House of Lords Library

Work of the Ad Hoc Committees in 2013–14

Published Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This House of Lords Library briefing provides an overview of the work of the five ad hoc Lords Select Committees which reported in the 2013–14 session.

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The following summary provides a brief overview of the work of each committee and its subsequent follow up. More detailed analysis regarding each committee is available in the relevant sections of the main document.

Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence: The Committee argued that soft power has become increasingly relevant as major shifts affected the conditions under which international relations are conducted. The report included over 80 recommendations for improving the way in which soft power was used by the UK in the future. For example, it recommended better coordination between Government departments and the establishment of a small unit at the centre of government to coordinate "the soft power story throughout Whitehall"; greater resources for embassies; improvements in visa policy and changes to the calculation of net migration figures; and greater engagement with "networks of the future". The Government has rejected calls for a central unit to coordinate soft power in Whitehall and for a change in the calculation of net migration figures and emphasised work in a number of areas mentioned by the Committee, for example in the resourcing of embassies and the future of government-funded scholarships. There have been several reports and debates regarding soft power since the Committee reported. In November 2015, the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review included a reference to enhancing the UK’s "position as the world’s leading soft power". The Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 noted that the FCO’s budget was protected in real terms and emphasised funding to open new embassy buildings and the protection of the funding for the British Council in real terms, it also announced efficiency saving of £53 million by 2019–20.

Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy: Although the Committee noted that the Olympic and Paralympic Games were an "outstanding success", it expressed concern regarding participation levels in sport, the regeneration of East London and the governance arrangements in place to deliver an Olympic and Paralympic legacy. Since the Committee report there have been several other reports on delivering the Olympic legacy. The most recent figures from the Active People Survey show a decline in participation in sport. There have also been several debates in the House of Lords on the topic, most recently in November 2015. On 17 December 2015 the Government published Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, which detailed plans to replace the Active People Survey and to base funding decisions on "the social good that sport and physical activity can deliver".

Select Committee on Personal Service Companies: The Committee examined IR35 legislation, which the Government uses to ensure tax is collected from those using personal service companies. Following Committee recommendations HMRC has produced a further estimate regarding the costs of abolishing IR35 legislation and the administrative costs which taxpayers incur in dealing with IR35. A Committee recommendation that questions related to personal service company usage on tax return forms be either amended or removed has been accepted by the Government and the questions will be removed at the "earliest opportunity". Following Committee recommendations Business Entity Tests have been withdrawn. Committee concerns regarding the use of personal service companies by lower paid workers, and a recommendation that the Low Pay Commission examine this area, have not been taken forward.

Select Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005: The Committee concluded that the Mental Capacity Act "was a visionary piece of legislation", but determined that the Act suffered from a lack of awareness and understanding, which prevented the Act from becoming widely embedded in health and social care. The Committee recommended the establishment of a single independent oversight body to monitor and drive forward implementation of the Act. In addition, the Committee was critical of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) which were described as "poorly drafted and overly complex", and recommended that the Government conduct a comprehensive review of DoLS with a view to replacing them. The Government has asked the Law Commission to carry out a fundamental review of DoLS, which is due to report to the Government with draft legislation by the end of 2016. Furthermore, the Government has set up a National Forum on Mental Capacity; in October 2015 it was announced that Baroness Finlay of Llandaff would chair the Forum. Some concerns have been expressed about the timescales of the Law Commission review and the remit of the Forum.

Select Committee on the Inquiries Act 2005: The key Committee recommendation was for the Government to establish a central inquiries unit within Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. This has not been accepted, with the Government aiming to improve the current system of support available through the Cabinet Office. Recommended changes to the 2005 Act and the Inquiry Rules 2006, with particular regard to the use of warning letters by inquiries, have not yet been implemented. The Government recently described these changes as "in hand" and has undertaken to review the relevant rules "as we take forward work to amend the Inquiry Rules 2006".

 

 

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