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Updated guidance on giving evidence to a House of Commons select committee

Rob Davies

CAPE Policy Fellow

Parliamentary select committees scrutinise a range of areas, including the work of government departments, through formal inquiries and want to hear from academics and researchers who know about the topic that they’re investigating.

Select committee inquiries typically involve a call for evidence inviting written submissions (known as ‘written evidence’), arranging panels of witnesses to answer questions (known as ‘oral evidence’), sometimes running other activities, such as surveys and publishing areas of research interest, and using this evidence to write and publish a report with conclusions and recommendations.

Updated (June 2022) ‘Guidance for giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select committee’ explains how a ‘typical’ committee inquiry works, gives advice about how to submit written evidence or give oral evidence to a committee, sets out some of the powers of committees which are relevant to the evidence-gathering process, and explains the operation of parliamentary privilege.

The language in the detailed guide has been simplified and there’s now a new EasyRead version. Importantly for the research community, academics and researchers are listed as one of the key stakeholder groups and there’s now clarification on “not previously published”, in that whilst your written evidence should be created specifically for submission to the committee, you can refer to or attach material and research published elsewhere within a submission.

The Guide include some helpful pointers “Top tips” for writing evidence submissions, including outline your expertise and how this relates to the topic, keep your evidence short and to the point, write in plain English and explain any technical terms, include your thoughts about the most important questions that the Committee should ask the Government, and (to help shape the Committee’s thinking and maximise your opportunity to be invited as an oral witness), send in your evidence as early as you can – the earlier the better.