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More evidence that select committees are the engine rooms of our legislature

Mike McCartney

16th February 2021

Another example of legislative scrutiny of the executive

I have written several times this academic year about select committees.

Remember, arguably the single most important development in executive-legislative relations is the introduction of departmental select committees in the UK in 1979. There are numerous examples of their excellent work to support this assertion. Some of the most prominent include: Arms to Africa (1999); ineffective Office of the Deputy PM (2002, 2005); role of Attorney General (2007).

And in a previous post, I said:

'After examining the significance of select committees in lessons I put it to my Y12 students as a challenge that it would be difficult to read the papers in a normal week without coming across a reference to a select committee chair in print.'

The source of this quote, a longer post, is here:

And I wish I had placed a small wager on this, because there has been another example this week.

So says the Guardian:

'An influential group of MPs has urged the government to spell out the impact its lockdown-easing measures would have on economic growth and the number of coronavirus infections.

Calling for evidence to be published alongside the government’s reopening road map to be announced on 22 February, the Treasury select committee said it would help the public to better understand the implications of restrictions and the costs and benefits of making changes.'

It continues:

'Mel Stride, the Conservative chair of the committee, said publishing criteria on lifting lockdowns would help give “confidence that the government has a clear route of out the crisis”.'


And so while Mr Stride may not have assumed the kind of public profile of his predecessors, such as Andrew Tyrie, he has only been in the job a short while. But it does go to show that chairs of these committees have the capacity to gain as much media attention as many members of the cabinet. This is why the chair position is now an attractive position on leaving a senior government post, much like Mr Mel Stride himself (check out his cv).

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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