Select committees and contempts: clarifying and strengthening powers to call for persons, papers and records



Introduction and background

Select committees and contempts

Referral of 27 October

Timeline of our inquiry since October

1 Options for the Committee

The “three options”

Option (a): “Do nothing”

Arguments for

Arguments against

Option (b): “Reassert the House’s existing powers by amending Standing Orders or by Resolution”

Arguments for

Arguments against

Option (c): “Legislate to provide a statutory regime”

Arguments for

Arguments against

2 Legislative possibilities


International comparisons: key findings


Sanctions available in cases of non-compliance

Recent international cases


Specific legislative proposals considered by the Committee

The “contempt of court” model

The “criminal offence” model

3 Fair treatment of witnesses


Current arrangements for fair treatment of witnesses before committees

Recommendations of the 1999 and 2013 Joint Committees on fair treatment

Legal standards of fairness


4 Our proposal


Working assumptions

Steps followed in the case of a recalcitrant witness summoned by a select committee


5 Conclusion and questions for consultation

Conclusions and recommendations

Annex 1: Committee and House summons for witnesses to attend committees (2001–2021)

Annex 2: Parliament’s historic powers to compel attendance

Annex 3: Summary of international comparator models

Annex 4: Draft Bill for consultation

Formal minutes


Published written evidence

Published: 3 May 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement