2010 or during the 2010-12 session).

By contrast PCRC, Work and Pensions and Transport had the fewest members with institutional memory of the committees' work earlier in the parliament.

In this parliament two existing committees - Justice and Scottish Affairs - have entirely new membership.

This is the same chart updated for the new parliament, but with newly-appointed members highlighted.

As a new committee, the Women and Equalities committee necessarily has all new membership. We have included it in our chart because part of its role will be to scrutinise the Government Equalities Office. The extent of change on Scottish Affairs reflects the fact that some its previous members lost their seats at the election and others had chosen to stand down. Following the election the Chair of the Scottish Affairs committee is one of four members with a Scottish constituency; before the SNP landslide all but two members had Scottish constituencies. There is no obvious reason for the extent of change on the Justice committee.

A further seven committees have more than 80% new members. Northern Ireland Affairs is the committee with the greatest continuity in membership - including a number of members appointed during the 2005 parliament.

Our figures for the new Public Administration and Constitutional Reform Committee (PACAC) reflects the previous membership of PASC only.

At the end of the last parliament, Education was the committee with the least parliamentary experience amongst its members and Foreign Affairs the most.

This chart shows the membership of committees at the end of the last parliament by the date when its members entered Parliament. The overall figures show that approximately half of select committee members at the end of the last parliament were first term members.

Since the general election eight committees have drawn more than half of their members from the new intake of MPs.

This is the same graph updated for the new parliament. As in the last parliament, nearly half of select committee members were first elected at the most recent general election - 2015. Apart from its chair, Maria Miller MP, the Equalities committee is exclusively made up of MPs elected in 2015. By contrast Foreign and Northern Ireland Affairs and the International Development Committee each have only one or two first term members. New select committee members may find our recently published pamphlet on being an effective select committee member of interest.

In this parliament PACAC has leapfrogged Foreign Affairs to become the committee with the greatest number of most longstanding parliamentarians among its membership.

The percentage of women on select committees has risen from 24% in the last parliament, to 34% in this - in comparison to figures of 22% and 29% for their representation in the Commons as a whole.

In the end of the last parliament the Energy and Climate Change committee had no female members at all. Treasury, Justice and PCRC were the other committees with the lowest female membership. At the other end of the scale there was only one committee - Work and Pensions - on which women were better represented than men - indeed better than in the House as a whole.

In this parliament there are three committees with greater representation of women than men (Equalities, Health and Education) and a further four on which representation is just under 50%. While increased representation of women on committees is welcome - what does it tell us about the Equalities committee that only one man has been elected to it?

At the other end of the scale there are no women at all on the Culture, Media and Sport committee and one on Treasury (no improvement from the last parliament). In both cases it would be interesting to compare the gender balance of candidates who stood with those who were elected, but as the processes for select committee membership were conducted internally within parties, this information is not publicly available.

A number of committees are holding their first meetings this week - deciding what they want to focus on in this parliament and what to prioritise first. But it is likely that some Labour members will barely get their feet under the committee table before being appointed to shadow frontbench roles in the reshuffle which will follow the outcome of the leadership election in the autumn.


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