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Liaison Committee: New inquiry to explore select committee scrutiny of strategic thinking across Government

22 June 2023

The Liaison Committee is launching an inquiry into select committee scrutiny of strategic thinking across Whitehall.

The Committee, which draws its membership from the Chairs of all the select committees in the House of Commons, will explore how the Government approaches the development, delivery and updating of key strategic plans across its departments. This will ensure that Parliament can provide constructive, cross-party oversight and challenge on some of the most concerning issues facing the UK today, some of which may span several Parliaments.

By taking a small number of case studies where the response to strategic challenges spans across departments, the Liaison Committee will explore how select committees can hold Government to account for learning from experience and better planning and preparation for the future. Potential examples under consideration are the UK’s net zero commitments while maintaining energy security; its place in the 21st century international order while balancing security and prosperity; and economic growth driven by Artificial Intelligence while managing the impact of AI on the labour market and the safety of humanity.  

Select Committees which scrutinise government departments expect to question ministers in relation to their individual inquiries. The minister with the relevant portfolio usually features in the final oral evidence session of each Inquiry, when the cross-party Committee members can question them about the government’s policy and practice in that area.  While some cross-cutting Committees have special remits across government, departmental select committees can find it difficult to access information about the Government’s work which lies beyond their own ministers.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Liaison Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, said:

“Major events such as Brexit, covid-19 and Ukraine demonstrate the need for long-term planning and delivery across multiple departments and across the duration of several Parliaments, as well as the importance of successful collaboration with our international partners. As the pace of events over recent years have shown, the Government needs to be more agile in its ambition – and it should also be coordinated across departments and sustainable over time.

Select committees provide a mirror to Government policy and practice. Their work has demonstrated the value of cross-party checks and balances on departmental strategic thinking.

This inquiry by the Liaison Committee will consider how select committees can improve scrutiny of strategic thinking in government as the UK confronts the major questions we face in the near and longer-term future. Better scrutiny of strategic thinking by Parliament will contribute to better strategic thinking within Government.”

Terms of Reference

The Committee is calling for written evidence by Sunday 15 October 2023.

The Committee is looking for evidence on:  

  • Examples of best practice of strategic thinking in Government, including:  
    • How well Government identifies strategic opportunities as well as strategic risks and threats;  
    • How effectively Government uses internal and external challenge; how feedback loops are used to ensure that lessons from delivery are fully considered when developing future strategic plans; 
    • How No. 10 and the Cabinet Office should best lead on these issues across government;
  • What government should publish or explain about its overall strategic concept.
  • What additional machinery of Government, knowledge and skills are necessary to support strategic thinking and effective strategy and delivery, both within individual departments, and across two or more departments, and how strategy and strategic thinking can be sustained by building consensus between the main parties;
  • Which governments around the world demonstrate best practice in strategic thinking;
  • How Select Committees consider strategic questions, including any recent examples of scrutiny of Government strategic plans and/or their delivery; and elements of Government strategy- and delivery that are repeatedly identified by Select Committees as effective or as deficient;
  • The engagement of individual departments, and Whitehall as a whole, with Select Committees on strategic challenges, including through the provision of information necessary for effective scrutiny.
  • What additional resources, parliamentary procedure, knowledge and skills are necessary to support effective Select Committee scrutiny of strategic thinking and effective strategy-making, as well as monitoring implementation of any Government action in response;
  • How other parliaments around the world are engaging with the strategic thinking of their respective governments.

Written evidence

Send your written submission to the Liaison Sub-Committee inquiry into scrutiny of strategic thinking across Government here.

Further information

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