The Emperor Has No Clothes: A proposal to bolster the authority of Select Committees

A pamphlet from the Rt. Hon. Lord Andrew Tyrie is calling for the establishment of a new parliamentary court to strengthen Select Committee powers, ahead of the election of new Select Committee Chairs on January 29th 2020.

In The Emperor Has No Clothes: A proposal to bolster the authority of Select Committees, Tyrie highlights the current limitations of Select Committee ability to compel witnesses to give evidence and produce papers. While Committees have, since the introduction of Chairmen through secret ballot in 2010, started to make fuller use of their theoretical powers, there have been high profile examples of refusals to comply with their demands.

Tyrie calls for the following measures to enable Select Committees to fulfil their role of scrutinising the executive and wider public life:

  • Legislation to assert parliamentary privilege over evidence in Committees
  • A change in standing orders to require MPs and Peers to appear before Select Committees
  • A new parliamentary court or tribunal able to develop the checks and balances required to support the more powerful Committee system
  • Consideration of legislation to require that the police support the enforcement of warrants or summons
  • Codification in standing orders of the standards and treatment for witnesses giving oral evidence

Commenting on the pamphlet, Tyrie said:

“Select Committees are Parliament’s success story of the last decade. They are now asking more of the questions, and forcing more of the explanations, that the public expects from its elected representatives.

“But their very success is exposing their weaknesses – their powers to compel witnesses to appear and to produce papers have been found wanting.

“Now is the time to bolster these powers. A parliamentary court is the best way forward as it can both satisfy human rights concerns and secure the evidence.”

Read the full pamphlet here.