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How effectively do select committees perform their functions?

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Introduction

How effectively do select committees perform their functions? There have been select committees in the House of Commons since the nineteenth century. However, it wasn't until 1979 that additional departmental select committees were set up with enhanced powers. The departmental select committees are a vital check on the government. In typical parliamentary style, the making of committees is complicated. Committees are formally recreated at the start of each parliament, and the membership of each committee is voted on by all MPs soon after the Commons starts sitting. Members are appointed for the full parliamentary term, though changes are fairly common - for instance, when members become ministers or frontbenchers. ...read more.

Middle

for questioning. The questioning is not a court of law, papers and person can be called for, but they don't have to appear. Unlike question time for ministers in the main chamber of the House, committees are free to ask as many questions as they feel neccessary. Also, they can challenge questions just as freely as they ask them. The select committee system has several obvious strengths. At the end of an investigation by a committee, private deliberations follow before a report is issued to all of the house. These reports can sometimes prove to be controversial, embarrasing for the Government and sometimes prompt the changes in policy. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are numerous examples of departmental select committees making an impact. In the recent past, Mrs Dunwoody made determined attacks on both the management of Railtrack and government plans for the privatisation of the air traffic control system. Mr Anderson hit the headlines with a devastating report into the arms-to-Africa affair. Further back, in the 1992-97 parliament, Tory Quentin Davies gave then minister David Willetts a notorious grilling over his attempts to rig another committee's inquiry, which ultimately led to the latter's resignation as paymaster general. Also, from non-departmental select committees, the Public Accounts Committee issued a report in 1994 leading to a major investigation into civil service procedures. These examples show that the select committees do perform their functions very effectively. ...read more.

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