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Select Committees: How they work and how to get involved
Different types of select committeePAC (the Environmental Audit (cross cutting); European Scrutiny; Joint Committees Joint Committee on human rights;Temporary Committees (one house or both) with specific orders of reference, e.g. to examine a draft Bill and reportAnd there are internal Committees eg Liaison Committee, Administration Committee, Procedure Committee,
Scrutiny: What do Select Committees do?
In May 2002 the Liaison Committee proposed core tasks for select committees. Designed to ensure that select committees to carry out the full range of activities currently open to them. Agreed to by the House: provide a framework for Committee activity.3
Core tasks overall aimTo hold Ministers and Departments to account for their policy and decision-making and to support the House in its control of the supply of public money and scrutiny of legislation
Holding to account on meeting binding targetsCan summon witnesses and MinistersWhat select Committees do not doDo not have executive authority for example, can hold a pre appointment hearing, but do not make the final decision about who will be appointed. The Government does this.
Do not have a formal legislative role. In this way very different from, for example, US Congressional Committees and committees of the Scottish Parliament(Although do carry out pre-legislative scrutiny)
Do not have a role in voting for or against budgetary items decisions, although they do scrutinise Departmental accounts
Parliament (Westminster)Commons, Lords and Monarchholds Government to accountpasses lawsGovernment (Whitehall)
some MPs and some Lords, chosen by the Prime Ministerruns Government departments and public services
7 staff vs thousands of civil servants (note spending review)
Aim to work consensually across party lines
Vexing civil servants since 1668
At the office all the morning, where comes a damned summons to attend the Committee of Miscarriages to-day, which makes me mad, that I should by my place become the hackney of this Office, in perpetual trouble and vexation, that need it least. ~ Sam. Pepys
History of select committees (briefly, main point being they did not start in 1979)The departmental select committee system is so well-established that it is often forgotten that it was set up just over thirty years ago, at the beginning of the Thatcher administration.
Committees were appointed by the House to examine various matters as early as the reign of Charles I, and by 1668 a committee of the Commons had taken the bold step of launching an inquiry into the conduct of an entire war.
The Dutch raid on the English fleet in the Medway in June 1667 was a political and military catastrophe: the flagship of the English fleet, the Royal Charles, was captured and hauled off to Amsterdam. The transom of the ship is still on display in the Rijksmuseum as a war trophy.
A Committee to inquire into the Miscarriage of Affairs in the late War was set up by the Commons. It wanted answers, many of them from one Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts of the Navy Board.
Present-day civil servants may have some sympathy with him.
Revised core tasksStrategy
Support for theHouse
Updated in 2012 by Liaison Committee report on Select Committee effectiveness, resources and powers. 1. STRATEGY: To examine the strategy of the department, how it has identified its key objectives and priorities and whether it has the means to achieve them, in terms of plans, resources, skills, capabilities and management information2. POLICY: To examine policy proposals by the department, and areas of emerging policy, or where existing policy is deficient, and make proposals3. EXPENDITURE AND PERFORMANCE: To examine the expenditure plans, outturn and performance of the department and its arm's length bodies, and the relationships between spending and delivery of outcomes 4. DRAFT BILLS: To conduct scrutiny of draft bills within the committee's responsibilities5. BILLS AND DELEGATED LEGISLATION: To assist the House in its consideration of bills and statutory instruments, including draft orders under the Public Bodies Act6. POST-LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY: To examine the implementation of legislation and scrutinise the department's post- legislative assessments7. EUROPEAN SCRUTINY: To scrutinise policy developments at the European level and EU legislative proposals8. APPOINTMENTS: To scrutinise major appointments made by the department and to hold pre-appointment hearings where appropriate9. SUPPORT FOR THE HOUSE: To produce timely reports to inform debate in the House, including Westminster Hall, or debating committees, and to examine petitions tabled10.PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: To assist the House of Commons in better engaging with the public by ensuring that the work of the committee is accessible to the public
5. Government reply 3. Report preparation1. Inquiry initiation 2. Evidence gathering
The inquiry process4. Report publicationThe inquiry process
26 November 2015
Select Committees in action!
Select Committees: Members and staff
2-3 Administrative staff
Staff: what do we do?Seek and receive written submissionsHold public evidence sessionsCall witnessesVisitsProduce draft reportsAppoint special advisors for inquiries
Committees need you!1. Submit written evidence Terms of reference will be issued ensure evidence addresses them
Check deadline dates
Use clear language write for an intelligent non-expert
Suggest solutions as well as addressing problems
Contact committee Clerk to discuss your submission, and for advice
2. Give oral evidence Many hearings are fact-finding sessions.. Get your view on the record
Ask any questions before the session
Avoid jargon and too many acronyms
Committees need you!
3. Respond to broader consultations, attend seminars, town hall meetings
Many other waysContact with staff (informal)Become a Specialist Adviser (formal)Keep up to date with committee activity: twitter, press notices, parliament.ukWork placement?
Informal engagement is important
Further information contacts
Website: www.parliament.uk; www.parliamrnt.uk/ecc
Twitter: @UKParliament, @CommonsECC
Or get in touch:email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org