Witnesses from overseas

38.39Committees sitting abroad cannot exercise a power formally to send for persons, papers and records. Nor are witnesses summoned from overseas to give evidence in the United Kingdom, though foreign nationals are often invited to attend to give evidence before committees.1 Commissioners or officials of the European Commission, irrespective of nationality, have regularly given evidence.2 Select committees frequently obtain written information from overseas persons or representative bodies, either directly or through government departments, about matters within the committee's order of reference.

There is no record of foreign nationals resident (temporarily or permanently) in the United Kingdom being formally summoned to give oral evidence. But on the analogy of the process in courts of law, there would appear to be no bar to their being summoned if they are present within the jurisdiction of Parliament, and a foreign national temporarily resident in the United Kingdom has been served an order for production of papers.3


  1. 1. For cases prior to 1939, see Erskine May (20th edn, 1983), p 698, fn 9. The International Development Committee, for example, has invited ministers of foreign states to give evidence, see Session 2002–03, HC 1260-I (Ministers of the transitional state of Afghanistan); Session 2002–03, HC 400-ii (Prime Minister of Ethiopia).
  2. 2. For example, Treasury and Civil Service Committee, Session 1987–88, HC 248, pp 9–12; Environment Committee, Session 1988–89, HC 22–II, pp 253–65; Agriculture Committee, Session 1996–97, HC 45-II, pp 272–84; International Development Committee, Session 2001–02, HC 417-ii; Work and Pensions Committee, Session 2002–03, HC 680-i.
  3. 3. Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Formal Minutes of Session 2017–19, 19 November 2018.