19.Committees have adopted different approaches to increasing witness diversity. Examples of steps taken include:
20.At the same time the House service has made it easier for witnesses to claim expenses for caring responsibilities arising from giving evidence and to access emergency carer cover. The witness expenses budget has been increased to ensure that the costs of witness travel and witness accommodation can be covered where necessary.
21.In terms of non-financial support, many committee teams specifically identify witnesses giving oral evidence for the first time and offer them additional advice and guidance, such as an advance visit to the Committee room.
22.Committee teams continue to share good practice and ideas with each other and with other organisations. The Scottish Parliament recently published a research paper by Hugh Bochel, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Lincoln and researcher Anouk Berthier on Committee witnesses: gender and representation. The proportion of female witnesses in 2016-17, excluding the Scottish Government was 38.4%, markedly higher than in the House of Commons.
23.Several Commons staff were interviewed as part of the preparation of that Report, which notes that the Westminster Parliament and the House of Commons in particular is “the parliament for which most information is available on committee witnesses.”
24.The report proposes a series of possible actions to be taken by the Scottish Parliament which are also of interest to our Committee Office. These include:
25.These conclusions, and wider evaluation of the work done so far by Committee teams, are currently being considered by Anna Connell-Smith, Committee Specialist on the Education Committee, who is the current witness diversity champion and leads on the staff side for policy development and exchanging experience and good practice.
13 , Hugh Bochel and Anouk Berthier, Scottish Parliament Information Centre Briefing SB 18-16
Published: 7 June 2018