Proceedings in Grand Committee
25.46Certain types of business may take place in Grand Committee. A Grand Committee is a committee of unlimited membership. Any Member of the Lords may participate in it. Only one Grand Committee sits on any one day. The place of meeting is usually the Moses Room.
The procedure in a Grand Committee is essentially the same for each type of business as the procedure would have been in the House when such business is considered, except that divisions may not take place in Grand Committee, and thus decisions cannot be taken in Grand Committee except by unanimity.1
For committee stages of public bills see para 29.49. In respect of other types of business, the Grand Committee gives Members of the Lords an opportunity to engage in general debate on a particular issue, or to interrogate ministers, in a relatively informal setting, and without the need to reach a decision at the end of the debate.
The following types of business may take place in Grand Committee:
- Committee stages of public bills (normally only one bill per day—see para 29.35 )
- Motions to consider affirmative instruments (see para 31.28 )
- Motions to consider negative instruments (see para 31.30 )
- Motions to consider reports of select committees, or of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (see para 40.42 )
- General motions for debate
- Questions for short debate (see para 25.43 )
- Debates on proposals for National Policy Statements, laid before Parliament under the Planning Act 2008.2 A Marine Policy Statement, laid under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, has also been debated in Grand Committee.3
In addition, second reading debates on Law Commission bills may take place in a ‘Second Reading Committee’, though this is not formally a Grand Committee. Following the second reading debate a formal motion that the bill be read a second time is taken in the Chamber.4
Matters requiring a decision of the House (for instance, affirmative instruments) are referred to the Grand Committee on a Business of the House motion, and are then debated in Grand Committee on a neutral motion ‘to consider’ the matter. Following the debate in Grand Committee, any decision that is required (such as approval of an affirmative instrument) is then taken, normally without further debate, on the floor of the House.
Grand Committees sit for times agreed in advance, irrespective of the rising of the House. Notice of the proceedings is given in House of Lords Business. The normal sitting times of Grand Committee are: Monday, Tuesday 3.30–7.30 pm; Wednesday 3.45–7.45 pm; Thursday 2–6 pm. On days when a Grand Committee sits to consider backbench questions for short debate its normal sitting times are: Monday, Tuesday 3.30–8.30 pm; Wednesday 3.45–8.45 pm; Thursday 1–6 pm.5
Committee proceedings begin at the appointed time without any preliminary motion. Members of the Lords speak standing and, so far as they can, observe the same degree of formality as in the Chamber. Forms of words used in Grand Committee are the same as in Committee of the whole House. The committee adjourns for ten minutes for a division in the House. If the committee is to break (eg for a division or a statement in the Chamber), and when it adjourns at the end of the day's proceedings, the committee is simply adjourned without question put. The verbatim report of the Grand Committee's proceedings is published as an appendix to Hansard, and the minutes are published as an appendix to the Minutes of Proceedings.
- Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 2005–06, HL 26.
- Procedure Committee, Second Report of Session 2008–09, Judicial Business – amendments to Standing Orders: National Policy Statements: Use of Welsh language in Committee proceedings, HL 165; LJ (2008–09) 822.
- Procedure Committee, Third Report of Session 2010–12, Motions to fill Select Committee vacancies en bloc: Thursday debates: Marine Policy Statement: Introductions: Topical oral questions: Oral statements, HL 71.
- This procedure was agreed to on a trial basis in 2008, and confirmed on 7 October 2010. See Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 2007–08, Law Commission Bills, HL 63, and Second Report of Session 2010–12, Law Commission Bills, HL 30.
- Procedure Committee, First Report of Session 2013–14, Backbench Questions for Short Debate: Grand Committee sitting hours, HL 19.