By Ned Simons - 7th March 2011
Jack Straw has said the committee that questions the prime minister serves little purpose other than to allow its members to tell their mums they asked a question.
The former justice secretary told the Institute for Government this morning that any prime minister "worth his salt" plays the room, easily avoiding difficulties.
The liaison committee is made up of the 33 select committee chairs and holds bi-annual sessions where it grills the prime minister of the day on a wide range of government policy.
Straw said the number of committee chairs on the panel should be cut down from 33 to five in order to make it more than just a chance "to say to mum" that they questioned the prime minister.
He was responding to a speech by Treasury committee chair Andrew Tyrie on his proposals for for further reform of the House of Commons.
Tyrie suggested that the liaison committee question the prime minister monthly rather than twice every year as is the current arrangement.
He said his "radical" plan would see a panel of the "most senior" 12 committee chairs (rather than Straw's preferred five) question the prime minister for two hours one Wednesday every month - replacing that week's prime minister's questions.
The proposals may have an ally in the leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young.
In June, Sir George admitted the committee that he had been a member of "never laid a glove on Tony Blair" and had systematically failed to "capitalise on its position" as a "council of the wise".
He said the sessions should be a "win-win" for both Parliament and Downing Street, with backbenchers gaining a valuable opportunity to scrutinise the prime minister and No. 10 gaining a platform to showcase its programme for government.
Also speaking at the Institute for Government this morning Sir Alan Beith, the current chair of the liaison committee, revealed that next year the liaison committee will question David Cameron three times rather than the traditional two.
The Lib Dem chair of the development committee also said the session would be moved to a more intimate room that will "not accommodate 33 members".
Suggestions were not forthcoming on who would tell the 'less senior' committee chairs that their services were no longer needed. Perhaps they could get a letter from their mums arguing their case.