Authority to Require the Production of Evidence
The Communities and Local Government 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 required 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.
These notes are intended to help you in the preparation of your memorandum - termed evidence - to the Committee or a Sub-committee. They are not intended to be prescriptive.
Scope of Memoranda
Members of Parliament daily receive a mass of papers. Your memorandum is more likely to command attention if it is 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.
For the most part, your memorandum need only include 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 been prepared for a different forum, please annex them to your memorandum. 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.
The letter or press notice inviting you to submit evidence will provide a deadline for submission. If you have received both a letter requesting evidence and a press notice, you may find that the deadlines given differ. In this case, you should abide by the deadline given in your letter, as the one in the press notice will be intended for more general, unsolicited submissions. It may not be possible for the Committee to consider any papers submitted after the deadline. Please contact the lead committee staff member for the inquiry if you think you may need an extension.
Printing and Publication
The Committee has sole discretion over printing or publishing your submission. It may make it publicly available without printing it or show it to other witnesses. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Record Office. If you give oral evidence to the Committee, your written evidence will normally be made public at that time, if it has not already been published on the internet. If you wish to make public use of your submission, or part of it, before the Committee publishes it, you should contact the Clerk of the Committee, who will be able to guide you on gaining the Committee's permission.
If your written evidence contains material which is classified or commercially confidential, or the publication of which would be sensitive in any way, the memorandum or relevant parts of it should be clearly marked accordingly. Your covering letter should specifically mention such limitations and include a request that the Committee treat the sections concerned confidentially. Such requests are usually treated sympathetically.
Layout and content
Each evidence submission should:
be accompanied by a covering letter containing the name and contact details of the individual or organisation submitting evidence;
begin with a short summary in bullet point form; and
have numbered paragraphs.
The use of side-headings throughout memoranda is encouraged. One short section at the beginning of the memorandum should describe your organisation and its explain its relevance to the Committee's inquiry. For lengthy memoranda, say above five or six pages, a summary is useful. This can be incorporated after the introduction. Pages and paragraphs should be numbered. Essential statistics or further details can be added as annexes, which should also be numbered. Bearing in mind that your submission will have to be photocopied, please avoid the use of coloured graphs or pictures unless absolutely essential.
Ideally, submissions should be in electronic form, preferably in MS Word format, and sent by email to email@example.com. Please include the title of the inquiry in the subject heading.
If you are unable to send an electronic version, please send a paper copy to:
Communities and Local Government Committee
House of Commons
It is helpful, for Data Protection purposes, for contact details not to be included in the text of submissions, but sent separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Once Your Memorandum Has Been Received
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.
Every submission is acknowledged. If you have not received an acknowledgement within a few days please contact the Clerk of the Committee. Your evidence and any other material you send is made available to every Member of the Committee. 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.
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. When the Committee has completed an inquiry it usually publishes a Report. A copy of the Report is automatically sent to all those who submitted evidence.
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 4972; e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, send a fax to 020 7219 6101 or write to the Clerk of the Committee at the address given above.
CLERK OF THE COMMITTEE
15 July 2008