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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Parliamentary Select Committees?

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Without the permission of the House, committees cannot compel MPs to attend, although it is often strongly in the interests of ministers in particular to attend. Some committees experience difficulty in persuading ministers and other witnesses to give straight answers to direct questions. Committees do not have access to departmental papers and records. The government is not obliged to act on the recommendations of select committees and there is no guarantee that their reports will even be debated in the House.

But sometimes committees can prove influential in the careers of politicians and government advisers. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has occasionally been put under the spotlight by the Foreign Affairs Committee for his handling of British policy in Iraq. Even high profile figures outside of government (such as the Director General of the BBC or senior military commanders) can be subjected to a grilling by select committee members, and thus can make the headlines for sometimes the wrong reasons.

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