To mark the 40th anniversary of the creation of departmental select committees, this special issue of Parliamentary Affairs draws together contibutions from House of Commons officials and leading academics on the past, present and future of one of the most significant reforms to the UK Parliament.
Articles available to read for free are marked with a star (☆).
- Departmental Select Committees: The Reform of the Century? – Philip Norton
Pre-history and development
- Reform and Consolidation: A New Perspective on Commons Select Committees 1960–1980 – Philip Aylett
- Select Committee Reform: Shifting the Balance and Pushing the Boundaries – Lucinda Maer
- The National Audit Office and the Select Committee System 1979–2019 – Henry Midgley
The actors and their roles
- A Means to an End and an End in Itself: Select Committee Membership, Parliamentary Roles and Parliamentary Careers, 1979–Present – Stephen McKay, Mark Goodwin, Stephen Holden Bates
- Performing Scrutiny along the Committee Corridor of the UK House of Commons – Marc Geddes
- (☆) Chairing UK Select Committees: Walking Between Friends and Foes (☆) [Open access] – Emma Crewe, Nicholas Sarra
- The Territorial Select Committees, 40 Years On – David Torrance, Adam Evans
- Select Committees: Understanding and Regulating the Emergence of the ‘Topical Inquiry’ – Craig Prescott
- Select Committees: Agents of Change – Adam Mellows-Facer, Chloe Challender, Paul Evans
- (☆) Select Committees and Brexit: Parliamentary Influence in a Divisive Policy Area (☆) [Open access] – Philip Lynch, Richard Whitaker
Involving the audience: participation and engagement
- Between Diversity, Representation and ‘Best Evidence’: Rethinking Select Committee Evidence-Gathering Practices – Danielle Beswick, Stephen Elstub
- How Public Engagement Became a Core Part of the House of Commons Select Committees – Aileen Walker, Naomi Jurczak, Catherine Bochel, Cristina Leston-Bandeira
Reviewing the performance of scrutiny
- Conclusion: So, What Is Good Scrutiny Good For? – Paul Evans
Practitioner: The 2019 University of Oxford Bingham Lecture
- Is the House of Commons Too Powerful? The 2019 Bingham Lecture in Constitutional Studies, University of Oxford – Philip Norton
Enjoy reading this? Please consider sharing it
Lord Frost’s appointment as Minister of State in the Cabinet Office to lead on UK-EU relations brings some welcome clarity about future government arrangements in this area. However, it also raises challenges for parliamentary scrutiny, above all with respect to his status as a Member of the House of Lords.
There was controversy on 9 February over whether the government had used procedural trickery to swerve a backbench rebellion in the House of Commons on a clause inserted in the Trade Bill by the House of Lords. Apparently, it was something to do with ‘packaging’. What does that mean, and was it true? The answer is all about ‘ping-pong’.
The contrasting post-Brexit fates of the two Houses’ EU-focused select committees have come about through processes in the Lords and the Commons that so far have differed markedly. This difference reflects the distinction between government control of business in the Commons, and the largely self-governing nature of the Lords.
Before Brexit, mechanisms for inter-parliamentary relations and scrutiny of inter-governmental relations in the UK were unsatisfactory. Post-Brexit, the need for reform has become urgent. There should be a formal inter-parliamentary body, drawn from all five of the UK’s legislative chambers, with responsibility for scrutiny of inter-governmental working.
The end of the transition period is likely to expose even more fully the scope of the policy-making that the government can carry out via Statutory Instruments, as it uses its new powers to develop post-Brexit law. However, there are few signs yet of a wish to reform delegated legislation scrutiny, on the part of government or the necessary coalition of MPs.
Parliament’s role around the end of the Brexit transition and conclusion of the EU future relationship treaty is a constitutional failure to properly scrutinise the executive and the law. As the UK moves to do things differently after 1 January, MPs must do more to ensure they can better discharge their responsibilities regarding the making of UK treaties.