The Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its associated public bodies.
The EFRA Committee is one of the 19 Select Committees related to Government Departments, established by the House of Commons under Standing Order No. 152.
The Committee chooses its own subjects of inquiry. Depending on the subject, external deadlines, and the amount of oral evidence the Committee decides to take, an inquiry may last for several months and give rise to a report to the House; other inquiries may simply consist of a single day’s oral evidence which the Committee may publish without making a report.
When the Committee has chosen an inquiry it normally issues a press notice outlining the main themes of inquiry and inviting interested parties to submit written evidence. It may also identify possible witnesses and issue specific invitations to them to submit written evidence.
The House has given the Committee the power to send for “persons, papers and records”. It therefore has powers to insist upon the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers and other material. These formal powers are rarely used.