Managing witnesses

48. There are varying practices between committees on the approach taken to questioning witnesses. Some committees adopt a practice of inviting witnesses to open with a statement to the committee. This can have advantages in that it sets witnesses at their ease, particularly those who are not familiar with the process. However, this practice has to be carefully managed by the convener and a balance has to be struck between putting witnesses at ease and the needs of the committee. Time does not always permit opening statements and, even when it does, members seldom find it helpful for witnesses simply to read their written evidence. Where an opening statement is to be made, it is good practice to get the clerks to advise the witness of the time allowed and to ask them to focus on one or 2 key points rather than rehearsing their written submission. It is for the convener then to manage the witness and, if appropriate, keep him or her to the agreed time. Conveners may have to take a strong line with witnesses, including Ministers and Executive Officials, to prevent a committee overrunning.

49. Whether to allow opening statements may be a matter which a committee could agree if considering its Working Practices. (see paragraphs 83-85 below).