Hearing of parties before committees

38.38As in the Lords, a select committee may not hear counsel unless authorised by the House.1 However, by leave of the House, parties whose conduct forms the subject, or one of the subjects, of an investigation by a select committee, or whose rights and interests, as distinct from those of the general public, are directly affected by a public bill or other matter which has been referred to the consideration of such a committee, have sometimes been allowed to be heard in person or by counsel before the committee. The terms of such orders have given the committee leave to hear counsel to such extent as it shall see fit;2 or to hear parties by themselves, their counsel3 or agents.4


  1. 1. In 1992, two witnesses before the Social Security Committee appeared accompanied by their counsel. In this instance, however, the counsel's status was that of a witness before the Committee. See First Special Report of the Committee, HC 353 (1991–92). See also Employment Committee Minutes of Evidence, HC 638-i (1992–93) QQ 115–118. For counsel before the Committee of Privileges, see para 15.36.
  2. 2. CJ (1888) 234; ibid (1897) 29; ibid (1900) 178; ibid (1912–13) 384, 388, 430; ibid (1913) 18; ibid (1918) 65; ibid (1931–32) 178; ibid (1932–33) 26; ibid (1934–35) 103; ibid (1967–68) 150; ibid (1975–76) 590; ibid (1978–79) 140. Leave has also been given ‘to hear counsel upon the matters referred to’ a select committee, CJ (1861–62) 307; ibid (1890) 458.
  3. 3. See 10 Chandler Deb, 68. For instances of leave given to hear parties by counsel and agents, see CJ (1854–55) 367; ibid (1864) 193.
  4. 4. CJ (1880) 188; ibid (1935–36) 289; ibid (1936–37) 33; ibid (1938–39) 59; ibid (1966–67) 163. Committees have also been given power to hear parties by themselves or their counsel, no mention being made of agents, ibid (1868–69) 51; ibid (1939–40) 247–48; ibid (1940–41) 8. In the last two cases, the committee was empowered to hear the Member whose conduct was the subject of the inquiry by himself or his counsel, and to hear counsel on behalf of any other persons.