Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


  69. A note on the terms of reference and the procedures adopted for this inquiry is at Annex 1. It reflects the fact that this is a Parliamentary, not a judicial, inquiry. It does not seek to replicate the procedures which would exist in a court action or which might be adopted for an inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921.

  70. In deciding on procedure, I had regard to the practices both of Select Committees and of inquiries outside Parliament. The approach was inquisitorial, not adversarial.

  71. Witnesses were given every opportunity to consider and respond to allegations and supporting material, but not to question others or to be represented by lawyers. Evidence was tested by Counsel to the inquiry and myself at oral hearings, as well as by further investigation. At the end of each oral hearing, witnesses were offered the chance, whilst the inquiry team and the shorthand writers withdrew, to reflect on their evidence and, if they were accompanied by a legal adviser, to consult with him or her, before, if they wished, making a closing submission.

  72. Although, as described in paragraph 51(a) above, the Select Committee had agreed to facilitate the taking of evidence before me under oath, I decided on practical grounds not to exercise this option. It had, in any case, been rendered unnecessary by the Committee's decision, as set out in paragraph 51(d), that any witnesses summoned by them would be required to give sworn confirmation as to the fullness and accuracy of their evidence to me. All witnesses to my enquiry were formally cautioned to that effect.

  73. In my view the procedures I adopted achieved the objectives of being fair to all parties, while allowing the inquiry to be completed within a reasonable timescale.

previous page contents next page
House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 8 July 1997