Legacy Report - Liaison Contents

1  Overview

1. This report draws together our conclusions on the operation of select committees in the 2010 to 2015 Parliament. It builds on the Committee's report in November 2012—at about the half-way point—on effectiveness, resources and powers.[1]

2. In that report we set out a vision for select committees:

    Our aim is that committees should be respected, listened to and feared by departments and ministers for the quality of their investigations, the rigour of their questioning, the depth of their analysis, and the value of their reports.

    Their influence will go beyond the subjects they choose to inquire into: departments will be mindful of the reaction of their committee when they make policy decisions and of the high probability of exposure of any administrative shortcomings. Committees will be routinely consulted by ministers and officials but will retain their detachment and ability to offer objective criticism.

    Their ability to do their job will not be limited by constraints on access to information or the witnesses they wish to hear from, and they will be able to draw on expert advice and research. They will be seen by our stakeholder communities as an important player, influencing Government and public opinion, and as the natural place to go to with concerns and ideas.

    The role of committees—and the powers which they can draw upon—will be understood by the public, and they will engage with a wide diversity of people in gathering evidence for our inquiries. Their work will be respected for its integrity and relevance to people's lives, and will contribute to reviving faith in the value of parliamentary democracy.

3. This Parliament has seen significant developments in the work of select committees and a growth in the attention paid to them. Chief among these has been the new process for election of chairs of committees directly by the whole House. Social media has been used by committees for the first time to engage with the public. A variety of informal ways of working have been trialled as an alternative to the basic model of taking evidence through oral hearings. Members have used iPads to read committee documents, rather than doing so on paper.

4. Throughout, the Liaison Committee has been keen to focus on how effective committees are in making a positive impact on Whitehall. This is hard to measure in a systematic way but it is the ultimate reason for what committees do in holding government accountable. This report is based on written evidence received from outside the House and memoranda[2] and legacy reports[3] from individual select committees.

5. In this report, we set out the developments over the past five years and put down some markers to assist committees in the next Parliament.

1   Liaison Committee, Second Report of Session 2012-13, Select committee effectiveness, resources and powers, HC 697 Back

2   See list of Published written evidence on p59 Back

3   See Annex D Back

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Prepared 24 March 2015