The joint Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has created a possible precedent for other committees by deciding to invite specialist advisers – including counsel appointed as specialist advisers – to examine witnesses.
The committee was set up to consider and report on professional standards and the culture of the UK banking sector, taking account of the investigations into the LIBOR-rate setting process, and to report on lessons to be learned about corporate governance, transparency and conflict of interest and their implications for regulation and for government policy.
Until now, and in contrast to what happens in judge-led inquiries in this country, committee members have asked their own questions of witnesses. This led to criticism that such methods are too scatter-gun and unfocused.
The commissions will be conducting specialist inquiries involving a technical subject. It remains to be seen whether the use of counsel will find favour with select committees which do their work on behalf of the public but who may need to be more professional about it.