Parliamentary committees blocked

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Parliamentary select committees are being kept in the dark by Government departments, MPs were told yesterday. Condemning as "unacceptable" the refusal of Whitehall to give access to key civil service witnesses, a report from the Commons Liaison Committee added: "It is in the area of provision of documents that most dificulties have arisen.

"There is a basic problem facing committees in so far as they are not always aware of the information and documents available in departments which are germane to their inquiries. Some committees have complained of the difficulties in discerning the existence of documents.

"It should be the duty of departments to ensure that select committees are furnished with any important information which appears to be relevant to their inquiries without waiting to be asked for it specifically."

Liaison Committee, First Report; session 1996-97. The Work of Select Committees. Vol 1, HC 323-i. Stationery Office, pounds 14.70.

Anthony Bevins