Terms of reference: select committee powers and effectiveness

09 December 2011

The House of Commons Liaison Committee holds a short inquiry into select committee powers and effectiveness.

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

"The Wright reforms – particularly the direct election of Chairs by the House – and the 2010 intake of a new generation of Members have given a new vigour to select committees in the current parliament.
We have begun to make use of new technology to give the public better access to committees, and we are developing new ways of ensuring that committees can more effectively scrutinise European legislative and policy proposals.
There is a lot more to be done, and we are interested in collecting views and ideas. And we want to make sure that committees have the powers they need to get at the truth."

Written evidence

The Liaison Committee would welcome written evidence on the following questions:

  • Are select committees effective in achieving better government? What can they do to be more effective?
  • Are the core tasks set by the House for select committees in 2002 still realistic given the limitations on Members’ time?
  • Do select committees have the powers and resources they need to carry out their scrutiny function effectively?
  • Are members of select committees given the training and support they need to operate effectively?
  • How might select committees get better coverage for those aspects of their work which are important but not attractive to the media?
  • How can select committees get the public engaged more actively in their work? 
  • Should select committees have an increased legislative role? 
  • How can select committees scrutinise cross-cutting issues more effectively?

Written evidence should be sent to the Committee by the end of January.


In 2009, in its report 'Rebuilding the House', the Reform of the House of Commons Committee (the "Wright Committee") called for a review of the way select committees operated. It said:

"Select committees have rightly won respect for the work they do and they are being asked to take on an increasing number of tasks on behalf of the House. As a result committee members find it increasingly difficult to devote time to select committee work as well as all their other duties. We consider that the Liaison Committee should re-examine the current role of select committees, their resources and their tasks, and in particular how to deal with the increasing demands of time made of Members as their role grows." 

How to submit evidence

Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to

The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

Further Information

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