Membership of general committees

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39.3With some exceptions, public bill committees and delegated legislation committees consist of a Chair appointed by the Speaker from the Panel of Chairs (para 39.6 ) and between 16 and 50 members, nominated by the Committee of Selection to serve on the committee during the consideration of each bill or instrument allocated to it.

In nominating Members, the Committee of Selection is directed to have regard to their qualifications and to the composition of the House. Thus, the Committee of Selection will always ensure that committees reflect the party political composition of the House;1 in the case of bills which divide the House on cross-party lines, that the strength of opinion as expressed in any division at second reading is properly reflected;2 and, in the case of an uncontroversial Private Member's Bill, that the views of the Member in charge are sought on likely committee members. In the case of Private Members' Bills, the Selection Committee3 in the 2017 Parliament required the Member in charge to obtain written confirmation from each Member that they wished to be appointed to the committee. The Speaker has deprecated criticism in the House of appointments made by the Committee of Selection4 and has ruled that he cannot interfere with that committee and it would be inappropriate for the House to do so.5 Similarly, the Chair of a committee will not permit criticism, directly or indirectly, of the Committee of Selection's choice of Members.6

Particular arrangements are laid down for the composition of public bill committees on bills relating exclusively to Scotland, Wales, or England. Standing Order No 86(2) specifies that a Scottish public bill committee shall include not fewer than 16 Members representing Scottish constituencies7 and that for the consideration of a bill relating exclusively to Wales, the public bill committee shall be so constituted as to include all the Members sitting for constituencies in Wales. This latter arrangement is usually suspended or varied, for example to make provision for not fewer than 19 Members sitting for constituencies in Wales to be appointed to the committee considering a bill concerning the Welsh language.8 Standing Order No 86(2)(iv) provides that any bill that the Speaker has certified as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence, as defined in Standing Order No 83J, shall be nominated by the Committee of Selection having regard to the composition of that part of the House consisting of Members representing constituencies in England, and no Member who does not represent a constituency in England shall be nominated to such a committee.9

Each European Committee consists of 13 members nominated by the Selection Committee in respect of any European Union document which stands referred to it. In appointing members of European Committees, the Selection Committee is required, where it is practicable, to appoint two members of the European Scrutiny Committee and two members of the select committee whose responsibilities most closely relate to the subject-matter of the document or documents (Standing Order No 119, and see para 39.39 ). The Scottish Grand Committee consists of all Members representing Scottish constituencies (Standing Order No 93). The Welsh Grand Committee consists of all Members representing Welsh constituencies, together with not more than five other Members nominated by the Committee of Selection (Standing Order No 102). The Northern Ireland Grand Committee consists of all Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, together with not more than 25 other Members nominated by the Committee of Selection (Standing Order No 109).10


  1. 1. In 1995, the House agreed to a temporary standing order providing for the Committee of Selection to interpret this in such a way that the party which achieved an overall majority at the preceding general election should have a majority on any standing committee unless that party lost its overall majority either as a result of by-elections or through the secession of Members to another party, CJ (1994–95) 93–94. In January 1997, however, the Committee of Selection agreed arrangements by which the Government retained its majority in most standing committees, but held only half the seats in the standing committee on the Finance Bill, CJ (1996–97) 172. Under the resolutions establishing the Selection Committee in September 2017, that Committee was directed to interpret this requirement so that the Government had a majority in any general committee with an odd number of members; and in any general committee with an even number of members, the number of members from the government and opposition parties were equal: Votes and Proceedings, 12 September 2017.
  2. 2. But a government bill which fails to attract the support on second reading of a number of the Government's usual supporters is generally treated in the same way as any other government bill, HC Deb (2003–04) 417, cc 925–6; ibid (2003–04) 426, c 467.
  3. 3. In 2017, the House agreed to a temporary standing order establishing the Selection Committee which discharged the functions of the Committee of Selection, which was not established in the 2017 Parliament: Votes and Proceedings, 12 September 2017. Where this chapter refers to present practice, reference is made to the Committee of Selection. Where this chapter refers to events during the 2017 Parliament, reference is made to the Selection Committee.
  4. 4. HC Deb (1924) 171, c 451; ibid (1961–62) 655, cc 201–25.
  5. 5. HC Deb (1972–73) 849, cc 45–46; ibid (1974–75) 886, cc 1743–44; ibid (2003–04) 426, c 467; ibid (2008–09) 492, c 317; ibid (10 May 2018) 640, c 925.
  6. 6. Stg Co Deb (1994–95) Co B (Jobseekers Bill) c 1; ibid (2003–04) Co G (Higher Education Bill) cc 5, 43; ibid (2005–06) Co A (National Lottery Bill) c 132.
  7. 7. No such committee has been appointed since 1999.
  8. 8. CJ (1974–75) 511 (Welsh Development Agency Bill [Lords]); ibid (1992–93) 656 (Welsh Language Bill [Lords]); ibid (1993–94) 246 (Local Government (Wales) Bill).
  9. 9. For example, Votes and Proceedings, 22 March 2018. In this case, the fact that the membership was appointed according to the provisions of the standing order relating to bills related solely to England was noted in the Votes and Proceedings entry.
  10. 10. For the membership of the former Regional Affairs Committee and the Grand Committees for the English regions, see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 890. For the membership of the former Standing Committee on the Inter-Governmental Conference on the Future of Europe, see Erskine May (23rd edn, 2004), p 826.