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The Osmotherly Rules

Published Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Osmotherly Rules (the Rules) give guidance on the role of civil servants and other Government officials appearing before select committees. The purpose of the Rules is to assist staff in Government departments dealing with requests for information from select committees, including: the provision of evidence, handling select committee reports and drafting responses to such reports.

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The Osmotherly Rules (the Rules) give guidance on the role of civil servants and other Government officials appearing before select committees. The purpose of the Rules is to assist staff in Government departments dealing with requests for information from select committees, including: the provision of evidence, handling select committee reports and drafting responses to such reports.

Various versions of the Rules have been in operation since 1980, but they have never been formally accepted by Parliament. The Rules were most recently updated in October 2014 in a document officially titled Giving Evidence to Select Committees - Guidance for Civil Servants. It is publicly available from the gov.uk website. This iteration of the Rules restates the primacy of the principle of ministerial accountability but also confirms that civil servants who are defined as “Senior Responsible Owners” of the Government’s major projects will now be directly accountable to Parliament for the implementation of their project.

Although the Rules are said to outline a number of longstanding conventions that have developed in the relationship between Parliament and successive Governments; they are also contentious, as they set out a number of restrictions on civil servants’ engagement with select committees.

Commons Briefing papers SN02671

Author: Alexander Horne

Topics: Civil Service, Constitution, Parliament

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