Month: September 2019

How to engage with select committees effectively

This blog post is intended to compliment our resources document, Engaging with Parliamentary Select Committees.

In this blog post, we will look at:

  • What select committees are and do
  • What your written evidence submission should look like
  • How The Forum can help

What are select committees?

Select committees are the engine room of parliamentary scrutiny. They are formal bodies but their power and influence is often more informal. They choose their own programme and are cross party.

Select Committees in the House of Commons are charged with overseeing the work of a government department, examining the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments.

Lords Select Committees do not shadow the work of government departments. They consider specialist subjects, taking advantage of the Lords’ expertise and the greater amount of time (compared to MPs) to examine issues. They also invite written submissions.

Select committees will generally be considered effective when they influence debate and change government policy.

A few examples of select committees that may be particularly relevant to Imperial researchers are:

Select committees scrutinise government through inquiries on selected topics. They will set the terms of reference for each inquiry and then invite written submissions from interested parties.

What should written evidence submissions look like?

  • Introduce yourself at the start – what is your background and expertise? What can you contribute to the debate? For example, why your research is particularly relevant and helpful.
  • Formatting is important! Number your paragraphs and use spacing, separating out sections using titles. Put the date at the top.
  • Emphasise your key asks – what do you want to happen? Avoid just stating all the problems – what are the solutions? Think creatively about recommendations – it shouldn’t always be asking for more money.
  • Address the questions the committee is asking. You can quote from other sources, but please cite them.
  • Perhaps the most important one: keep the evidence short, simple, to the point and free of jargon. Staff and parliamentarians looking at the written evidence will be pressed for time.
  • Frame the submission in the public interest. Opinion is useful, but only up to a point – what they really want to see is analysis.
  • The committee will likely reject anything defamatory or items published elsewhere. Do not publish it until they have accepted it as evidence (they will email you to let you know this).
  • Follow the guidance from the Parliament website.

What next?

With any submission, preparation is key, and The Forum is here to help:

  • Come along to one of The Forum’s Policy engagement seminars.
  • Consult our new Upcoming consultations and APPG meetings page on The Forum website, where you can find open consultations you could contribute to.
  • Read Imperial’s submission to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy.
  • If you are submitting evidence, research the members of the committee and read some of their reports.
  • Contact The Forum team to get bespoke support with your draft submission and particularly if you are invited to give oral evidence. We’d be delighted to meet 1-1.

A final thought

Select committees rely entirely on evidence and without it, they can do very little. Therefore, it is in their interest to hear from you – they want the best possible evidence on an issue so they can scrutinise policy effectively.