Select committees are important because they scrutinise the work of government departments. Government departments and ministers have to justify their policies to parliament and these select committees shadow the work of Government departments in order to properly drill down into the detail. Each select committee is made up of around 11 MPs from different political parties whose job it is then to pick apart the strategy and the work of a particular government department.
The committee will decide what enquiries they’ll hold and take written evidence from a wide range of individuals from cross sections of society (public, historians, captains of industry, top scientists, charities etc). Anyone can submit evidence to a select committee enquiry which is why committees use social media to engage views from the public and also move around the country to gather evidence. They’ll then use this information to question ministers on their strategies and commitments to the electorate and Parliament.
Once enough evidence has been gathered, the committee then publish a report which the government then have two months to respond to. The report is usually picked up by interested parties – the media, think tanks, campaign groups, charities, and many more who use the evidence and the report to shape public policy.
During Greg Clark’s election campaign for committee chair, he proposed the following:
- Champion and raise the profile of one of our biggest global strengths – UK science, engineering, and technology in businesses, colleges, universities and research institutes
- Give the Committee a big role in highlighting what is going on in members’ constituencies – meeting not just in Westminster but in all parts of the country
- Emphasise the opportunities for technology not only in manufacturing but also in food and farming, clean energy, life sciences and services like tourism and retail
- Drive the case for technical and vocational education and apprenticeships to make sure we have the skills in the workforce to benefit from these opportunities, including driving participation among women and girls
- Establish the UK as a global leader in the policy response to the impact of changing technology on the ways we work, consume, get about, look after our health, and take leisure
As a former Secretary of State and former Science Minister with notable success on increasing R&D investment, we can expect the committees work to focus a great deal around the pressure points felt by UK industry.