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Insight

In the eye of the storm – the PRG Annual Seminar 2013

Sarah Ellson
07/05/2013
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE spoke at the PRG Annual Seminar on 7 May about the work of the Public Accounts Committee. She advised on what makes a good witness before a Parliamentary Committee, and The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE spoke at the PRG Annual Seminar on 7 May about the work of the Public Accounts Committee. She advised on what makes a good witness before a Parliamentary Committee, and the best tactics to employ if ever called before one, cautioning witnesses to:

  • Be straight and honest – the purpose of a Committee is to understand what has happened. Witnesses who co-operate with an inquiry will tend to be given an easier time than those who are economical with the truth.

  • Answer questions directly – similarly, the Committee appreciates a straight answer to a straight question. Discursive, obstructive and over-elaborate answers tend to be given short shrift and only result in further questions.

  • Be prepared to follow up any recommendations from or concerns raised by the Committee – No longer can a Committee report be expected just to gather dust on a shelf; rather, Committees actively seek updates on the implementation of their recommendations. Inadequate progress can lead to a witness being recalled before a Committee.


Richard Kenyon, the Head of Field Fisher Waterhouse's Employment and Pensions Group, also spoke on the employment and HR issues which might ensue in a crisis, and advised organisations to devise a plan, including:

  • Identifying who will speak for the organisation, and ensuring they have the necessary skills and training for the job.

  • Identifying who will support them.


He also discussed the need to manage the HR issues where employment action is taken, and to consider:

  • the statutory and contractual rights of the individuals under fire.

  • whether settlement is appropriate bearing in mind that this may need to be justified or approved if being paid out of the public purse.

  • whether any confidentiality agreement is required, bearing in mind the need to consider the public interest in facilitating whistleblowing.


One of the key lessons arising from the Sharon Shoesmith case was the importance of giving the individual an opportunity to respond to the allegations before a decision is made.

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