Guidance on giving evidence to a House of Commons select committee
Find out how to give evidence to a House of Commons select committee, and why your contribution matters.
What are select committee inquiries?
House of Commons select committees are formal groups of MPs from different parties whose role is to examine a particular area of Government.
Select committees run inquiries on specific topics. At the end of an inquiry, they usually produce a report making recommendations. Usually, the recommendations are for the Government, but they can be for other institutions too.
Inquiries typically involve:
- inviting written submissions from the public. This is known as ‘written evidence’
- arranging panels of witnesses to answer questions. This is known as ‘oral evidence’
- sometimes running other activities, such as surveys, to hear people’s views, and
- using this evidence to write and publish a report with conclusions and recommendations. If the recommendations are for the Government, it has two months to formally respond to the report.
Guidance for witnesses
This guide provides detailed advice for individuals and organisations giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select committee. It includes how to find out about inquiries, full details of how your evidence is used, and how to claim expenses if you’ve given oral evidence.
You can read our detailed guide for giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select committee in a number of fomats:
Giving written evidence to a select committee
Why do you want my evidence?
We want to hear from a wide range of people who know about the topic that we're investigating. This helps us to understand the problems and make recommendations for improvements. The more ideas we hear and the more people we hear from, the better our work will be.
You might know about the topic because of your work, research, or study. You may have personal experience of it, like using health services or claiming benefits. All this expertise is valuable to our inquiries.
How do I send evidence in writing to a committee?
If there is an inquiry you would like to contribute to, you can find more advice and information on how to submit written evidence in our detailed guidance for oral and written evidence submissions.
Publication of evidence
It’s important that people can see what was said to a committee. For this reason, committees generally publish their evidence online and it remains available on the internet permanently.
You can ask the Committee to keep your evidence confidential, or to publish it in an anonymous form. This is up to the Committee, but committees usually agree to such requests.
Top tips for writing useful evidence
Committees often receive a lot of written evidence. There are things you can do to make your evidence more useful to the Committee and its inquiry.
These tips are for anyone submitting evidence, whether you are writing on behalf of an organisation or in another professional role or have personal experiences that you want to share with the Committee.
Make sure you:
- keep your evidence short and to the point
- write in plain English and explain any technical terms
- use section headings and numbered paragraphs
- make sure your evidence is an original, created specifically for submission to the committee and not already published elsewhere. You can quote from or refer to published material
- address the terms of reference of the inquiry. This is the explanation of what the Committee’s looking for in the “call for evidence” part of a committee’s website. You don’t have to address every point that the Committee has asked about. Only include information that is relevant to the terms of reference
- include factual information you think the Committee will find useful, particularly if it comes from you or your organisation's own knowledge, work, research, or experiences
- set out the actions you would like the Government or others to take and explain why you think that these actions would improve things
- send us your evidence as early as you can—this gives the Committee more time to take it into account
You might also wish to include
- 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, experience, or expertise?
Information about other people in your evidence
If you include personal information about other people in your submission (including your friends and family), the Committee may decide not to publish it. We generally advise you to make your submission about your own experiences and to keep information about other people to a minimum.
Giving oral evidence to a select committee
Oral evidence usually takes place in public in one of the Commons committee rooms. During the covid-19 pandemic, many witnesses at oral evidence sessions ‘dialled in’ to meetings using the online video-conferencing tool, Zoom. Witnesses may still ask to participate via video-link.
Oral evidence sessions are usually open to the public, and they are also broadcast live and archived on www.parliamentlive.tv. We normally publish a transcript of what is said in oral evidence sessions.
How do I get invited to give oral evidence?
The Committee will review the written evidence it has received. It will invite people it would like to hear more information from to an oral evidence session. We call these people “witnesses”. Witnesses may include:
- academics and researchers
- representatives from organisations
- people with personal experience of the topic, and
- government ministers
The Committee may have been particularly interested by a submission and would like more information, or there may be gaps in the evidence they wish to fill. Not all witnesses will have submitted written evidence to the inquiry, but many will have done. This means submitting written evidence to an inquiry is a good start towards getting an invitation to give oral evidence.
What happens if I’m invited to give oral evidence?
Committee staff will contact you with an invitation to give oral evidence and give you advice on what happens next. If you have been invited to give oral evidence, you can find more information on the process in our detailed guidance for oral and written evidence submissions.