Legislative Actors’ Resources


Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
Parliamentary committees conduct inquiries, to which experts are always invited to give evidence. Experts are also sometimes compelled to appear before committee inquiries.
Parliamentary committees have no formal limits in terms of summoning experts. Every party, including the opposition (i.e., the committee’s minority parties), can nominate or invite experts it deems qualified. Expert hearings are held regularly and frequently. However, this opportunity is not always used in the best-possible way. The twin factors of party discipline and cabinet dominance over the parliament’s majority mean that independent expert voices do not ultimately have great influence.

The coronavirus pandemic gave rise to some spectacular incidents concerning experts reporting to the parliament. In 2021, a senior scientific expert was accused of lying about coronavirus-related facts by the FPÖ, which led to the abrupt termination of the hearing.
Under the Rules of Organization and Procedure of the Bulgarian parliament, parliamentary committees are able to invite experts. This opportunity is available to deputies from the opposition as well. Experts are obliged to provide the committees with any information and documents that the latter require for their work. While experts cannot be obliged to attend the committee meetings, these invitations carry considerable prestige and an opportunity to have an input in the legislative process, thus providing incentive to respond promptly. Due to budget constraints, committees have to be selective, and cannot invite a broad range of experts; however, they use this opportunity regularly.
Parliamentary committees have the right to summon any expert they choose to provide testimony, and experts are frequent contributors to the work of committees. However, committees cannot compel experts to appear. Parliamentary committees have allowed experts to appear virtually long before the pandemic.
Croatia is one of the rare countries where experts can be named as outside members of parliamentary committees, and this has become a regular practice. The Committee for International Relations, the Committee for European Integration and the Committee for Internal Affairs and National Security are the only exceptions to this rule.
In Czechia, parliamentary committees and subcommittees may summon experts, and often do so.
Parliamentary committees can summon experts for committee meetings. They do this regularly, and to an increasing extent. Each committee determines which experts to call for each particular matter. In addition to ministerial representatives, researchers from universities and think-tank representatives, NGO activists involved in draft-law preparatory work are often invited. The scope of hearings varies depending on the public interest and priority of the issue under investigation.
Parliamentary committees are able to summon experts for committee meetings, which they do regularly and increasingly frequently. A committee starts its work with a recommendation by the committee’s own experts on which additional experts to call. This may include ministerial representatives or other individuals who have either assisted in preparatory work or represent specific agencies, organizations or other interested parties. The scope of hearings varies greatly. In some cases, only one expert may be called, but in major legislative projects a committee may hear dozens of experts. Data from earlier research shows that committees in 1938 consulted advisers in 59% of all cases on which they prepared reports. The corresponding figure for 1960 was 94% and 100% in 1983. The number of experts consulted has likewise been increasing. All expert opinions provided since 2015 can be downloaded from the parliament’s homepage.

The only problem with the experts’ statements is that they are not made public before a legal proposal is accepted or rejected. Therefore, the public has no opportunity to critique the statements before they have been processed by the parliamentary committee.
Dag Anckar, “Finland: Dualism and Consensual Rule,” in Erik Damgaard, ed.: Parliamentary Change in the Nordic Countries, Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1992, pp. 182-186.
Suutari, Jari. 2018. “Valiokuntien asiantuntijalausuntojen saatavuus,” https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/tietoaeduskunnasta/kirjasto/aineistot/eduskunta/valtiopaivaasiakirjat-tietopaketti/Sivut/asiantuntijalausuntojen-saatavuus.aspx
Parliamentary committees can summon as many experts as they wish as often as they need in all matters, and they often make use of this right. The recent Benalla affair, involving a close ally of the president, has shown that committees enjoy considerable power in that matter. One serious problem is that members of parliament are often absent, even in cases of very important issues such as Brexit.
Parliamentary committees are able to hold public hearings at any time, and can summon experts to attend them. This mechanism is regularly used. Rule 70 Section 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the German Bundestag states that “for the purpose of obtaining information on a subject under debate, a committee may hold public hearings of experts, representatives of interest groups and other persons who can furnish information.” Experts are often able to influence parliamentary discussions or ministerial drafts and bring about changes in the draft laws. The number of public hearings is increasing.
Regular committees summon experts from ministries, universities, NGOs and professional associations. Examples include high-ranking EC officials who have briefed the European Affairs Committee and university professors who have briefed the Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs on university reforms.

Typically, government and the opposition tend to disagree on everything, even if there is consensus among experts that policy choices are very limited (e.g., the consensus on the obvious unsustainability of the pension system and on the destructive impact of party-led politicization on Greek universities). Political parties may tend to summon experts who in turn support the view of the party that has invited them. Recurrent disagreement in parliamentary committees reflects the long-term polarization in the Greek party system, as well as the broader mistrust and relatively low social capital that characterizes Greek society. In the period under review, parliamentary committees summoned many different experts, including technocrats and academics. In fact, over time there has been increasing interaction between parliamentary committees and experts from many different academic fields and professions.
Summoning experts to regular committees is regulated by article 38 of the Standing Orders of the Greek parliament.
Independent experts are frequently asked to appear before standing parliamentary committees. Following the 2008 economic collapse, committees have more frequently summoned experts, particularly lawyers, economists, and finance and banking experts. Furthermore, political scientists and other experts were asked to give advice relating to the drafting of a new constitution. However, no substantive minutes are recorded of expert testimonies before parliamentary meetings. There have been examples documented of experts making outlandish statements in their testimonies.

In November 2018, the constitutional and supervisory committee of parliament summoned several members of parliament to a hearing following a scandal in which six members of parliament were taped in a public bar by an offended bystander using foul and misogynistic language, several of the members of parliament were intoxicated at the time of the incident. With one exception, the summoned members of parliament did not attend the hearing and the hearing was postponed indefinitely.
Gylfason, Thorvaldur (2014), “Tvöfalt líf – Allir segjast vera saklausir …,” samtal við Þráin Bertelsson (Double Life – Everyone proclaims innocense …, a conversation with Thráinn Bertelsson), Tímarit Máls og menningar, 4. hefti, https://tmm.forlagid.is/tvofalt-lif/. Accessed 4 February 2022.
There are no restrictions on summoning expert witnesses to their meetings. As above (see “Strategic Planning”), the government has in general relied heavily on experts over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to inform policymaking and to justify decisions (Colfer, 2021).
Colfer, B. (2020) Herd‐immunity across intangible borders: Public policy responses to COVID‐19 in Ireland and the UK, European Policy Analysis, 06(02) pp 203-225, https://doi.org/10.1002/epa2.1096;
Each party represented on a parliamentary committee has the right to invite experts to appear at committee hearings. This kind of invitation is becoming increasingly common, with experts coming from interest organizations, NGOs, businesses and academia to present information and views on various issues and policy proposals. Moreover, the parliament has a group of independent experts who assist legislators by collecting and analyzing information.
Parliamentary committees may certainly summon experts. They do not usually do so as part of the regular deliberation of the committees, but rather in the form of a public hearing on some specific issue.
Parliamentary committees are free to invite experts to provide testimony at hearings. This right is actually used. For example, in the summer of 2018, the National Council’s Foreign Policy Committee decided that it would publicly hear experts on the outcome of the negotiations on the institutional agreement between Switzerland and the European Union. The committee set the relevant hearings for the afternoon of 15 January 2019, which were then broadcast live over the internet.
Parliamentary committees may summon expert witnesses who will usually provide any evidence willingly. Should they decline to do so, committees then have the power to order a witness to attend, though this would be exceptional. Committees also often employ experts as specialist advisers.

Committees may also summon actors involved in an issue that the committee is investigating. Examples include the examination of press barons in the context of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking by journalists, of the entrepreneur Philip Green regarding the pension deficit of the BHS department store chain, and of Cambridge Analytica executives during the Information Commissioner’s investigation into the propagation of misinformation during the Brexit referendum campaign. Such hearings invariably attract extensive media coverage. In the last two years, the key advisers to the government on the pandemic (both those holding formal offices, such as the chief scientific officer and the chief medical officer, and independent experts) have appeared a number of times as witnesses.
The invitation of outside experts to testify at committee hearings is an established, highly routine practice in the legislative process. Hearing transcripts are published, and testimony from a variety of qualified witnesses is expected in a competent committee process. Although congressional norms call for permitting both parties to select witnesses, some committee chairs in the current era severely limit the minority-party witnesses, resulting in a selection of witnesses strongly biased in favor of the majority-party position.
Experts are regularly invited and questioned in parliamentary committees. The rights of committees do not appear to be restricted. Experts are often called upon, for instance when committees are addressing so-called ethical laws (involving issues such as euthanasia, adoption rights for same-sex couples, religious-related disputes, and so on) or institutional reforms. There are some de facto restrictions as to the range of experts invited, as the decision in principle to query expert advice must be validated by an absolute majority of committee members. This gives a de facto veto power to the majority parties.

The management of the COVID-19 crisis relied heavily on experts’ opinions, and different groups were created to coordinate the inputs. At the onset of the crisis, the government activated the National Security Council (NSC), a structure designed to closely monitor and provide advice in the event of major crises and national emergencies. Most critical in this regard were its Risk Assessment Group (RAG) and Risk Management Group (RMG) components, which collaborated in an emergency “medical cluster.” To assess the potential economic impact of the epidemic, another NSC expert group, the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG), was created. Later on, a fourth expert group was installed, the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES), focusing on concrete strategies for exiting the first lockdown. As the idea that the crisis was not temporary became more prevalent, the GEES was replaced by the GEMS, or the Group of Experts in Management Strategy, which continues to advise the government with regular reports on the evolution of the public health situation and suggests possible measures that could be taken.
https://vsse.be/fr/notre-fonctionnement/cadre-legal-et-administratif/le-conseil- national-de-securite
https://www.vocabulairepolitique.be/conseil-national-de- securite/
Congressional committees may summon any civil servant to interview as a subject-area expert. Private experts can also be invited, but the National Congress lacks the financial funds to pay for the assistance of prominent private experts. However, there is a group of 50 to 60 specialists from a variety of subject areas affiliated with the Library of the National Congress, whose task it is to offer professional support to the members of Congress in their lawmaking, representative, diplomatic and oversight tasks.
Library of the National Congress of Chile (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, BCN): https://www.bcn.cl, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
Normal committee meetings take place behind closed doors. However, committees can decide to hold open meetings – including ones without the minister present – and invite experts from outside, as well as civil servants and representatives from interest organizations to explore and discuss issues. Such meetings are also open to the press.

Committees may also decide to conduct larger hearings, occasionally in cooperation with other organizations. Such hearings normally take place in the room in which the former second chamber of the Danish parliament, the Landsting, met until it was abolished by the new constitution in 1953. To learn more about the issues they legislate, members of parliament also go on study trips and take part in conferences.
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. October 2015.
http://www.ft.dk/Dokumenter/Publikationer/Folketinget/~/media/Pdf_materiale/Pdf_publikationer/Folketinget/H%C3%A5ndbog%20i%20folketingsarbejdet_web_7%20MB.pdf.ashx (accessed 24 April 2013).
Parliamentary committees are entitled to invite experts or any interested civilian to meetings. However, these figures are not obligated to attend, unlike civil servants or representatives of the executive. In addition, independent experts are not compelled to answer committee members’ questions. Their testimony cannot serve as evidence and has no official status. Despite these issues, citizens who appear before Knesset committees are generally interested in voicing their opinions in order to reinforce their viewpoints in the eyes of decision-makers and the public.
Blander, Dana. “Opinion regarding Corrections to Base Law: the Knesset, Base Law: the Government and the Knesset Act concerning the Authorities of Parliamentary Inquiry Committee.” The Israeli Democracy Institute. July 4th, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.idi.org.il/ministerial-committee/16190 (Hebrew).

Freidberg, Chen and Atmor, Nir, “How to improve the Knesset’s position as a legislator and a supervisory body?” The Israel Democracy Institute 2013: http://www.idi.org.il/media/2438022/00321913.pdf (Hebrew).

Shapira, Asaf, “Citizens in the Parliamentary Committees,” The Israel Democracy Institute, (September 2010). (Hebrew).

“The authority of the legislature to inquire information, and the obligation to provide true information,” Knesset Research and Information Center (December 2002). (Hebrew).

Kam, Zeev,“Refused to show up in a Knesset committee after summoning? Punishment will follow” NRG 19.4.2016 http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/770/601.html (Hebrew)
Parliamentary regulations provide for the right of committees to invite any person able to provide important information (art. 143, 144 Regolamento Camera dei deputati). They can also ask the government to command special studies from the National Statistical Office (ISTAT) (art. 145). The rights of committees are not limited, and committees frequently use this opportunity to summon experts. This also reflects the fact that the Italian committee system plays a more prominent role in the legislative process than do committees in other European parliamentary regimes. Special parliamentary commissions may be established to investigate particular topics. These parliamentary commissions can also summon experts to give evidence. Recently, a joint parliamentary commission of inquiry on the banking system was established and senior officials from the Banca d’Italia were summoned.
When considering draft legislation, parliamentary committees can receive and consider comments from experts. Committees can also invite experts to participate in special hearings focusing on draft legislation or engage in a parliamentary oversight function. Committees can establish preparatory working groups whose membership can involve experts or scientists. The extent to which experts are involved in the activities of parliamentary committees varies by specific committee and policy issue. However, the degree to which expert advice is actually integrated into the legislative process remains unclear, as there is no requirement for members of parliament to conduct impact assessments of their legislative proposals. In addition, external expert assessments of particular draft laws are sometimes commissioned as a political instrument intended to delay adoption of those legal norms. Funds allocated for external impact assessment studies are usually inadequate in any case, because members of parliament are concerned that they might be criticized for wasting taxpayer money.
Consultations with experts and representatives of interest groups take place regularly in the course of various ongoing commission work. Domestic and foreign experts, as well as lobbyists and concerned civil society groups, may be invited to participate in commission meetings. Under particular circumstances of public interest, experts are invited to parliament to introduce subjects and to offer professional opinions.

In the case of important policy reform projects, the government usually asks for advice from reputable foreign institutes, being aware of the limited base of knowledge available within the country. For example, German and Swiss institutes were consulted over psychiatry reforms in healthcare. A similar consultation approach was used for reforming environmental legislation. Such policy projects are implemented by a specific parliamentary commission, with a budgetary allowance made available to support outsourced inquiries. Innovation is often driven by foreign expertise and reports, which overcomes domestic resistance.

A transparency register for deputies that the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) had asked for on several occasions will require politicians to disclose meetings with representatives and organizations. Every month, each deputy and parliamentary group will have to publicly identify which lobbyists they met with during that time period. The register is expected to help citizens identify the origin of deputies’ policy proposals.
“MPs to be obligated to register meetings with lobbyists in transparency register.” RTL Today (23 June 2021). https://today.rtl.lu/news/luxembourg/a/1743451.html. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Mémorial A n° 227 de 2014.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 11 Dec. 2014, legilux.public.lu/eli/etat/leg/memorial/2014/227. Accessed 14 January 2022.
Parliamentary committees may summon experts to make presentations or help committees evaluate policies under discussion or shed light on issues under investigation. While the Parliamentary Accounts Committee has long used this process, it has recently become more widespread, with experts being called more frequently before the Social Affairs Committee, the Economic Policy Committee and to a lesser extent the Environmental Committee. However, problems may arise due to the government’s reluctance to reveal commercial information, as in case of the hospital management contract.
Let MPs summon Vitals deal stakeholders. PN tells government, Times of Malta 06/01/1
Standing Orders of the House of Representatives Subsidiary Legislation Constit.02 Article 164
Financial scrutiny of Vitals to remain secret: Request to publish due diligence exercise denied by Data Protection Commissioner, Times of Malta 03/10/18
Congressional committees frequently summon experts, including international ones, and often take their input seriously. Indeed, there is evidence that experts play a considerable role in the legislative process. This aspect of governance mostly works well, because it provides a source of independent scrutiny.
New Zealand
Select committees may summon experts. The only restriction is with regard to public servants who need the approval of their minister to attend committee meetings. There has been some criticism of alleged politicization in the choice of experts called to testify during the Epidemic Response Committee’s period of operation in 2020 (Curtin, 2021), but for the most part committee work is considered to be open and reliable.
Curtin, (2021) https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/end-new-zealands-zero-covid-policy
Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines (Wellington: States Services Commission 2007).
Parliamentary committees are both legally and practically free to request the attendance of experts at committee meetings. This right is exercised by committees when they see fit. An example of this was the June 2021 hearing on urban areas of illegal genesis, which featured testimony by academic experts. The frequency of such testimony varies from committee to committee, but there are no legal or practical constraints on such hearings.
Audição Parlamentar Nº 97-CAEOT-XIV, available online at: https://www.parlamento.pt/ActividadeParlamentar/Paginas/DetalheAudicao.aspx?BID=127127
According to Article 55(2) of the Chamber of Deputies Regulations, “committees may invite interested persons, representatives of non-governmental organizations and experts from public authorities or from other specialized institutions to attend their meetings. The representatives of non-governmental organizations and the experts may present their opinions on the matters that are under discussion in the Committee or may hand over documents regarding the matters under discussion to the Committee President.” The frequency with which experts are invited has differed among committees.
Parliamentary committees in Slovenia may invite experts or form expert groups in charge of helping to draft legislative proposals. Under the Šarec government, the number of experts invited has decreased as a result primarily of a much smaller volume of legislative proposals being prepared and adopted in 2018–19. However, under the Janša government, when the number of legislative proposals substantially increased, the number of invited experts returned to previous levels. Parliamentary committees have launched several public expert discussions on important pieces of legislation and invited experts to the sessions of investigation committees. On the initiative of the National Council, a large expert group has been involved in preparing legislation for the introduction of regions.
Parliamentary committees may and do regularly summon experts. For example, during the coronavirus crisis, the Committee for Public Health, Welfare and Sports regularly summoned members of the Outbreak Management Teams for so-called technical briefings. In the past, parliament has summoned experts for special topics like climate change.
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: 163-174.

Tweede Kamer, Debat gemist, Update coronavirus
18 augustus 2021 Vaste commissie voor Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport Technische briefing
The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
According to the standing orders of the Hungarian parliament, all parliamentary party groups can invite experts, and the sessions of the committees are open to the public. In practice, however, Fidesz’s overwhelming majority and the hectic pace of legislation have reduced the involvement of experts to a mere formality. While the rights are there and there are few legal obstacles to the summoning of experts, the consultation of experts does not play a major role in the policymaking process.
In Slovakia, parliamentary committees may invite experts. However, this is not a very common practice.
South Korea
Parliamentary committees are legally able to, and frequently do, summon experts to parliamentary hearings. The National Assembly Act provides that besides expert advisers who are assigned to individual committees, a committee may provide commissions with up to three experts in the relevant matter as assistants in connection with the examination of important matters or matters requiring expert knowledge. In other instances, the National Assembly summons interested parties to be questioned about their own activities. For example, during a 2021 audit, the National Assembly summoned the heads of Kakao, Coupang and Naver to question them about excessive market dominance and abuse of power over small businesses. Refusals to attend or false testimony are subject to punishment based on the 2017 Act on Testimony, Appraisal Before the National Assembly.
Act on Testimony, appraisal, etc. before the National Assembly, Act No. 14757, Mar. 21, 2017 https://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_service/lawView.do?hseq=42837&lang=ENG
Park, Jae-hyuk. “Naver Founder to Be Summoned to National Assembly Audit.” The Korea Times, September 29, 2021. https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/biz/2021/12/602_316201.html.
국회법 (National Assembly Act), Act No. 18367, July 27, 2021, https://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_service/lawView.do?hseq=25732&lang=ENG
The standing orders of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate state that parliamentary committees may request, through their respective speakers, “the attendance of persons competent in the subject-matter for the purposes of reporting to and advising the committee.” The rights of parliamentary committees to send invitations to independent experts are not limited by any legal constraint.
Requests to summon experts have increased in number in recent years, particularly at the beginning of the legislative process or in specialized subcommittees. Nevertheless, the limited nature of the parliament’s staffing and financial resources have to date prevented any systematic involvement in the lawmaking process by university scholars, think tank analysts or other experts. There has been formal and informal collaboration with other public administrations and the Bank of Spain, although this information cannot be considered autonomous and include political judgment of the executive.
In October 2020, the Joint Congress-Senate Commission was created to assess the causes and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several experts were invited to appear before the committee.
Kölling, M. and I. Molina. (2022), The Administration of the Spanish Cortes Generales: Organizing Legitimacy, Executive Dominance and Party Discipline, Routledge Handbook of Parliamentary Administrations. (Forthcoming)
Under the law, parliamentary committees have the power to summon experts. In practice, committees invite interested parties and stakeholders to present their views, but inviting independent experts or seeking their views is exceptionally rare.

Under the law, a person that attends a parliamentary committee meeting has the obligation to provide genuine data and tell the truth.
1. Law on the Deposition of Data and Information to the House of Representatives and to Parliamentary Committees, L.21(I)/1985, http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1985_1_21/full.html (in Greek)
Under Article 62 of the constitution, the Diet and its committees can summon witnesses, including experts. Summoned witnesses have the duty to appear before parliament. The opposition can also ask for witnesses to be called, and under normal circumstances such requests are granted by the government. However, the use of expert testimony in parliamentary committees is not widespread; experts, academic and otherwise, are relied upon more frequently within the context of government advisory committees, in particular at ministerial level.
Parliamentary committees are able to invite experts to committee meetings but have no power to make attendance mandatory. The parliament largely relies on the pro bono participation of experts to compensate for its own lack of substantive capacities and resources. However, committee chairs do have some discretion to pay modest honorariums to external experts.
Parliamentary committees have the right to invite experts to give statements on hearings on particular issues or to take part in ordinary committee proceedings. However, suppose bills are introduced by individual members of parliament (as has often been the case under the PiS government). In that case, the summoning of experts must be supported by a majority of members of parliament. The PiS majority in the Sejm has used this procedural rule to limit the invitation of experts close to the parliamentary opposition. Given the maneuvering of the PiS in the Sejm, some experts have refrained from participating in what they consider political manipulation.
According to the parliamentary rules of procedure, committees are legally able to summon experts from non-governmental organizations, universities, or the bureaucracy to provide testimony without limitation (Rules of Procedure, Article 29 and 30). There is no available data relating to parliamentary committees’ summoning of experts since the 2018 legislative elections.
Ö.F. Gençkaya. 2020. “The Grand National Assembly of Turkey: A Decline in Legislative Capacity,” I. Khmelko et al (eds) Legislative Decline in the 21st Century (pp. 82-93). Routledge: New York.
The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
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