Public affairs Soap Box: Richard Jukes, Grayling Public Affairs

A small, yet fundamental, change in the fag-end days of the last Parliament altered the way select committees are chosen and is having a profound effect on the way that they do business.

Soap Box: Richard Jukes
Soap Box: Richard Jukes

Since 2010, chairmen and members have had to stand for election rather than rely on party managers to recognise and reward talent and loyalty through the old system of appointment.

Freed from the shackles of patronage, these new-style committees have been exploring their increased autonomy.

A new breed is emerging that has recognised the potential media platform that membership affords and embraced it wholeheartedly.

MPs serving on committees are under pressure to make their mark - why else would they be elected, if not to shine?

Greater publicity has also meant that select committees are conducting ever more inquiries into a growing range of issues. There has already been a five-fold increase in the number of inquiries so far this Parliament compared with the last - many of which are expected to deliver instant judgements and solutions.

Greater publicity can mean greater pressure to land the killer blow, with questioning sometimes designed to demonstrate guilt rather than uncover the truth.

Is this brave new world generating more heat than light? We are becoming used to being served up instant villains, neatly packaged for the nightly news.

Whereas a few years ago an appearance before a select committee was an opportunity for an organisation to lend insight and experience to the political process, it is perhaps now more akin to picking up the Chance card in Monopoly: it could read Collect £200 or it could read Go to Jail.

It is a change that businesses and individuals, and those who advise them, need to recognise.

Richard Jukes is managing director, Grayling Public Affairs

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in