Guidance on giving evidence to the Houses of Parliament

Find out how you can give evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Contents

Giving evidence to the House of Commons

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.

Guidelines

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.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords

When a House of Lords 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 audio file, or would like to make a submission after the formal deadline for evidence, please contact the committee staff on the committee's website.

Guidelines

To be successfully submitted via the online written submission form, documents need to:

  • Be less than 25 MB in size
  • Be in Microsoft Word or another editable format (e.g. rtf, txt ooxml or odt format, but not PDF or Excel)
  • Contain as few logos or embedded pictures as possible
  • Contain no macros
  • Comprise a single file. If there are any annexes or appendices, these should be included in the same file.

Submissions should also:

  • Be dated
  • State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether you are submitting it in a personal capacity (individually or along with co-authors) or on behalf of an organisation
  • Be concise: a submission longer than six printed pages should include a one-page summary
  • Have numbered paragraphs

Notes on making a submission

Those making a submission to a Committee inquiry should note the following:

  • Personal contact details supplied to the Committee will be removed from submissions before publication but will be retained by the Committee staff fro specific purposes relating to the Committee's work, such as seeking additional information.
  • Evidence which is accepted by the Committee may be published online at any stage; when it is so published it becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege. Submissions which have been previously published will not be accepted as evidence. Once you have received acknowledgement that the evidence has been accepted you will receive a further email, and at this point you may publicise or publish your evidence yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of your evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.
  • Persons who submit written evidence, and others, may be invited to give oral evidence. Oral evidence is usually given in public at Westminster and broadcast; transcripts are also taken and published online. Persons invited to give oral evidence will be notified separately of the procedure to be followed and the topics likely to be discussed.
  • Substantive communications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed to the Clerk of the Committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the Committee.
  • Committees normally publish written evidence on the Internet (where it will be accessible to search engines). If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly explain your reasons for not wishing its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish. The final decision on whether or not to publish evidence rests with the Committee.
  • 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 before making your submission.
  • 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.

Data protection

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the House of Commons and House of Lords privacy notices for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with it.

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