Lobby briefing: Ed Balls, economic secretary to the Treasury

Gordon Brown's right-hand man on parliamentary hearings.

• What is a parliamentary hearing? 

It is a new type of hearing that brings together ministers, backbench MPs, voluntary sector experts, professionals and, most importantly, people and their families with real experiences of overcoming certain challenges.

• Why are they so innovative?

Usually the Government announces a review, publishes its emerging conclusions and then the consultation starts. Parliamentary hearings help people to influence reviews at a much earlier stage.

• Give an example of how they work

Many hundreds of parents, professionals and third sector experts attended three parliamentary hearings, organised by the Every Disabled Child Matters consortium of charities, about life chances for disabled children. Each was attended by up to eight ministers, including myself, and several backbench MPs.

They submitted written evidence and contributed to a report published by Labour MPs last October - three months before the Government published its interim evidence.

• What has happened since?

The Government is now working through the review to find the best ways of tackling the barriers parents face. We expect it to be a positive step forward in improving the outcomes for disabled children.

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