40.28The examination of witnesses giving oral evidence and the methods of obtaining their attendance before committees in the Lords are similar to those in the Commons.1 Lords committees may not take evidence on oath unless enabled to do so by order of the House.2 False evidence before a committee may be punishable as a contempt3 or, if evidence is given on oath, as perjury.4 In practice, however, evidence-taking before committees is conducted with a degree of informality and the wide powers of the House to require a witness to co-operate are now seldom employed.
Proceedings are generally conducted in English. Committees may, however, take oral evidence in another language or in British Sign Language through interpretation, or accept written evidence in another language if accompanied by a translation. Such an approach is adopted only when the alternative would be to lose the opportunity to hear key evidence.5 The use of the Welsh language is permitted for the purpose of committee proceedings held in Wales.6
Witnesses are eligible to receive travel and certain other expenses necessarily incurred in giving oral evidence before select committees.
- 1. See paras 38.31 –38.41. For the privilege and protection of witnesses, see para 14.14, and for the punishment of contempt by witnesses, see para 15.5.
- 2. LJ (1857) 60; Report of the Committee on Administration of Oaths and Witnesses, ibid (1857) 39. The House has so ordered only in the case of inquiries of a special character: ibid (1889) 19; ibid (1919) 382; ibid (1934–35) 32. For the practice in committees on private bills, see para 46.13.
- 3. LJ (1810–12) 371, etc.
- 4. Perjury Act 1911, s 1.
- 5. Procedure Committee, First Report, HL 62 (2015–16); LJ (2015–16) 574.
- 6. Procedure Committee, Second Report of Session 2008–09, HL 165; LJ (2009–10) 93.