Give evidence to a select committee
Find out how to give evidence to a select committee, and why your contribution matters.
Sections in this guide
- What do select committees do?
- Why do committees want to hear from me?
- How can I contribute?
- Written evidence to a select committee
- Top tips for written evidence to a select committee
- Oral evidence to a select committee
Select committees are groups of parliamentarians whose role is to examine a particular area of government or national policy.
They can be formed from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, or as joint committees with members from both Houses.
Committee members come from different political viewpoints. They aim to work together and reach agreement.
Select committees run inquiries on specific topics. At the end of an inquiry, they usually produce a report that makes recommendations for improvements. Usually, the recommendations are for the Government, but they can be for other institutions too.
Committees’ recommendations are not binding on the Government. But they are influential, with one of the reasons being the range of evidence and experience that committees hear.
Committees want to hear from a wide range of people who know about the topic that they investigate. This helps committee members understand problems and make recommendations for improvements. The more ideas they hear and the more people they hear from, the better their work will be.
You might know about the topic because of your work, research, or study. You might have personal experience of it, like using government services. All this expertise is valuable to inquiries.
When a committee starts an inquiry, it will often publish a ‘call for evidence’ that explains the subjects that members most want to hear about.
You can contribute in different ways.
This page focuses on ‘written evidence’ (sending the committee a document with your views) and ‘oral evidence’ (answering questions from the committee in a formal session).
There are other ways a committee can hear from you, and you might find these a better fit. Look on committees’ news feeds to see if they are running group discussions, surveys, or other public consultations in which you can take part. Committee members can also visit your area or industry.
Whatever way is offered, the information that you give will inform the members on the committee and the recommendations that they make.
We want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible.
Please contact the committee through the details at the bottom of its webpage if:
- you would like to ask questions about the process and options for having your say
- you are concerned about the possible consequences of contributing, including if you do not want your contribution to be public
- you would like to request a reasonable adjustment or further support to help you give your view.
Committees have a responsibility to report any safeguarding concerns. This means they will tell someone if they feel, including from what you tell them, that a young person or vulnerable adult is at risk of harm.
It is important that people can see what was said to a committee. For this reason, committees generally publish written evidence online. They can refer in their reports to information that they have published.
Once published, the document remains available on the internet permanently. Committees cannot usually remove evidence after it has been published.
The committee decides what information to publish and how. You can request anonymity or confidentiality when you send evidence, but it is for the committee to say whether it will agree.
- Anonymity means that your evidence will be made public, but not under your name. You will need to remove other identifying details, like your job or other information about you, in the text or the document metadata if you want to request anonymity. Anonymity provides some protection but is not failsafe.
- Confidentiality means that your evidence will inform the thinking of the members in private but neither your name nor your contribution will be made public.
If you would like to give written evidence to a committee but are concerned about being identified, then confidentiality is the safest way to do so.
A committee might also offer you other ways to have your say, like surveys, which would not normally identify you.
- Keep your evidence short and to the point. Use section headings and numbered paragraphs. If you write more, offer a summary at the start.
- Send a single file in Microsoft Word or another editable format. Please do not send multiple files, or uneditable formats like PDF. Your file should be less than 25MB in size. If you are sending it on behalf of an organisation, then you should not include logos.
- Do not include your contact details. You will be asked for these separately as part of the process of sending your contribution.
- Focus on your own experiences and information. If you include personal information about other people without their agreement (including your friends and family) the committee might decide not to publish it.
- Committees cannot help you with an individual problem or a specific complaint. If you are not sure who can help with your problem, visit the ‘Who should I contact about my issue?’ page.
- Address the points that the committee has said it wants to hear about in the call for evidence. You do not need to address all of them, but the information does need to be relevant to the inquiry.
- Your contribution must be original, created specifically for the committee and not already published elsewhere. You can refer to published material if you make clear that you are doing so and attribute it. If you want to publish your evidence yourself, you must ask the committee first.
- Your contribution must be honest and accurate, and you must be ready to confirm to the committee that the text is a true representation of your views, even if others helped you write it. This will apply if you request anonymity or confidentiality too.
- If you realise later that you have made a mistake in your evidence, contact the committee as soon as you can.
- If you would like to discuss support around making your contribution, then contact the committee directly. Committees list their contact details on their webpages.
Oral evidence is usually taken in public. Oral evidence sessions are usually broadcast live on television and archived on www.parliamentlive.tv.
Committees normally publish a transcript (written record) of what is said in oral evidence sessions. The public seating in committee rooms is usually open for anyone to attend, including the media.
Evidence given in public can become prominent and receive attention, including in the media and online. If you would like to give your view but do not want to be identified, then contact the committee through the details at the bottom of its webpage to discuss how this might be done.
The committee decides who it invites to give oral evidence. If you are invited, then committee staff will contact you with information on what happens next.
Evidence usually takes place in public in one of Parliament’s committee rooms in London. A committee can meet reasonable expenses for people giving oral evidence in person. Please discuss this with committee staff as early as possible before the session.
Contributors can also participate by video link, with a committee’s agreement.