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Note on the Clerk of the House of Commons 250814

Note on the Clerk of the House of Commons 250814

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Published by Harry Cole
Note on the Clerk of the House of Commons 250814
Note on the Clerk of the House of Commons 250814

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Published by: Harry Cole on Aug 27, 2014
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09/01/2014

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1
MEMORANDUM August 2014 The Clerk of the House of Commons Appointment
1.
 
The Clerk of the House, formally styled
The Under Clerk of the Parliaments, to wait upon the Commons
 
is appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister. He (it has always been a
he
 
so far) is appointed by Letters Patent, like a senior judge, which buttress his independence: alone among the staff of the House, he is not an employee of the House of Commons Commission, and can be removed only on an Address of the House to dismiss him. This means that he is able to advise the House and its Members regardless of the possible unpopularity of that advice. The Clerk
s salary is on Judicial Scale 3 (Lord Justice of Appeal) which means there is no
ad hoc
 determination of salary, an additional protection of his independence.
Role
2.
 
The Clerk is the principal constitutional adviser to the House, and adviser on all its procedure and business, and on privilege and the law of Parliament. He is a frequent witness before Select and Joint Committees (during his Clerkship, for example, Sir Robert Rogers gave evidence on House of Lords Reform, Superinjunctions, Parliamentary Privilege, Recall of Members, Petitions and e-petitions, the Parliamentary Calendar, Queen
s and Prince of Wales
s Consent, select committee powers, and a range of other subjects).
 
 
2
3.
 
The Clerk is the Chief Executive of the House of Commons Service, and is the House
s Corporate Officer under the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992. As the House has no legal personality, the Clerk acts on its behalf, holding property (he is the legal owner of the Commons Estate), entering into contracts, leases etc. As Corporate Officer, he is the responsible person under Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation (he is the Data Controller for the House), and carries legal responsibilities for fire safety and safety within the Parliamentary precincts. He is Accounting Officer for the two House Estimates totalling some
£
245M, and thus personally responsible for the regularity and propriety of expenditure, and for value for money.
 4.
 
The Clerk is Corporate Officer by statute; his role as Chief Executive and as Accounting Officer are in the hands of the House of Commons Commission, which has historically taken the view that it would be unwise to have a Corporate Officer who is not also Chief Executive and Accounting Officer.
5.
 
The Clerk chairs the Management Board, which under an Instrument of Delegation from the Commission is responsible for the staff of the House Service (whose legal employer is the Commission) and for the delivery of services.
 
The present competition
6.
 
Sir Robert Rogers announced his retirement on 30
th
 April 2014. On the same day the House of Commons Commission (consisting of the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader, Frank Doran, John Thurso and Sir Paul Beresford, and chaired by the Speaker) met to consider the appointment. At that meeting the Commission agreed that there should be a
like for like
 
replacement (in other
 
 
3
words, an individual who could do both parts of the job described above); that there should be open advertisement; and that head-hunters should not be used.
 7.
 
Thereafter there were extensive and lengthy exchanges of emails, over a number of days, in which the Speaker persuaded a majority of the other members of the Commission that head-hunters should be used, and that the job description used for the previous selection should be
lightened
 
in terms of constitutional and procedural knowledge.
8.
 
At that first meeting the Commission also agreed that there would be a review of House governance, which would include the question of whether to split the jobs of Clerk and Chief Executive.
 
NOTE: The present recommendation seems entirely to pre-empt that aspect of such a review.
9.
 
The job advertisement was placed in
The Sunday Times
 on 1
st
 June 2014 (the arguments over job description, etc., had delayed this considerably). The advertisement said
 
This challenging dual role is an opportunity to make use of your knowledge of both constitutional matters and business administration. The Clerk of the House of Commons is chief adviser to the Speaker, the Leader of the House and other members of the  front benches on matters of procedure and privilege. Meanwhile, as Chief Executive he or she oversees the permanent administration.

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