Bill committed to select or joint committee

29.53A public bill (other than a consolidation bill – see below) may be committed to a select committee or a joint committee of both Houses when detailed investigation is considered desirable or when the hearing of evidence is considered necessary. To achieve this, a motion ‘that this bill be committed to a select committee’ or ‘that it is desirable that a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to consider the bill’ may be moved. Such a motion is usually moved immediately after the second reading, or may be tabled as an amendment to the normal commitment motion1 but is admissible at any stage2 before the third reading. If the bill has previously been committed to a Committee of the whole House the order may be discharged and an order made to commit the bill instead to a joint3 or to a select4 committee. A motion may be tabled to commit a part of a bill to a select committee.5 If the bill is referred to a joint committee a message is sent to the House of Commons informing them and desiring their agreement.6 A bill may be committed to a select committee on another bill.7

The method of appointment and powers of the committee are the same as for an ad hoc committee on a general subject (see paras 40.340.23 ); but the bill forms the committee's orders of reference and defines the scope of the inquiry.

When the committee has completed its deliberations, it makes a report to the House on the provisions of the bill, recommending whether or not it should proceed. The committee usually gives reasons in a report similar to a report on a general subject. The committee has no power to put an end to the bill. If it considers that the bill should proceed, the committee reports it with such amendments as it thinks fit, and the bill is then re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in the form in which it has been reported.8 If the committee considers that it should not proceed, it reports the bill accordingly, without amendment.

When a select committee reports that a bill should not proceed, the bill is not recommitted to a Committee of the whole House. The bill remains in the list of Bills in Progress until the end of the session under the heading ‘Reported from the select committee that the bill should not proceed’. The House normally acquiesces in a report from a select committee recommending that a bill should not proceed, and no further proceedings on the bill take place.9 If the bill is to proceed a motion, of which notice is required, has to be agreed that the bill be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House.10 A bill may also be recommitted to a committee after the latter has reported that it should not proceed.11

If a committee is unable to complete its consideration of the bill, it makes a special report to that effect and reports the bill without amendment.12

It is also possible for the House to appoint a committee not on the bill itself but on issues raised by the bill.13


  1. 1. LJ (1977–78) 182; ibid (1979–80) 305; ibid (1982–83) 334; ibid (1983–84) 41; ibid (1986–87) 143; ibid (1987–88) 86; HL Deb (1995–96) 567, cc 867–80; ibid (9 November 2010) 722, cc 186–87. The Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords] was committed to a select committee on division, by amendment of the motion to commit it to a Committee of the whole House (LJ (2003–04) 232); a carry-over motion was agreed alongside the motion to appoint the committee (LJ (2003–04) 283).
  2. 2. For example, 5 November 2013 (start of committee stage); LJ (1894) 181 (report stage); ibid (1878–79) 273 (third reading).
  3. 3. LJ (1974–75) 247.
  4. 4. LJ (1986–87) 143; ibid (1987–88) 36.
  5. 5. HL Deb (1996–97) 577, cc 280–93; 5 November 2013.
  6. 6. LJ (1958–59) 97.
  7. 7. LJ (1983–84) 58.
  8. 8. For example, LJ (1979–80) 895.
  9. 9. LJ (1975–76) 361; ibid (1977–78) 903; ibid (1983–84) 735; ibid (1987–88) 347.
  10. 10. HL Deb (1988–89) 510, cc 788–91.
  11. 11. LJ (1854–55) 277, 334.
  12. 12. LJ (1886) 306; ibid (1971–72) 693. A committee has reported that it had considered a bill up to clause 53 and had ordered the bill to be reported with some amendments, LJ (1888) 434.
  13. 13. Trade Union Political Funds and Political Party Funding Committee, appointed in 2016 ‘to consider the impact of Clauses 10 and 11 of the Trade Union Bill …’. The Committee sat over the same period as committee stage, which was in Committee of the whole House. Its report was debated before the clauses were reached on report.