Institutions ignored: a history of select committee scrutiny in the House of Lords, 1968–2021

John Connolly, Matthew Flinders, David Judge, Michael Torrance, Philipa Tudor

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Within the vast seam of scholarship on parliamentary history the evolution and role of select committees in the house of lords, particularly in relation to investigatory or policy-focused committees, has been almost completely overlooked. They have been ‘institutions ignored’. This gap in the existing research base is particularly stark when compared with the very large literature on the history of select committees in the house of commons. This article fills this gap by providing the first detailed historical account of the evolution of investigatory or policy-focused committees in the house of lords. This account reveals the evolution of a distinctive ‘scrutiny style’ moulded around the notion of complementarity, a highly specialised approach and an understanding of the merits of self-restraint. However, during 2018–21 a fundamental review of the investigatory committee system was undertaken within the house of lords which led to significant change in relation to both the structure and ambition of committees. The impact of this reform agenda is likely to ensure that select committees in the Lords are far more visible in the future, within and beyond the Palace of Westminster, than they were in the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-490
Number of pages28
JournalParliamentary History
Issue number3
Early online date17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


  • House of Lords
  • bicameralism
  • committees
  • accountability
  • democracy


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