General Committees (including Public Bill Committees)

The main role of General Committees is to consider proposed legislation in detail. This committee system allows faster processing of Bills and is unique to the House of Commons; the Lords meet as a whole House in this function. The committees reflect the political makeup of the House. The government always has a majority.

Committees on Bills

A Public or Private Bill Committee is appointed for each Bill that goes through Parliament. Depending on its complexity, the consideration of a Bill can take a few minutes to a few months.

The Lords meet as a whole House in this function (in the debating chamber) or as a Grand Committee away from the chamber. Proceedings in a Grand Committees are the same as Committees of the whole House with an important exception: motions must be passed unanimously, so a dissenting voice from one Member could block an amendment to a Bill.

Naming Public Bill Committees

Each Public Bill Committee is named after the Bill it considers. For example, a committee considering a Bill titled the Climate Bill would be called the Climate Bill Committee.

How they work

Each committee is assigned a chairman and debate Bills as they would do in the Commons chamber, with broadly the same rules of debate applying. Public Bill Committees, unlike the Standing Committees they replace, have the power to take written and oral evidence from officials and experts outside of Parliament. This is intended to give Committee members more information on which to make their decisions.

The minimum number of Members in a committee is 16 and the maximum is about 50. The proportion of Members in a Public Bill Committee mirrors the political parties' strengths in the Commons, so there is always a government majority.

Reports

Public Bill Committees examine each Bill line by line. Once a committee has finished looking at a Bill, it reports its conclusions and any amendments made to the Commons, where Members debate the Bill further.

The Bill is printed again with the amendments made by the Public Bill Committee; this is publicly available in printed and online formats.

Although the Lords do not meet in Public Bill Committees, they have a report stage to allow further consideration of Bills.

Other General Committees

Additional General Committees exist to debate matters in specific areas, such as the Scottish Grand Committee, the Welsh Grand Committee, the Northern Ireland Grand Committee; committees on Delegated Legislation and European documents.

Related information

House of Commons Chamber Film - Westminster Hall and Committees


Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons which holds debates on national and local issues

Public Bill Committee publications

Read Public Bill Committee debates from 2006 and Standing Committee debates from 1997. From the beginning of the 2006-07 session, Standing Committees were renamed Public Bill Committees.

Read other General Committee (excluding Public Bill Committee) debates from 2006 and Standing Committee debates from 1997

Current committees

For more about the work of a current committee use our A-Z index.

Parliament in depth

Want to know more? Read our detailed publications on Parliament's work and history.

What happened to Standing Committees?

They've been given a new name: 'General Committees'. Also, Standing Committees on Bills are now called 'Public Bill Committees'. These changes came into effect on 15 November 2006.

Scrutiny Unit

The Scrutiny Unit is responsible for co-ordinating the evidence taking sessions of Public Bill Committees, including the receipt of written submissions. See their homepage for more information and contact details.