Select Committees are becoming the ugly face of Parliament: it’s time to rein them in

Adam Lent argues that Select Committees are increasingly characterised by an extremely aggressive style of questioning, becoming ‘public courts’ where individuals are tried on the strength of their performance rather than on the evidence. This has gone hand-in-hand with a broader mission creep, with their transformed role having thus far avoided meaningful public debate. I have attended a few Select Committees […]

Accountability and transparency demand that Freedom of Information requirements should be an essential corollary of receiving public funding, throughout the whole of the NHS

Changing patterns of provision for public services can have serious implications for existing standards of public accountability, converting large swathes of previously open and published information into ‘commercially confidential’ material kept secret by for-profit companies. Grahame Morris MP argues that the solution to this creeping decrease in accountability is to require that FOI rules on public disclosure apply even-handedly to […]

Flexibility is central to delivering innovation but it needs to be matched by accountability

Jane Mansour argues that the weaker than expected performance of US charter schools raises important questions about the opening up of public sector provision in the UK. While flexibility is central to delivering innovation, it must be matched by accountability. Removing contracts from organizations which underperform should be seen as a strength of the contract, rather than a weakness of the policy programme.  In the […]

The controversy over Civil Service accountability is symptomatic of an unstable constitution

Andrew Blick relates the recently completed Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom to the issue Civil Service accountability. While there have been substantial changes, the problematic constitutional principle that civil servants are only indirectly accountable to Parliament remains. The manner in which civil servants are held accountable for their actions is at present a subject of considerable controversy. In the House of Commons, […]

Freedom of information being difficult, inconvenient or expensive is not a reason to seek to limit its role

Ed Hammond argues that changes to the existing Freedom of Information regime could fatally flaw the openness and transparency of public authorities in the UK. The House of Commons Justice Select Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act has seen a number of witnesses and members of the Committee positing some possibilities for the future of Freedom of Information […]

Localism may actually reduce citizen voice because information on citizen redress is either not collected or ignored

Citizen redress is essential for any government committed to administering accountable and efficient public sector services. However, as Jane Tinkler argues, the introduction of more complex provider networks in the Big Society threatens the already unrecognised potential of citizen voice in providing a system of checks and balances. There is one discussion point on the government’s localism agenda (as we […]

Electing mayors for more English cities would increase local democratic accountability and widen political participation. But the government must grant them real power and freedom

England’s  biggest cities will soon vote on whether or not they want to be run by directly elected mayors. The Institute for Government’s Sam Sims argues that mayoral governance offers significant benefits, but the centre must give mayors real power if the government is to achieve its decentralisation ambitions.

The select committee system is more effective than ever before. Now, a thorough review of their core tasks and resources is needed, to avoid them being bogged down under the weight of increasing workload and expectations.

Select committees in government are not new, but they have recently had a boost to their status and reputation – in July, millions watched the Culture, Media and Sport select committee question Rupert and James Murdoch over phone hacking. The Hansard Society’s Matt Korris argues that the increasing role and public expectations of select committees now places them with an […]

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This work by British Politics and Policy at LSE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.