This paper is published to accompany our report, Select Committees Under Scrutiny: The impact of parliamentary committee inquiries on government. That report presents the key findings from our research on parliamentary committees during the 2010–15 Parliament.

This paper sets out our detailed findings about the three case studies which formed the core of our research evidence: the departmental Defence and Home Affairs committees, and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards – a temporary joint committee with Commons and Lords membership. Most parliamentary committees are highly active, but there is relatively little evidence about what impact, if any, all this activity has on the functioning of government.

Our research focused on parliamentary committees’ use of inquiries – looking at how inquiries were conducted and what impact they could have on ministers, civil servants and the processes of government. We were particularly interested in identifying what, if anything had changed about the way committees were working in the 2010 parliament and the effect this had on their impact. For each case study committee we use the qualitative data we have collected to consider four specific questions:

  • What factors shaped the committee’s approach?
  • What were the committee and its members trying to achieve?
  • What approach did the committee adopt?
  • What worked well and what was less effective?

To answer these questions we have compared the evidence provided by different categories of interviewees: members and chairs; committee staff; ministers and civil servants; and other people with an interest in the work of the committees.