Environmental Audit Committee Brief Note on the Submission of Written Evidence

Authority to Require the Production of Evidence

1. The Environmental Audit Committee has, under the terms of the Standing Order by which it is appointed by the House of Commons, the power to send for persons, papers and records.  This means that the Committee can require the production of papers or the appearance of witnesses.  However,  these draconian powers are rarely necessary as the Committee usually finds that most people and organisations are willing to respond to an invitation, viewing it as an opportunity to present their opinions to Parliament.

Scope of Memoranda

2. Members of Parliament daily receive a mass of papers.  If your memorandum, or 'evidence', is to command their attention it is best to be succinct and to the point, although lengthier memoranda may be required for broad topics or from key organisations.  In particular, your memorandum should address matters raised by the Committee's inquiry and concentrate on issues where you have a special interest or expertise.  These considerations should not, however, be viewed as an instruction to curtail the length of your memorandum to the extent that pertinent information is excluded.

3. For the most part, your memorandum should include only material specifically prepared for the Committee, although, of course, it is perfectly acceptable to quote from other sources for critical or illustrative purposes.  If you wish to include information or papers that have already been published or prepared for a different forum, please attach them to your memorandum as appendices.  This mechanism can also used for information which you think the Committee may find helpful as background but is not directly relevant to its inquiry.

Timescale

4. The letter or press notice inviting you to submit evidence will give you a timescale within which the memorandum should be submitted.  If you have received both a letter requesting evidence and a press notice, you may find that the deadlines given differ.  If this is the case, you should abide by the deadline given in your letter, as the one in press notice will be intended for more general, unsolicited submissions.   It may not be possible for the Committee to consider any papers submitted after a deadline has expired.  Should you be unable to deliver your memorandum by the required date you should contact the Clerk of the Committee as soon as possible.

Printing and Publication

5. The Committee has sole discretion over whether to print or to publish the evidence you submit, make it publicly available without printing it, show it to other witnesses, or to take no action.  Normal practice is for the Committee to publish all the evidence it receives.  If you give oral evidence to the Committee, your written evidence will normally by made public at that time.

6. If your written evidence contains material which is classified, commercially confidential or where publication would be sensitive in any way, the memorandum or relevant parts of it should be clearly marked accordingly.  Your covering letter to the Clerk should specifically mention such limitations.  The Committee still has the power to published such evidence even when a request for confidentiality has been made but in practice it usually treats such requests sympathetically.

Layout and content

7. Your memorandum to the Committee should be headed in the following manner:

The ....... INQUIRY (insert title of the Committee's inquiry)

MEMORANDUM by ....... (name of your organisation)

8. The use of side-headings throughout memoranda is encouraged.

9. One short section at the beginning of the memorandum should describe your organisation and its explain its relevance to the Committee's inquiry.

10. For lengthy memoranda, say above five or six pages, a summary is useful. This can be incorporated after the introduction.

11. Memoranda sent in hard copy should be printed on white paper where possible as this makes it easier to photocopy.

12. Pages and paragraphs should be numbered. Essential statistics or further details can be added as appendices, which should also be numbered. Please avoid the use of coloured graphs or pictures unless absolutely essential.

13. The name, address, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for submitting your memorandum should also be included at the end of the document. Memoranda should also be dated.

Delivery

14. All memoranda should be accompanied by a covering letter to the Clerk of the Committee giving the title of the inquiry to which you are submitting evidence and drawing attention to any parts of the memorandum which you would rather the Committee did not publish (see paragraphs 5 and 6).

15. Your memorandum should be sent to

Mr Gordon Clarke,

Clerk of the Environmental Audit Committee

House of Commons

7 Millbank

London SW1P 3JA

Email: [email protected]

Fax: 020 7219 1224

16. Please send an electronic version of your memorandum if at all possible as this greatly reduces our costs.

Making Public Use of Your Evidence

17. The right to publish, or make public use of, evidence submitted to the Committee rests solely with the Committee. In most cases, making public use of evidence you have submitted is fine, provided prior consent has been given by the Committee. If you wish to make public use of your evidence, please contact the Clerk of the Committee in good time. In no circumstances will such consent be given until three working days have elapsed since the Committee received the evidence.

Once Your Memorandum Has Been Received

18. Whether a memorandum is accepted as formal evidence, and therefore whether it attracts parliamentary privilege, is a decision for the Committee. Should there be an reason why the Committee might not wish to accept your evidence (such reasons usually relate to intemperate language), you will be informed immediately.

19. Every submission is acknowledged. If you have not received an acknowledgement within a few days please contact the Clerk of the Committee.

20. Each Member of the Committee will receive a copy of your evidence.

21. In a small number of cases, once the Committee has had the opportunity to consider a memorandum, it may decide to call the author to give oral evidence. From time to time, the Committee may instruct Committee staff to follow up matters raised in your memorandum in writing in which case you may be asked to submit a further memorandum.

22. The Committee almost invariably publishes all the evidence it receives. You may be asked to check proofs of your evidence prepared by Committee staff in advance of publication. This may happen some months after you originally submitted it.

23. When the Committee has completed an inquiry it almost invariably publishes a Report. A copy of the Report is automatically sent to all those who submitted evidence.

Queries

24. If you have any queries, please contact the Clerk of the Committee who will be pleased to advise on any aspect of submitting evidence, or indeed, on general matters relating to the Committee. Please call on 020 7219 0248; e-mail to [email protected]; send a fax to 020 7219 1224 or write to the Clerk at the address given above.

Mr Gordon Clarke, Clerk of the Committee.