COMMONS

Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers: Follow-up inquiry

30 October 2013

The House of Commons Liaison Committee – on which all the Chairs of select committees sit – launches a short inquiry to follow up the recommendations made in its 2012 report into select committee effectiveness, resources and powers.

Drawing on reports from committees, evidence from outside observers and academic research, the 2012 report concluded that two years after the general election and the Wright reforms, the evidence was "broadly encouraging" – although committees faced some obstacles and there was room for improvement.

It called for "a changed approach" in the relationship between select committees and Government, recommending that the Government engage with it in producing joint guidelines for departments and committees, which recognised ministerial accountability, the proper role of the Civil Service and the legitimate wish of Parliament for more effective accountability. And it made a range of best practice recommendations for other Committees to consider.

The Liaison Committee has invited other committees to review how they have responded to the Committee's recommendations and to report progress made and any obstacles encountered.

Written submissions

The Committee would also welcome views from outside observers on the following questions:

  • To what extent have the Committee's best practice recommendations been met?
  • Are Committees succeeding in achieving greater impact?
  • What more needs to be done?

These should be sent to the Committee before the end of November 2013.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon. Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Liaison Committee, said:

"It is widely accepted that select committees have become much more significant in the work of Parliament, and we are keen to build on that progress by drawing on ideas from many quarters."

Background

The Liaison Committee published a report on Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers (PDF 1.18MB) on 8 November 2012 (Second Report of Session 2012–13, HC 697). The report contained 23 recommendations: most of them recommendations of best practice for other committees to consider; four for the House as a whole, or the House authorities; one for the Government; and one targeted at editors and broadcasters.

The recommendations for Committees included:

  • Be forward-looking in scrutiny of departmental performance, devoting less effort to raking over the coals of past events unless there are lessons to be learnt (paragraph 70)
  • Give more attention to the financial implications of departmental policy and how departments assess the effectiveness of their spending (paragraphs 72-73)
  • Experiment with different approaches to evidence-taking, broaden the range of witnesses, and make more use of commissioned research (paragraphs 75-78)
  • Follow up recommendations to ensure that reports have impact and report to the House at least once each Session on what has been done (paragraphs 81-83)

The Committee published a further short report on 24 January 2013:  Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers: responses to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2012-13 (PDF 870KB) (Third Report of Session 2012-13, HC 911).

On 31 January 2013 the House of Commons agreed to a motion welcoming the Liaison Committee's report and endorsing the Committee's recommendations for committee best practice and the revised core tasks for departmental select committees.

Notes on submission of evidence

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted via the 'Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers: follow-up' inquiry page on the Liaison Committee website.

The deadline is 29 November 2013. As a guideline submissions should state clearly who the submission is from e.g. 'Written evidence submitted by xxxx' and be no longer than 3000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this. If you need to send hard copy please send it to: The Clerk, Liaison Committee, House of Commons, Westminster SW1A 0AA.

Submissions must be a self-contained memorandum in Word or Rich Text Format (not PDFs). Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.

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