Preparing written or digital evidence
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The ‘call for written evidence’
When committees start investigating an issue, they will usually send out a general request for information to help them with their work. This is often referred to by committees as a ‘call for evidence’. This may be about the main themes of the inquiry, but they may also ask specific questions.
This call for evidence will normally be posted on a committee’s web page and a press release will be sent out to newspapers and other media. Anyone can respond to a call for evidence. Usually, a committee will also directly contact organisations that it thinks will be interested in the inquiry, or that it would specifically like to hear from.
The call for evidence will invite interested parties to submit evidence to the committee by a specified deadline. Evidence can be given to committees in writing or via a video or audio clip. It is normal practice for the National Assembly to publish evidence provided to a committee on its website, so that this evidence becomes part of the public record.
Committees welcome contributions in English or Welsh, and ask organisations with Welsh Language policies or schemes to provide bilingual submissions, in line with their public information policies.
Committees will often use this evidence to decide if they would like to invite an organisation or an individual to come to a meeting and discuss the issue further. However, the time-frame of an inquiry will sometimes mean that meetings are scheduled before evidence is received (particularly when committees are examining laws).
Evidence can be given as a response to a committee’s call for evidence, or it can be requested by a committee for a specific meeting.
What information should you include?
A committee’s ‘call for evidence’ will tell you about the issues they are looking at in their inquiry, the ‘terms of reference’ (what areas the inquiry will be covering), and any specific questions the committee wants answers to. Your evidence should focus on these issues, as a committee is unlikely to look at any information that covers issues outside the specific area it is looking at.
If a committee has asked specific questions, you do not need to respond to all of them, but structuring your answers around these questions will help the committee to do its work more effectively.
There are certain things that your evidence should not mention, including matters currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you think this might happen, please discuss with the clerk of the committee how this could affect the written evidence you wish to submit.
How should you put your written evidence together?
There is usually no prescribed style, or set requirements, for setting out written evidence. However, the evidence received by committees is usually published on the internet, and the Assembly seeks to ensure all its webpages are accessible to:
- enable people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with information on the web; and
- respond to the needs of people using slow internet connections, or using mobile devices
You can help the Assembly to meet web content accessibility guide lines (and enable more people to access your evidence) by following the guidance below.
- keep the document brief – as a guideline, 3,000 words maximum;
- avoid acronyms and abbreviations. Where they are used please ensure they are spelled out in full the first time they are used;
- submit a single document (preferably as a Word document) as your paper, with any tables, spreadsheets and annexes incorporated into the paper;
- use headings for structure (we recommend using the standard word formatting of Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.);
- if you are including links in your paper, these should be written as descriptions of where a reader will go, should they follow that link (i.e. not ‘click here’);
- include tables only when they are necessary for the purpose of presenting structured content. If you are using tables, please ensure they are a table in the paper itself (i.e. please don’t include an image of a table). Please ensure a table is made up of labelled rows and columns. Any notes to the table should be as separate text (i.e. not be presented by the creation of additional rows unrelated to the column headings). If Excel SpreadSheets are provided, please ensure they are ‘print ready,’ so that the information contained within can easily be produced to a printable output on A4 paper, without any need to adjust the data contained within;
- include ‘alt-text’ for any images used in your document. Alt-text is a piece of ‘hidden’ text that describes an image used on a webpage or other electronic media, if for any reason a viewer cannot see the image itself. To add Alt Text you will typically (depending on your software) need to right click on the picture, select ‘Format Picture,’ and then the ‘ ’ icon (Layout and Properties). You will then be able to select ‘Alt Text.’ If in doubt about what alt-text to write, we recommend trying to imagine describing the image to someone over the phone.
- align text to the left hand margin;
- use font in at least size 12 (black colour);
- keep use of bold, underlining and italics to a minimum;
- use numbered paragraphs;
- use paper size A4 in portrait format;
- maintain a 1.5cm page margin (footnotes are fine, but headers/footers can be problematic);
- if you wish to include page numbers, site them on the left or right hand side of the page (to avoid clashing with the Assembly’s own numbering of large packs of papers);
- email a copy of your written evidence to the clerking team by the agreed deadline;
- submit papers in a way that complies with any public information policies your organisation has (e.g. a bilingual information policy).
Please do not:
- refer to the committee as the Welsh Government, the Welsh Assembly Government or WAG. National Assembly for Wales committees are not part of the Welsh Government, and Assembly committees include Assembly Members from all political parties;
- use tracked changes, revision marks or comments;
- send your written evidence directly to the committee members;
- submit a security marked PDF document;
- include your address or telephone number in the body of your paper.
If you wish to submit video or audio evidence, please contact the clerking team for advice on the best way to do this.
Please do not sumit any digital files (audio or video) embedded within another document. We need to be able to publish each file separately.
How to submit your evidence
Committees prefer to receive evidence by email (for both practical and sustainability purposes). Attach your paper or audio/video file and letter to an email and send it to the committee’s mailbox. The email address will be in the committee’s call for evidence, and is also shown on the committee’s web pages.
Along with your submission, we recommend that your email includes the following information:
- your name and contact details as the person, or organisation, submitting the evidence;
- whether your evidence is submitted as an individual, or on behalf of an organisation;
- whether you would like the committee to treat any or all of your written evidence as confidential, with reasons for the request.
Alternatively, your papers can be sent in hard copy. Send them to the clerking team, at the address given in the call for evidence.
If you are concerned that you will not be able to meet the deadline, speak to the clerking team, who may be able to assist you (depending on the committee’s own deadlines in a particular inquiry).
How will my evidence be used?
Written and digital evidence received by a committee may be used in a number of ways:
- by committee members to inform their inquiry;
- to identify where additional exploration of information would be useful (like arranging an oral evidence session);
- to highlight particular issues in their report;
- to support recommendations the committee wants to make;
- to scrutinise the Welsh Government (and associated public bodies) by providing issues the committee wants to investigate.
‘Scrutinising’ means asking the Government questions, and holding it to account for its decisions.
Publication of evidence
Once evidence has been received, the committee will normally make these documents available on its web pages, although committees can also decide not to publish documents that might contain sensitive material.
The National Assembly will not seek to publish information which it considers to be personal data (with the exception of personal opinion and personal data relating to your identity as author of the evidence and the capacity, if any, in which you provide the evidence - for example, your name and job title). However, in the event of a request for information submitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, it may be necessary to disclose other personal information that you provide.
If you are providing any information (other than personal data) that you feel is not suitable for public disclosure, or if you do not wish your identity as author of the evidence to be disclosed, you must state this clearly. It is up to you to say which parts should not be published and to provide a reasoned argument for that.
The National Assembly will take this into account when publishing information or responding to requests for information. It is possible that restricting your evidence may impact on the way the committee is able to use it.