A core function of Parliament is the holding of government to account through effective scrutiny, including of policy-making and implementation, and the use of public money. At Westminster, scrutiny mechanisms include parliamentary questions and select committees. How well do such scrutiny mechanisms work, and how might they be improved?
In our April 2019 submission to the House of Commons Liaison Committee inquiry into the select committee system, we made wide-ranging recommendations including a review of the select committee core tasks, and a restructuring of the system to provide for improved scrutiny of delegated legislation and legislative standards and to accommodate post-Brexit needs.
The roles occupied by members of The Independent Group - particularly on select committees, where they retain a number of important posts and command two and a half times as many seats as the Liberal Democrats – could give them more influence than their small, non-party status might normally be expected to accord them.
For its ‘fake news’ inquiry the House of Commons DCMS Committee has reportedly acquired papers related to a US court case involving Facebook. Andrew Kennon, former Commons Clerk of Committees, says the incident shows how the House’s powers to obtain evidence do work, but that it might also weaken the case for Parliament’s necessary powers in the long term.
In November 2018 the House of Lords Liaison Committee published our evidence to its review of investigative and scrutiny committees. We made wide-ranging recommendations aimed at improving legislative scrutiny, facilitating more effective horizon-scanning and addressing post-Brexit scrutiny challenges.
Select committee Chairs Clive Betts MP and Sarah Wollaston MP explain how using a Citizens’ Assembly helped their committees find a consensus and produce a unanimous joint report for their recent inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care, in an important innovation in select committee practice.
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