‘Departmental select committees are toothless watchdogs’ Discuss

Essay by ameliaabeltraoHigh School, 11th gradeA-, October 2014

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Amelia Beltrao 6C1

'Departmental select committees are toothless watchdogs' Discuss

This statement describes departmental select committees as being ineffective, and rather useless and pointless. Yet, select committees have proved more effective than debates at scrutinising the actions of the executive and holding it to account. The members of select committees are chosen from the House of Commons, which vary from 11 to 14 backbench MPs. Since 1979, select committees have played a central role in the operation of parliament. They decide the issues that they are going to examine and have wide powers to summon witnesses and to examine restricted documents. The committees spend much of their time questioning ministers, officials and outside experts. However, it is questioned whether select committees actually have an impact on the legislation and actually make a difference to UK politics.

One could argue that select committees do not have an effect on our government and support the statement.

Firstly, select have no power to prose policy. Although they may discuss their ideas and provide reports and evidence for their reasoning of topics, the government doesn't actually consider their recommendations. As well as this, select committee membership reflects that in the House of Commons, a government majority in the house will also have a majority in committees. Their membership is influenced by the Whips, who try to remove independent-minded committee chairs and try to convince them to agree with their own beliefs and ideas. Moreover, ministers and civil servants might not provide much information when questioned and in result are not always seen as having a significant purpose.

However, it can be argued against the statement that select committees are significant in how our government is ran. Select committees have a high degree of expertise in their field, and carry out detailed...