Parliament's efforts to boost the standing of Select Committees are working. Unfortunately, it seems that many outside of the Committee corridor have yet to catch up with this. There still appear to be organisations external to Parliament who don't take Select Committees as seriously as they should.

In the past, the power and influence of a Select Committee was often solely down to the standing of its chair, and as they were appointed this standing varied. Making the position elected has changed the dynamic and a MP can really carve a role, voice and career for themselves by being an effective chair.

This has also meant that membership of the Committees has become more attractive and is pursued by MPs with Ministerial ambitions or an alternative career path to the Cabinet in the Commons. An effective MP can play a critical role from the backbenches by being an active Committee member. The prime example of this is Tom Watson MP who, on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, really did pursue the Murdochs (as did Louise Mensch before her resignation).

So with the position of the Chair boosted and membership more attractive, on the face of it Committees have sharper teeth to better meet the challenge of scrutinising.

In the main, Committees reflect the responsibilities of the Departments they hold to account when choosing their inquiries. They appear though to be getting bolder in choosing what to have inquiries on and also who they call to give evidence. These breeds further confidence.

But it is still the case that when it comes to giving evidence, many organisations and individuals are ill-prepared or seem not to not take it as seriously as they should.

There is no doubt that George Entwistle's problems were brought into even sharper focus because he wasn't fully prepared for the questioning that came his way at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. It undoubtedly contributed to him stepping down his job as the BBC's Director-General. Nick Buckles of G4S made such as mess of his first appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee that he came back for more but this time without the pinstripe suit and with a smarter haircut.

Starbucks don't appear to have used the opportunity of an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee to put the record straight on their UK tax affairs. Even the most basic trawl of previous company statements on UK profits will be enough to put question marks besides their responses in the eyes of the Committee members.

Amazon has come under pressure for sending someone to give evidence to the same Committee who couldn't answer some basic questions. This led its Chair, Margaret Hodge, to ask the firm to send 'someone more important' along.

The media too seem enthralled by these Select Committee hearings and they are securing large amounts of coverage.

All this isn't to say that Select Committees have got it all right. Whilst they are putting external audiences under pressure, they are not always as aggressive with Ministers. The quality of the Committees varies as well - whilst some excel, others are less impressive.

We also should not get too carried with the current interest in the Committees. At a time of less interesting inquiries their star may fade. They need to maintain the momentum.

As things stand, they seem to be taking their line from the more powerful and influential Congressional Committees in the US. Whilst there is a long way to go, they should have an aim in mind.

But this will mean a serious look by Parliament at the powers allocated to Committees, the resources at their disposal and the size of their teams. Until these are beefed up, there is only so much the Select Committee can achieve.

Source: CIPR