Select Committees seem to have taken to Twitter en masse. Here are a few.
Some of you may recall the Public Administration Select Committee crowd-sourcing questions via Twitter for an appearance by Frances Maude. My summary of this is here – one that the previous link to the BBC’s write up took a quotation or two from as a couple of my questions via Puffles were asked.
Will we see more select committees doing similar things? I hope so. While few punches were landed, the principle for me showed promise. As MPs become more familiar with social media, so they will become more astute in using it to hold ministers and those in power to account. I should acknowledge the Public Administration Select Committee‘s clerks who started following lots of the other accounts. It made them much easier for me to list here.
The select committees:
Backbench Business – Not technically a select committee but they asked Puffles very nicely to be added. Actually, this is a very influential committee of Parliament as a number of days have been allocated for backbenchers to decide which issues they wish to debate. Issues put forward by MPs must have cross-party and widespread support, & must not be at the influence of front benches on either side. For example the debate on mental health was particularly powerful.
Business, Innovation and Skills - As well as watching the Department for Business (along with a remit for universities), they also have a habit of calling in the heads of big business. Not nearly as good at holding big firms to account as they could be – esp when firms’ failures have big impacts on communities.
Education – one for Gove-watchers and those interested in schools. More than a few of Puffles’ followers will be watching this one with interest.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – watching Defra and farming. (Note how no department or select committee has an ‘urban affairs’ title). There’s a little confusion here on remit with the existence of the Environmental Audit Committee and that of the Energy and Climate Change one – where does environment end and climate change start?
Foreign Affairs - keeping tabs on UK foreign policy:
“Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years – to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now when it’s worked so well.” (Sir Humphrey Appleby)
Health – Given the controversy over the NHS, I can imagine this one being on the receiving end of a fair amount of Twitter traffic. It’ll be interesting to see how the clerks of the committee make use of what is submitted to them.
Home Affairs – One of the most influential of select committees not least because it has greater powers of summons. My local MP Julian Huppert also sits on this committee, which in part has increased the amount of parliamentary coverage in my local paper, the Cambridge Evening News.
International Development – They scrutinise the work of the Department for International Development and their partners.
Joint Committee on Human Rights – Always an easy target but are far easier to lose than to fight for. This is Parliament’s human rights watchdog that looks at impact of policy on human rights.
Justice – One for you law and legal eagles out there. We’ve got the first Lord Chancellor in history who is not a lawyer. Make of that what you will in terms of future evidence sessions.
Liaison Committee – The only committee of Parliament that by convention can call the Prime Minister. It is formed from the elected chairs of the other select committees, and cross-examines the PM every six months. My personal take is that where any select committee of the House feels that it is the Prime Minister setting the policy, then that is who should answer questions. It’s one of the reasons Blair got away with so little scrutiny during Labour’s days.
Political and Constitutional Reform - This committee scrutinises the Coalition’s program of constitutional reform led by the Deputy Prime Minister. They also cover lobbying too.
Procedure – One for Commons’ watchers – this committee looks at how the House of Commons goes about its business. This includes reform of select committees.
Public Administration – The one I’m interested in which scrutinises the civil service. Puffles regularly tweets about the goings on of this committee (being followed on Twitter by a third of the MPs on it) and having had an impact on their report on public engagement in policy-making.
Public Accounts – The one that you’re interested in – or perhaps is the one most likely to be mainstream newsworthy. If money is wasted in a big way, those seen as responsible find themselves here.
Science and Technology - Pitifully low coverage in the media despite the subject’s importance, something that I hope social media users will be able to help redress.
Transport – Trains, planes, cars and cycles. Hopefully this one will get greater coverage too, but only because I am dependent on public transport!
Work and Pensions – One of the biggest departments of the lot with one of the biggest budgets too. Given how many people are using social media to protest against the Coalition’s policies, as with Health this too will be worth watching in terms of how the clerks use it to shape how the Committee scrutinises ministers and civil servants.
Other Parliament Twitter accounts
It’s not just select committees that have them:
In terms of the rumpus in the chamber, the House of Commons is there to warn you of when Punch will thump Judy at PMQs, as is Commons Hansard (to tell you of when Punch thumped Judy – but I don’t condone domestic violence. Don’t do it kids.) At a more genteel pace is life in the House of Lords.
I’ll try to get more added to this list as and when they come onstream.