Introduction to general committees in the House of Commons

39.1This chapter describes public bill committees and other general committees which proceed in the same way as the House by debating and deciding upon questions. Committees of the whole House (which are appointed for the committee stage of certain public bills) are described in Chapter 28. Select committees, which proceed by taking evidence, deliberation and report, are described in Chapter 38.

Proceedings in general committees broadly follow the procedures of the House itself (subject to exceptions described below). Members address the Chair, who performs in the committee all the duties of the Speaker in the House. Members must speak standing and uncovered as when the House is sitting. The layout of general committee meeting rooms is normally a miniature version of the Chamber, with the parties facing each other. This layout is varied when a public bill committee takes oral evidence, for which members sit in a horseshoe configuration akin to a select committee. An official report (Hansard) is made of general committee debates and published in separate parts for each meeting. Formal minutes of general committees are no longer kept.

In addition to public bill committees and certain other committees dealing with bills, the House of Commons also appoints committees of the same character to consider delegated legislation, European Union documents, and a variety of business relating to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under Standing Order No 84 all these committees are classed as ‘general’ committees.1

Footnotes

  1. 1. For a summary of the history of the nomenclature of standing and general committees, see Fifth Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, HC 595 (1995–96). See also First Report from the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, The Legislative Process, HC 1097 (2005–06) paras 63–66.