The effectiveness and influence of the select committee system Contents


300.We have not spent much time in this report looking backwards over the forty-year history of the departmental select committees. Our purpose has been to chart a way forward for the next phase of development. Over those forty years the scrutiny committees of the House have increased the tempo of their work, broadened the scope of their attention and increased the visibility of their work in ways which may well have been unimaginable to their founding members.

301.However, they still fulfil what we believe were the intentions of those who campaigned for so long to establish a systematic, sustainable and properly resourced scrutiny system for the House. They represent a rational and thoughtful approach to political problems, based so far as is possible on a cool appraisal of the facts and driven by the need to find common ground across their politically diverse memberships in identifying what is best for the electorate.

302.What we have heard in the course of this inquiry persuades us also that they have improved the quality of government by making ministers and officials more accountable for their actions and by requiring them to justify their decisions in public.

303.Their success has, we believe, also put them at the centre of the conversation between the institution which is at the heart of our system of representative democracy and those whom it represents. They have improved the quality of that conversation immeasurably, but there is still room for wider and better engagement.

304.The committees face both inwards to Westminster and Whitehall and outwards to the public—they are a bridge or a conduit between the two. As such they are as much part of that ill-defined organism known as “civil society” as they are a part of Parliament. Much of what we have had to say in this report has been celebrating the success of the select committees in reaching out to and engaging with the world outside Westminster. We hope they will continue to act as enablers who make government accountable not just to small groups of elected representatives but to all those parts of our society who want to hold their temporary rulers to account.

Published: 9 September 2019