Constitution Committee to hear about the accountability of civil servants

22 May 2012

The House of Lords Constitution Committee will this week take evidence from Sir Alan Beith MP, Margaret Hodge MP, and Bernard Jenkin MP, chairs of the House of Commons Justice Committee, Public Accounts Committee, and Public Administration Committee respectively. 

The evidence session is the first in the Committee’s inquiry into the accountability of civil servants. It will focus on the relationship between civil servants and Parliament, and in particular whether they should be answerable to Parliamentary select committees. The guidance for civil servants appearing before committees is currently set out in the ‘Osmotherly Rules’  and the Committee will ask the witnesses whether those rules should be changed.

Other areas likely to be covered in the session include:

  • Is the convention of ministerial responsibility still the most appropriate way of holding the government to account?
  • Has the expansion of government activity weakened the ability of ministers to hold civil servants to account?
  • Should ministers have a role in the appointment of civil servants? What are the constitutional risks and benefits of allowing them to have such a role?
  • In what circumstances might it be appropriate for civil servants to be directly accountable to Parliament?

The evidence session will take place at 10:15am on Wednesday 23 May in Committee Room 1 of the House of Lords.