Commons select committees - including the health committee - should be given more powers to investigate, monitor and influence government policy, according to an MPs' report.

The select committee on liaison says that although the Commons committee system has been a success since it was set up in 1979, many committees are toothless in the face of an increasingly powerful government executive.

It wants an overhaul of the way committees work to make them more efficient, independent and professional, and give them more power to hold ministers to account and summon witnesses.

The liaison committee, whose members include the chairs of all 24 parliamentary committees, wants committee membership to be removed from party control, more resource back-up for MPs, and salaries for committee chairs.

Committees should develop best practice and systematic monitoring of their own effectiveness.

The liaison committee also wants government departments to work more co-operatively with their respective committees.

The select committee concludes: 'There are some who see the House of Commons as a toothless adjunct of an all-powerful executive.We aim to disprove this.'

Shifting the Balance: select committees and the executive. Stationery Office, 2000.£7.