Monday, 1 June 2015

Select committees need to take on, not accomodate, the lobbyists‏

I agree strongly with The Independent's Whitehall Editor, Oliver Wright, that witness appearing before select committees don't need "select committee training" and they should just present themselves and tell the whole truth  ("Have select committees become an abuse of power?" 30 May). I would actually go further and propose select committees requesting witnesses to appear before them should stipulate they are not allowed to  have such dodgy training and to sign an affidavit they have not done so, which would go some way  to putting out of business the pernicious and nefarious activities of such people as Jon McLeod of Weber Shandwick Public Affairs, who revealed he  trains witness before select committee appearances, at the foot of his self-serving and egregiously misguided article alongside Wright's.

 McLeod  positively asserts that Lords (upperhouse) select committees have a more dignified tilt than  the more rumbustious Commons' committees. As someone who has worked with, and done research for,  politicians in both house of the Westminster Parliament and the European Parliament for over thirty years, my experience is peers give witnesses a lot easier time as they are often cheerleaders for special interests into which they are enquiring - something that affected the Lords Science & Technology committee  hearings on  nuclear R&D policy and the Economic Affairs committee inquiry  into the fracking,  very badly.

Also think the print media  in general covers select committee inquiries very poorly, preferring  reportage the theatre of oral evidence sparring session with witnesses to reading the many written submissions, which though published before the  committees report with their conclusions very rarely get reported at all. I would especially recommend the evidence published by the Public Administration select committee, which includes scrutiny of lobbyists, such as Shandwick Public Affairs.

The one point on which I agree with McLeod is the vacuous or nil press reporting of the Government responses to select committee reports. Both politicians and  press need to do better as the new Parliament starts its scrutiny work.

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