Companion to Standing Orders - Companion to Standing Orders Contents


Select Committees

11.01  The House may appoint committees to perform functions on its behalf. All committees whose members are appointed ("named of the Committee") by the House from among its members are select committees.[477]

11.02  A select committee is appointed by "orders of appointment" setting out the committee's remit ("orders of reference"), powers and membership, and naming a time and place for its first meeting. Typically, a committee fulfils its remit by making one or more reports to the House.

11.03  A committee may be appointed to perform a particular task, on completion of which the committee ceases to exist (an "ad hoc select committee"). Alternatively a new committee may be appointed for a specified period, such as the duration or remainder of a Parliament, or to a particular date. A committee may be given continuing existence by being reappointed session by session (a "sessional select committee"); but the continued existence of such committees may be reviewed, particularly at the start of a Parliament.[478] This chapter concludes with a list of the committees currently reappointed session by session, with notes on each.

Motions of appointment

11.04  A committee being set up for the first time is usually appointed by means of two motions. The first, moved by the Leader of the House, sets the orders of reference. This gives the House an opportunity to discuss the desirability of setting up the new committee, and authorises the Committee of Selection to select members. A second motion is then moved, by the Chairman of Committees, to complete the orders of appointment. Both motions require notice, and may be debated and amended.

11.05  Certain committees are reappointed every session and are known as "sessional committees":

·  Administration and Works Committee

·  Consolidation Bills Committee (Joint)

·  Constitution Committee

·  Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

·  Economic Affairs Committee

·  European Union Committee

·  House Committee

·  Human Rights Committee (Joint)

·  Hybrid Instruments Committee

·  Information Committee

·  Liaison Committee

·  Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee

·  National Security Strategy Committee (Joint)

·  Committee for Privileges and Conduct

·  Procedure Committee

·  Refreshment Committee

·  Science and Technology Committee

·  Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

·  Statutory Instruments Committee (Joint)

·  Works of Art Committee

11.06  For a sessional select committee, the orders of appointment are made on a single motion. The Chairman of Committees may, at the beginning of a new session, move en bloc the motions appointing select committees, deputy chairmen and other bodies nominated by the Committee of Selection without the need for a business of the House motion. Notice is given by means of an italic note in House of Lords Business informing the House that, unless any Lord objects, the motions of appointment will be moved en bloc.[479]


11.07  The House may amend, amplify or restrict a committee's orders of reference at any time by passing an instruction, e.g. to consider (or not to consider) a certain aspect of the matter, to give certain parties an opportunity to give evidence, or to report by a given date. An instruction may be mandatory or permissive.


11.08  The Committee of Selection[480] selects and proposes to the House the membership of select committees, with the exception of the Committee of Selection itself and committees on private legislation.[481]

11.09  There is no formal rule on the political balance of committee membership, and in most cases no fixed number of members.

11.10  The Chairman of Committees may propose to the House, without reference to the Committee of Selection, members of the House to fill casual vacancies on select committees.[482]

Rotation rule

11.11  In order to secure a regular turnover of membership, a "rotation rule"[483] operates in the case of most committees, whereby members who have been appointed (or co-opted) for a given number of successive sessions (or parts of sessions) may not be reappointed in the following session. The House Committee is subject to a five-session rotation rule. All other committees of the House are subject to a four-session rotation rule; the four sessions may be extended to allow a member appointed as Chairman a three-session term as Chairman. The following committees, which meet only rarely, are exempt from any rotation rule—

·  Joint Committee on Consolidation etc. Bills[484]

·  Joint Committee on Tax Law Rewrite Bills

·  Committee for Privileges and Conduct

·  Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

·  Hybrid Instruments Committee.

11.12  The Lord Speaker, Leaders, Chief Whips, Deputy Chief Whips, Convenor of the Crossbench peers, Chairman of Committees and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees are exempt from the rotation rule.

11.13   Members who leave a committee under the rotation rule are eligible for reappointment after the lapse of one full session.[485] Select committees apply the rotation rule to their sub-committees.


11.14  The chairman of a committee may be appointed by the House on the proposal of the Committee of Selection. Otherwise the Chairman of Committees or, in his absence, a Deputy Chairman takes the chair.[486] In the absence of an appointed chairman, the committee may appoint a substitute. Alternatively, a committee may be given power to appoint its own chairman; this is usually done only in the case of a joint committee.


11.15  A select committee may be appointed to report on a matter referred to it. When such a committee has reported, it ceases to exist. Alternatively, a committee may be given power to report "from time to time", i.e. more than once.

11.16  A committee cannot appoint sub-committees or delegate its powers to sub-committees without an order of the House. This rule does not apply to the Procedure Committee and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct, which may appoint sub-committees without any specific authority from the House. Other than in exceptional circumstances, the maximum number of members on a sub-committee is 12.[487]

11.17  A committee may be given power to co-opt other members of the House as members of the committee or of a sub-committee.

11.18  Committees are given the power to "send for persons, papers and records". Ordinarily witnesses attend and documents are produced voluntarily. However, the existence of this power means that, should it be necessary to issue a formal summons for the attendance of witnesses or the production of papers, the chairman may put a motion before the committee, that such a summons be issued. The issuing of a summons is to be used as a last resort, and only where a witness has refused repeated invitations, and his or her evidence is vital to an inquiry in progress. Refusal to attend in response to a formal summons would be reported to the House as a prima facie contempt.[488]

11.19  Members or staff of the House of Commons, and persons outside United Kingdom jurisdiction (such as foreign ambassadors), may give evidence by invitation, but cannot be compelled to do so. If a committee desires to examine an officer of the House of Commons, a message is sent requesting the official's attendance, and the leave of the House of Commons must be obtained. No such messages are sent in respect of joint committees or committees on private bills, nor in respect of Members of the House of Commons.[489]

11.20  Committees on private business have authority to hear parties by counsel or on oath but other committees do not have this authority unless authorised to do so by the House.[490]

11.21  An order "that the minutes of evidence taken from time to time shall, if the committee think fit, be published" gives the committee power to print evidence, or make it available online,[491] in advance of its report.

11.22  A committee may be given other powers including:

·  power to appoint specialist advisers;

·  power to "adjourn from place to place", i.e. to travel.

11.23  Select committees have the power to confer and meet concurrently with any committee or sub-committee of the Commons appointed to consider a similar matter. Such meetings can be held to deliberate or to take evidence. Select committees may also give this power to sub-committees.[492]

11.24  The powers of committees of the House to inquire into matters relating to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not been limited formally by the devolution statutes.

Proceedings in committee

11.25  The quorum of a committee is three, unless the House orders otherwise. The quorum of sub-committees of the European Union Committee and the Lords joining with the Commons as the Joint Committees on Human Rights, Statutory Instruments and Tax Law Rewrite Bills is two.

11.26  The chairman of a committee has a vote, but not a casting vote.

11.27  Proceedings are conducted in English. However, the use of the Welsh language is permitted for the purpose of Committee proceedings held in Wales.[493]

Participation by non-members

11.28  Members of the House who are not members of a select committee may attend and speak when evidence is being taken; but they may not attend any meeting while the committee deliberates, unless invited by the committee to do so, they do not count towards the quorum, and they may not vote.[494] Members of the House who are not members of a committee or sub-committee do not receive papers on a regular basis.[495]

11.29  For the composition of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct when hearing claims of peerage, see below, paragraph 11.68.

Recess, prorogation and dissolution

11.30  A committee can sit at any time during a recess, but no committee may sit during prorogation or dissolution.

11.31  Sessional committees, and their sub-committees, continue in the same form, notwithstanding prorogation, until they are reappointed in the next session.[496] Other committees cease to exist at prorogation. All committees cease to exist on the dissolution of Parliament.

11.32  If an "ad hoc" committee has not completed its inquiry in the session in which it is appointed, it may be appointed again in the following session. In this case an order may be made to refer the evidence taken before the original committee to its successor. In the case of a sessional committee this is unnecessary.


11.33  A report from a committee embodies the text agreed by the majority of the committee on the basis of a draft presented by the Chairman. Members of a committee may not make a minority report. However, members who wish to express dissent may move amendments to the chairman's draft report or propose an alternative draft report. Amendments moved or alternative drafts proposed are recorded in the minutes of proceedings of the committee, together with a record of any vote. The minutes of proceedings are published with the report whenever a difference of opinion has been recorded in a division.[497] Minutes of proceedings are also required to record the making of any amendments to a bill by a select committee on a bill, whether there is a division or not. The minutes of proceedings serve as the authority for the making of the amendments and the reprinting of the bill as reported.

11.34  When a committee has agreed its report, an order is made for the report to be printed, usually with the evidence taken by the committee.[498]

11.35  A motion to debate the report of a committee requires notice. Reports of some committees are debated on a neutral motion to "take note" of the report. Other reports are debated on a motion to "agree to" the report, to which amendments may be moved. A committee report may also be debated as the subject of a question for short debate.

11.36  The House has agreed that it is desirable that there should be regular debates on select committee reports in prime time.[499] The House has also agreed that select committee reports may be debated in Grand Committee with the concurrence of those concerned. The report is referred on a business of the House motion. Whether select committee reports are debated on the floor of the House or in Grand Committee, the debate may be time limited.[500]

11.37  The government has undertaken to respond in writing to the reports of select committees, if possible, within two months of publication.[501] Debate takes place after the government has responded, unless the committee wishes otherwise.[502]

11.38  There is no set time limit for government responses to reports from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, as these need to be made in good time for amendments to be tabled to the bill in question. These responses are made available to frontbench spokesmen on the bill in question, and placed in the Library of the House.[503]

11.39  A committee without leave to report from time to time may make a special report on incidental matters relating to its powers, functions or proceedings. Committees have used this procedure to invite evidence, or to review their own work over a period.

Joint committees

11.40  Joint committees of both Houses of Parliament usually have an equal number of members from each House, but this is a matter for arrangement between the Houses.

11.41  The standard procedure for setting up a joint committee proposed by the Lords is as follows. A motion is moved that it is expedient that a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to consider some particular subject. If this is agreed to, it is communicated by message to the Commons, with a request for their concurrence. If the Commons agree then a message is returned which contains the Commons membership and orders of reference. The House then appoints a select committee, on a proposal from the Committee of Selection, and agrees the powers, orders of reference and time and place of the first meeting.

11.42  An addition to the number of members of a joint committee, or a change in its order of reference, is made in the same way.

11.43  Leave is always given to a joint committee to appoint its own chairman. Any power to be exercised by a joint committee must be granted by both Houses. The procedure in a joint committee is that of select committees of the House of Lords (with the exception of the Joint Committee on Tax Law Rewrite Bills, which follows Commons procedure).


11.44  The following committees are usually reappointed by the House in each new session. They fall into three categories: first, those on public matters; second, those on private business; finally, the "domestic" committees through which the House regulates its internal affairs.

Committees on public matters

11.45  The chairman of these committees is nominated by the Committee of Selection, save for the joint committees which appoint their own chairman.


11.46  This joint committee is described at paragraphs 8.208-8.209.


11.47  The committee's terms of reference are to examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution.


11.48  The committee's terms of reference require it to report "whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of delegated power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; … [on] documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under sections 14 and 18 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006; and to perform, in respect of such draft orders, and in respect of subordinate provisions orders made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, the functions performed in respect of other instruments and draft instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments."

11.49  The committee considers bills (except consolidation and supply bills) as soon as possible after introduction, on the basis of a memorandum from the relevant government department. The committee aims to issue its reports before the bills are considered at committee stage. If time allows, the committee also reports on government amendments if these involve delegated powers.[504] The committee has also reported on delegated powers in draft bills.[505]

11.50  The committee also scrutinises draft orders laid before Parliament under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 (see paragraph 10.23).


11.51  This committee is appointed "to consider economic affairs". The committee appoints a sub-committee to examine each Finance Bill.[506] The sub-committee examines tax administration, clarification and simplification, and not the incidence or rates of tax. The sub-committee conducts its activities with full regard to the traditional boundary between the two Houses on fiscal policy.[507]


11.52  This committee considers European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union. The work of the committee is supported by the scrutiny reserve resolution passed by the House on 30 March 2010 (see appendix L, page 258).

11.53  The chairman of the committee is the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, and the Second Counsel to the Chairman of Committees acts as its legal adviser. The chairman of the committee is authorised in urgent cases to present the report of a sub-committee to the House on behalf of the committee.[508]


11.54  The Joint Committee on Human Rights is empowered to consider matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom, excluding individual cases. It also has functions in connection with remedial orders (see paragraphs 10.32-10.35).


11.55  The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee considers the merits of all instruments laid before each House of Parliament and subject to parliamentary proceedings (with certain exceptions). In particular, it is required to draw to the special attention of the House those instruments which are politically or legally important or give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House; those which may be inappropriate in view of the changed circumstances since the enactment of the parent Act; those which may inappropriately implement European Union legislation; and those which may imperfectly achieve their policy objectives. The committee may conduct broader inquiries from time to time.[509]


11.56  This committee is appointed to consider the National Security Strategy. It has 10 Lords members and 12 Commons members.


11.57  This committee reports on subjects of its own choosing within the fields of science and technology.


11.58  This joint committee scrutinises delegated legislation in certain technical and legal respects. Its terms of reference are embodied in SO 73 and its powers in a resolution of 16 December 1997. It does not consider the merits or policy of delegated legislation. Under SO 72 a motion to approve an affirmative instrument may not be moved in the House of Lords until the joint committee has reported on the instrument.[510] The chairman is, by practice, a Member of the House of Commons.


11.59  This joint committee is described in paragraphs 8.211 and 8.212.

Committees on private business

11.60  The Chairman of Committees chairs these committees.


11.61  This committee considers hybrid instruments in accordance with private business SOs 216 and 216A. The committee rarely meets, reflecting the fact that many bills now include provisions exempting delegated legislation from hybrid instrument procedure.


11.62  This committee considers cases referred to it on a certificate of non-compliance, or on a special report, from the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, who certify whether in the case of a particular private bill the standing orders have been complied with. In a case of doubt, the committee decides whether the standing orders have been complied with. In case of non-compliance, it reports whether the standing orders ought to be dispensed with and, if so, on what conditions.

11.63  The parties either appear in person or are represented by their parliamentary agents. Counsel are not heard. In opposed cases, the quorum of the committee is three; but in unopposed cases, the Chairman of Committees normally acts alone.

Domestic committees


11.64  This committee is appointed to consider administrative services, security, works and accommodation, including works relating to security, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee. It decides on requests to make television programmes about the House. The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.


11.65  This committee is appointed to set the policy framework for the administration of the House and to provide non-executive guidance to the Management Board; to approve the House's strategic, business and financial plans; to agree the annual Estimates and Supplementary Estimates; to supervise the arrangements relating to Members' expenses; and to approve the House of Lords Annual Report.[511] The Lord Speaker chairs the committee. The Chairman of Committees is a member, and speaks for the committee in the House when presenting its reports and answering questions on administrative matters.[512]


11.66  This committee is appointed to consider information and communications services, including the Library and the Parliamentary Archives, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is nominated by the Committee of Selection.


11.67  This committee advises the House on the resources required for committee work and on allocation of resources between committees. It reviews the committee work of the House; it considers requests for ad hoc committees for particular inquiries; it seeks to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and it considers the availability of members of the House to serve on committees. The committee consists of eleven members of the House, including the Leaders of the three main parties and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers or their representatives, together with four backbenchers. The Chairman of Committees is chairman, and the chairmen of the main investigative committees are entitled to attend the meetings of the committee on agenda items which concern them.


11.68  The House refers to this committee questions regarding its privileges and claims of peerage and of precedence. The House referred to the committee two questions of law arising from the House of Lords Bill in 1999.[513] The Committee for Privileges and Conduct also oversees the operation of the Code of Conduct and Register of Interests (see Chapter 5). The committee consists of 16 members of the House, two of which are former holders of high judicial office.[514] In any claim of peerage, the committee sits with three current holders of high judicial office, who are granted the same speaking and voting rights as the members of the committee. The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.

11.69  The work of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct in respect of the Code of Conduct and the Register of Interests is normally delegated to a Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct (paragraphs 5.03 and 5.34).


11.70  This committee considers any proposals for alterations in the procedure of the House that may arise from time to time, and whether the standing orders require to be amended. The committee has authority to appoint sub-committees without an express order of the House.

11.71  The members of the committee are the Chairman of Committees (in the chair), the Lord Speaker, the Party Leaders and Chief Whips, the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, three Labour backbenchers, three Conservative backbenchers, two Liberal Democrat backbenchers and two other Crossbenchers.[515]

11.72  The committee as named by the Committee of Selection is supplemented by one alternate for each party group of backbench members and one for the Crossbenchers, plus an alternate for the Convenor. The alternates are also named by the Committee of Selection. They receive papers, and are entitled to attend if any of the relevant members cannot, and if necessary to vote.


11.73   This committee is appointed to consider the refreshment services provided for the House, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.


11.74  In addition to proposing the names of members of the House to form, and to chair, select committees, this committee also proposes the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees for each session, as well as the members of any other bodies referred to it by the Chairman of Committees (currently Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) and the Board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)).[516] The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.


11.75  This committee is appointed to administer the House of Lords Works of Art Collection Fund; and to consider matters relating to works of art and the artistic heritage in the House of Lords, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is nominated by the Committee of Selection.

Bodies analogous to select committees


11.76  The Audit Committee consists of members of the House and an external element. The peers concerned hold no other office in the House, including membership of any domestic committee.[517] Membership of the committee and its terms of reference are the responsibility of the House Committee.


11.77  The Ecclesiastical Committee is a statutory body, whose proceedings are not proceedings in Parliament; but by a Committee resolution of 22 March 1921 it follows the procedure of a parliamentary joint committee. It consists of 30 members, 15 of whom are nominated by the Lord Speaker[518] from the House of Lords for the duration of a Parliament, to consider Measures: see paragraphs 8.221-8.226.


11.78  The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is a statutory body, whose proceedings are not proceedings in Parliament, appointed by the Prime Minister in accordance with the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Before putting forward a name or names to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House consults the usual channels and tables a motion inviting the House to approve the nomination.

11.79  The ISC is required to publish an annual report, and may also publish special reports. There is a presumption that annual reports will be debated in Grand Committee and that special reports will be debated either in Grand Committee or in the Chamber. Such debates are on a take-note motion (see paragraph 6.54) moved by a Lords member of the ISC. A minister winds up the debate, and the mover has a right of reply.[519]


11.80  The Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) was set up in 1991 and is funded by various broadcasting companies. It has a board of directors which includes representatives of those companies, and members of both Houses. PARBUL contracts an independent company to record for television all proceedings on the floors of both Houses and some committee proceedings. The broadcasting companies who are shareholders of PARBUL are then entitled to use the recordings for broadcast use.


11.81  The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) provides members of both Houses with information on science and technology issues. It is controlled by a Board of members of both Houses and non-parliamentarians. There are currently four Lords members. By practice they include the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee and a member of the Information Committee.


11.82  Members of the House serve on United Kingdom delegations to various international bodies:

·  British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly;

·  Commonwealth Parliamentary Association;

·  Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly;

·  Inter-Parliamentary Union;

·  NATO Parliamentary Assembly;

·  Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe;

·  Western European Union Parliamentary Assembly.

These delegations are appointed after consultations through the usual channels.[520]

477   The following committees are not select committees: Committees of the whole House, Grand Committees, unopposed private bill committees, and committees to prepare reasons for disagreeing to Commons amendments to bills. The Ecclesiastical Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee are statutory bodies and not select committees. Back

478   Liaison 3rd Rpt 2005-06. Back

479   Procedure 1st Rpt 2000-01. Back

480   SO 63. Back

481   Unless the Chairman of Committees or two or more members of the Committee of Selection think otherwise: SO 63(2). Back

482   SO 63(7). Back

483   Procedure 1st Rpt 2005-06. Back

484   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back

485   Procedure 10th Rpt 1970-71. Back

486   SO 61. Back

487   Procedure 1st Rpt 1992-93; Liaison 2nd Rpt 2007-08. Back

488   Procedure 1st Rpt 2008-09. Back

489   Commons SO 138. Back

490   SO 66. Back

491   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back

492   SO 67. Back

493   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2008-09. Back

494   SO 65. Back

495   Procedure 1st Rpt 1992-93. Back

496   SO 64. Back

497   Procedure 3rd Rpt 1981-82, 1st Rpt 1982-83. Back

498   SO 68. Back

499   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

500   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2003-04. Back

501   Departmental evidence and response to Select Committees, Cabinet Office March 2009. Back

502   Procedure 1st Rpt 1992-93, as amended 9 July 1992. Back

503   Liaison 1st Rpt 1998-99. Back

504   Procedure 1st Rpt 1999-2000. Back

505   Liaison 1st Rpt 1998-99. Back

506   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

507   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2003-04. Back

508   Procedure 1st Rpt 1973-74. Back

509   Procedure 1st Rpt 2005-06. Back

510   SO 72 sets out certain exceptions, including legislative reform orders, remedial orders and hybrid instruments. Back

511   House Committee 1st Rpt 2007-08. Back

512   Report of the Select Committee on the Speakership of the House of Lords, HL Paper 92 2005-06. Back

513   LJ (1998-99) 653. Back

514   SO 77; Procedure 1st Rpt 2009-10. Back

515   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2005-06. Back

516   SO 63. Back

517   Offices 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

518   Under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, as amended by Schedule 6 to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Back

519   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2007-08. Back

520   On 18 June 1992 the House confirmed this practice in respect of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Western European Union and the Council of Europe: LJ (1992-93) 112. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010