Our team is experienced and held in high regard for our representation of senior professionals, public figures and major corporations before Parliamentary Select Committees. We are widely praised for our capabilities in ‘sensitive, high-profile, politically inflected work’.
The main role of Parliamentary Select Committees is to hold government to account on behalf of Parliament, and to scrutinise government activity, through the launch of inquiries. Increasingly in recent years, Select Committees have extended their remit to inquire into the activities of companies and organisations where these have a significant impact on the public. Recent examples are the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s examination of the horsemeat scandal and the Culture Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into the future of FIFA.
HOW WE WORK WITH YOU
Major inquiries are high profile and take place in the full glare of the media. Giving evidence before a committee can therefore be an intimidating experience, whether you are a senior professional, public official, major corporation or representing a public sector body.
We know that you will also have wider interests at stake, be they reputational, professional, commercial or financial, and we carefully help steer you through the preparation for questioning by MPs, mindful of your broader concerns.
An inquiry is formally launched by a notice outlining the main inquiry themes or terms of reference. The Committee decides whom it wishes to call to answer questions orally, and it may also call for written evidence to be submitted. Questioning takes place during oral evidence sessions, usually in public, with live media coverage.
It is important for witnesses and interested parties to bear in mind that because chairs and members are now elected, Select Committees are growing in standing, acting with greater conviction and renewed authority. Their increase in profile and self-confidence is recognised to stem from the fact that Committees see their activities as helping to restore the damaged reputation of the Commons.
Select Committee processes are not like those of courts or tribunals. In particular, there is no obligation to disclose lines of questioning in advance, or to make disclosure of documents that will be put to witnesses. MP’s have no training in interrogation, and can use oral sessions as an opportunity to pursue their own personal political agendas. Oral evidence sessions can therefore be unpredictable and challenging. Committee clerks are usually very helpful, but they will be the first to point out the limits of the assistance that they can provide.
For these reasons, it is essential that legal advisers to witnesses have Parliamentary experience, if they are to provide the best advice possible. Our team has that experience. Our understanding of the parliamentary environment and inquiry process means that you can be confident that your interests are taken care of from the moment you instruct us, from communicating with the Clerk to the Committee or the Chair, helping you to gather documentary evidence and prepare for questioning, to attending oral evidence sessions with you, and where necessary taking care of media inquiries. We also understand that it is essential that we have complete insight into your situation from the outset, and we will work very closely with you from the moment the inquiry is launched, through its duration, and afterwards.
The team is led by Stephen Parkinson, who has a wealth of experience acting for public figures before Select Committees, both in Government (where he was Deputy Head of the Attorney General’s Office), and since joining Kingsley Napley. In recent years he has advised witnesses in Select Committee Inquiries into phone hacking, banking standards, food contamination and FIFA. He is supported by partners Adam Chapmen, Sophie Kemp and Emily Carter, all of whom have significant experience of acting for witnesses facing major investigations