Evidence use by parliamentary select committees is changing as their functions are evolving to not only provide government scrutiny but also offer further opportunities for public participation, according to new research.
A new report – by Dr Marc Geddes at the School of Social and Political Science – identified a growing emphasis on evidence based on the lived experience of witnesses and how representative they are of wider society.
The report – Good Evidence: How do select committees use evidence to support their work? – examined the role and use of evidence by MPs and officials in supporting select committees. Marc carried out the study as part of a 12-month fellowship with the UK Parliament between August 2021 and July 2022.
The study found that, while select committees are seeking to gather and use more diverse evidence, there are challenges for committees through growth in the volume of evidence and pressure on resources and committee staff.
To ensure select committees continue to gather, understand and use ‘good evidence’, the report recommends that committees identify and adopt principles for good evidence use, and reframe the evidence-gathering process in terms of three pillars of evidence.
Marc said: “My research shows the complexities around gathering and using evidence – it isn’t as simple as ‘using the best evidence’ because what counts as ‘best’ really depends on processes, practices and values underpinning different kinds of engagement. I hope the report will be valuable for select committees to enhance how they gather and use evidence.”