Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons
The guide for witnesses contains advice for giving evidence to a select committee. The full guide be downloaded via the link on the right hand side, and this page summarises the main points.
Giving written evidence to a select committee
Why do you want my evidence?
Select committees choose topics to investigate and then make recommendations for improvements. We need evidence to help us understand what's happening now and what changes might be needed.
We want to hear from a wide range of people who know about the topic that we're looking into. The more ideas we hear, the better our work will be.
You might know about the topic because of the work that you do. You might have researched or studied it. Or you might understand something because you've got personal experience of it, like using health services or claiming benefits. All these different kinds of expertise are really valuable to us.
How do I send evidence in writing to a committee?
You can find a list of committee inquiries that are currently asking for written evidence on the Committees homepage.
Click on each inquiry to find out more about it. You'll see a button that asks you to read the call for evidence before submitting like this:
Click that button to read more information. If you want to send us evidence, this is where to start.
Dos and dont's for writing your evidence
- explain who you are and why you are sending us evidence
- keep what you write relevant to the subject of the inquiry
- put your evidence in a Word, ODT or RTF document
- make sure the file is no more than 25MB in size
- write more than 3,000 words
- send us material that has already been published
- include logos
You should always be honest in the evidence you send to a committee. Deliberately misleading a committee is a serious matter and can amount to what is called a contempt of the House of Commons. If you mislead a committee, you could be investigated by the Committee of Privileges.
Don't worry if you make a mistake in your evidence. If you realise you've made a mistake, tell us as soon as you can.
If our requirements are difficult for you
We want everyone's voice to be heard in Parliament.
Please contact us if you:
- find it difficult to send us your evidence online
- want to send us your evidence in a different format (for example, an audio file)
- want to send us your evidence after the deadline has passed
- need any other changes so that you can send us your evidence
You can find out how to contact each committee on its website.
If you're having trouble, you can contact the House of Commons Enquiry Service. You can:
- Email email@example.com
- Call 0800 112 4272 (Freephone) or 020 7219 4272
- Talk through Text Relay on 18001 020 7219 4272
What will happen to my evidence?
- Your evidence will probably be published on the internet. It stays public forever. That means that other people will be able to find and read what you send us.
- Your name (or your organisation's name) will be published with your evidence.
- We can't remove your evidence after it's been published, so please think carefully about what you're including before you send it to us. If you'd like advice, please contact us before you send your evidence.
- The Committee doesn't have to publish what you send us. We'll e-mail you to let you know what's happening to your evidence.
- We'll read your evidence and we'll use it to help the Committee's inquiry. For example, the Committee might use your name and your evidence in a report.
- If you want to publish your evidence yourself, you must ask us first. If we agree that you can publish your evidence, you are legally responsible for what it says.
What if I don't want my name or my evidence to be published?
We usually publish evidence, because it's important that the public can see the information the Committee has considered in its inquiry and who wrote it. But if there is an important reason why your evidence should be anonymous or confiential, tell us.
You may want your evidence to be anonymous - meaning we'll publish your evidence, but not your name or details that could identify you.
You may want your evidence to be confidential - meaning we'll read your evidence but we won't publish it.
If you want either of these things, tick the box on the website to say so when you are sending it to us. Please explain at the start of your evidence why you are asking for this.
We can't guarantee that this will happen, because the Committee has the power to decide whether evidence is kept anonymous or confidential.
Sometimes the call for evidence will say whether or not the Committee will accept anonymous or confidential evidence for that inquiry. This is more likely when the subject is personal or sensitive.
You can contact us before you send your evidence if you have any questions about this.
Why might you not consider my evidence?
- We don't consider evidence that isn't relevant to the Committee's inquiry. Read the call for evidence carefully before sending your evidence. You don't have to answer all of the questions or cover all of the issues, but do stay on topic.
- We can't help out with an individual problem or a specific complaint. If you're not sure who can help with your problem, you can find out here.
- It's very unlikely we will publish evidence that talks about court cases that are in progress (live court cases). If you do want to talk about a live court case, including an appeal, in your evidence, please contact us for advice.
- It's very unlikely we will publish evidence that contains statements that could be defamatory (that is, saying something untrue that could harm someone's reputation).
How parliamentary privilege applies to your evidence
Parliamentary privilege refers to the rights and powers that belong to Parliament and that enable it to fulfil its role. In particular, it gives legal protection for freedom of speech in Parliament, including for people who give evidence in writing or in person to select committees. Unless your evidence is rejected, it will be protected by parliamentary privilege. If it is rejected, it will not be published by the Committee.
If you publish your evidnece before the Committee has published it, parliamentary privilege won't apply and you may be vulnerable to legal action.
If you are concerned for any reason about the possible consequences for you of sending us evidence, please contact us before you send your evidence.
Everyone should feel free to send their evidence to a committee if they want to. If anyone threatens you because of evidence you've sent us, please contact us.
How to contact us
You will find contact details for each committee on their own webpages.
Ten top tips: how to write really useful evidence
Committees receive a lot of written evidence, and we read it all. But there are some things you can do to make your evidence even more useful to the Committee and its inquiry.
These tips are especially for anyone who is writing evidence on behalf of an organisation or in another professional role.
- Keep your evidence short and to the point.
- Write in plain English and explain any technical terms.
- Use section headings and numbered paragraphs.
- We can't accept evidence that has already been published, or that is intended to be published elsewhere, but you can quote from or refer to published material.
- Include factual information you think the Committee will find useful, particularly if it comes from you or your organisation's own knowledge, work or research.
- Set out the actions you would like Government or others to take, and explain why these actions would improve things.
- Include your thoughts about the most important questions that the Committee should ask the Government.
- Think about what you or your organisation can bring to the debate that others might not. What is your unique perspective or expertise?
- Send us your evidence as early as you can—this gives the Committee more time to take it into account.
- Re-read all the information on this page to make sure your evidence meets our requirements and doesn't include any material that might cause us to reject it.
If you are submitting evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee please consult our detailed guide for oral and written evidence submissions.
Giving oral evidence to a select committee
Oral evidence usually takes place in public in one of the Commons committee rooms.
Prior to the hearing:
- Committee staff will contact you to inform of any administrative arrangements.
- Committee staff will usually be able to give you an informal briefing highlighting potential lines of questioning.
- You should let committee staff know the name and job title of the witnesses.
- Contact committee staff if you suspect your evidence may relate to proceedings which are before a court of law, or court proceedings are imminent.
On the day of the hearing:
- Please arrive 20 minutes before you are due to appear.
- If other witnesses are to appear before you, it is helpful if you can attend their session, so that you are in a position to comment on that evidence.
- The session is in the form of a question and answer session.
- You must answer questions put to you by the committee carefully, fully and honestly.
After the hearing:
- Send any further information you have agreed to provide the committee to the committee staff as soon as possible.