Between diversity, representation and ‘best evidence’: rethinking select committee evidence-gathering practices

Danielle Beswick, Stephen Elstub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
180 Downloads (Pure)


Select committees play an important role in scrutinising government policy. They have come under increasing pressure to seek evidence for their inquiries—including both formal and informal evidence—from a wider range of stakeholders. Two particular pressures can be observed within this trend. First, committees are expected to show commitment to hearing from a more diverse set of stakeholders. The second pressure relates to the representativeness of those providing evidence. Consequently, they have been urged to increase public engagement. The recent Citizens’ Assembly into adult social care points to one mechanism for engaging a ‘mini-public’ in committee inquiries. Due to their use of random and stratified sampling to recruit participants, mini-publics could diversify the evidence base and facilitate public scrutiny of the committees. However, we know little of what committee members and staffs think about these issues. In this article, we draw insights from over 60 interviews with select committee chairs, members and staff to gain insight into their perspectives on evidence diversity and the potential of mini-publics to promote this. We find that traditional approaches to inquiries are still favoured. While mini-publics are seen as a solution to the failings of current approaches to public engagement, this is for instrumental reasons, meaning that they are only valued in particular circumstances. Ultimately, further culture change is required if committee inquiries are to move substantially beyond the traditional approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergsz035
Pages (from-to)945-964
Number of pages20
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date3 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Select Committees
  • Diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Public Administration


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