Former officials and Cabinet Minister face questions on select committee system

25 April 2019

The Liaison Committee – the committee of all the Select Committee Chairs – is holding an inquiry to identify how select committees can improve their scrutiny of Government. Tony Wright, former MP and former Chair of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons - which recommended that Chairs should be elected, will be giving evidence alongside other academics and commentators.

Purpose of the session

Topics likely to be covered include:

  • How much influence do select committees’ recommendations have on the work of Government departments?
  • What’s it like giving oral evidence?
  • What creates impact for committees, and what limits their effectiveness?
  • Has the election of Chairs changed how committees work - and if so, how?

Key questions

The work of the select committees

  • Are select committees doing the best job they can, and if not, what is stopping them?
  • What should select committees aim to achieve?  Do they focus on the right things?
  • How are the "core tasks" used, and should any changes be made? 
  • How can select committee achievements and impact be measured?
  • Are there particular examples of effective scrutiny by select committees that should be shared?  Which select committee reports have had the biggest impact and why?
  • How will the UK’s future relationship with the EU have an impact on the departmental select committee system?


  • Are there any matters relating to the diversity and independence of select committee membership and chairs that should be addressed?
  • Is the rule requiring Members whose attendance falls below 60% to be reported effective?
  • Should the election of select committee chairs be extended to all committees?

Witnesses, evidence, and select committee powers

  • Are committees getting the right evidence?  What barriers are there to select committees getting the information they need?
  • What is it like to give evidence either oral or written evidence to a committee? Is the experience appropriate for the different sorts of people and organisations committees invite to appear?
  • What more can be done to encourage witness diversity and wider public engagement?
  • Do select committees have the right resources to get the job done? 
  • Do they have access to the expert advice and commissioned research they need? How might they collaborate more effectively with the publicly-funded and charitable sector research bodies?

Public engagement and profile

  • How might the public profile of committee outputs be raised, for example, by making changes to the content, format and style of committee reports?
  • Are there any methods of involving the public that have worked particularly well, or that would be open to select committees who wish to innovate in new or different ways?
  • How well have departmental select committees worked alongside initiatives in public engagement and information within parliament such as Parliament Week and Vote100?

Joint working, cross-cutting scrutiny, and the role of the Liaison Committee

  • Are current structures effective in allowing for joint working and co-operation between committees?
  • Could the Liaison Committee take an increased role in cross-cutting policy issues, and if so, what changes might be needed to its standing orders to achieve this?
  • Are there any ways in which the Liaison Committee might improve its work in regularly taking evidence from the Prime Minister?


Monday 29 April 2019

At 2.15pm

  • Dame Una O’Brien DCB, former Permanent Secretary
  • Sir Richard Mottram GCB, former Permanent Secretary
  • Rt Hon Charles Clarke, former Secretary of State

At 3.15pm

  • Professor Meg Russell, Director, Constitution Unit, University College London
  • Dr Hannah White, Deputy Director, Institute for Government
  • Dr Ruth Fox, Director, Hansard Society
  • Professor Tony Wright, Emeritus Professor of Government and Public Policy, University College London

Further information

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