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Lords Robertson and Sedwill to lead first evidence session on strategic thinking in Government

28 February 2024

Key figures who have worked at the centre of governmental decision-making are to be questioned about their experiences of Whitehall as MPs explore how Parliament can best provide constructive, cross-party oversight of strategic thinking in Government.

The inquiry, being conducted by a sub-committee of the Commons’ Liaison Committee, considers the challenges and opportunities of setting and delivering strategy when priorities often span the remit of many departments and cover multiple election cycles. The first evidence session will be held on March 5.

George Robertson, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, held the roles of Secretary of Defence and Secretary General of NATO. Mark Sedwill, Lord Sedwill, served as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service while Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson were in office.

They’ll be joined by Matthew Flinders, Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield, and Jill Rutter and Alex Thomas from the Institute for Government.

MPs will consider the processes and mechanisms which have evolved in government and the potential for improvement. They will also ask what select committees should be doing and looking for, if they are to fulfil the task of scrutinising strategic thinking in government.

Chair's comment

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

“Our inquiry asks if today’s practices of government are adequate in the face of the major challenges and opportunities facing the UK today – and how Parliament can strengthen its scrutiny of them. This includes questions about the health and wellbeing of young and old, the prosperity and security of the UK and concerns about new technologies.

Can the UK’s government and its civil service meet those challenges with innovation, creativity and pace? And how can Parliament scrutinise the decisions made on our behalf? We’ve been publishing written evidence from young people, from leaders in diplomacy and the civil service, and from practitioners in governance and public engagement – and we thank them.

Ahead of a General Election and new Parliament, this is a crucial time to consider how we prepare ourselves – and government – for the challenges ahead. Our inquiry is not setting out to find blame with anyone about what’s gone before, but to establish how we can look to improve.  We want to explore what’s been learned from recent experiences and how it can put it into practice to build public confidence in how the Government and select committees set out to meet future challenges.”


 Tuesday, March 5, from 4.45pm

  • Jill Rutter and Alex Thomas, Institute for Government
  • Professor Matthew Flinders, Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Sheffield

Panel 2, from 5.30pm

  • Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO

Panel 3, from 6pm

  • Lord Sedwill, former Cabinet Secretary

The sub-committee intends to hold a second session with a panel of witnesses about examples of good practice from other jurisdictions, followed by the appropriate Minister. Details will be released in due course.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright