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.
Making a submission to a select committee inquiry
When a House of Commons Select Committee conducts an inquiry it will often invite written evidence from interested parties. Those wishing to make a submission to a committee should do so through the relevant inquiry page on the committee’s website before the deadline detailed.
If you have difficulty making a submission online, wish to submit evidence in an alternative format such as an audio file, or would like to make a submission after the formal deadline for evidence, please contact the committee staff.
To successfully make a submission via the online form on a committee’s website, documents need to:
- Be less than 25 MB in size
- Be in Word (doc, docx, rtf, txt ooxml or odt format, not PDF)
- Contain as few logos or embedded pictures as possible
- Contain no macros
- Comprise a single document. If there are any annexes or appendices, these should be included in the same document.
It also assists the committee if those submitting evidence adhere to the following guidelines. Each submission should:
- State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself in a personal capacity or sent on behalf of an organisation, for example the submission could be headed ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxxxx’
- Be concise – we recommend no more than 3,000 words in length, unless otherwise stated in the inquiry terms of reference
- Begin with an executive summary in bullet point form of the main points made in the submission
- Include a brief introduction about yourself/your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence
- Have numbered paragraphs
- Include any factual information you have to offer from which the committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses for their reactions
- Include any recommendations for action by the Government or others which you would like the committee to consider.
Notes on making a submission
Those making a submission to a Committee inquiry should note the following:
- Committees publish most of the written evidence they receive on the internet (where it will be accessible to search engines).
- If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so and explain your reasons for not wishing its disclosure. The committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the committee, please contact the clerk of the committee to discuss this.
- A committee is not obliged to accept your submission as evidence, nor to publish any or all of the submission even if it has been accepted as evidence. This may occur where a submission is very long or contains material to which it is inappropriate to give parliamentary privilege (see Guide for Witnesses for further information on parliamentary privilege).
- Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a submission, in which case it should be clearly referenced, preferably with a hyperlink.
- You should be careful not to comment on matters currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the clerk of the committee how this might affect your submission.
- Once submitted, no public use should be made of any submission prepared specifically for the committee unless you have first obtained permission from the clerk of the committee. If you are given permission by the committee to publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.
- Committees do not normally investigate individual cases of complaint or allegations of maladministration.
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.