In their nearly-eponymous 1995 hit, Reverend Black Grape, I’m a Celebrity runners-up and Bargain Hunt cheats, Black Grape, asked ‘Can I get a witness?’ In 2019, why is it that some select committees seemingly find it difficult to get female witnesses to give evidence at their sessions? Some of the answer may well be found in the gendered make-up of the committees themselves.
At a time of significant structural change, the UK’s constitutional and political arrangements face unprecedented challenges. There are strong arguments to be made for increasing the level of scrutiny of constitutional reform by accountable bodies, particularly through the vehicle of the Parliamentary Select Committee. Yet, the number of Committees tasked with examining constitutional matters has decreased; in particular, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee was not re-appointed following the 2015 General Election. Drawing on a detailed case study of the work of this unique committee, Dr Eloise Ellis examines the implications of its dissolution for the parliamentary scrutiny of constitutional reform more broadly.
In September the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published their report into Pre-Appointment Scrutiny Hearings. Robert Hazell gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry on the subject; here he discusses the report’s conclusions, and describes the events that led to its being undertaken, including two Constitution Unit studies that evaluated the effectiveness of such scrutiny.
In addition to their floor debates, a crucial role of legislatures is to scrutinise government law-making and policy implementation. The House of Commons looks at legislation via bill committees, and its select committees cover each of the Whitehall departments to scrutinise implementation. As part of the 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Patrick Dunleavy and the Democratic Audit team consider how well current processes maintain parliamentary knowledge and scrutiny of the central state in the UK and England.