The House of Lords committees investigate public policy, proposed laws and government activity. Committees are small groups of members (usually 12 in total) who meet outside the chamber and are appointed to consider specific policy areas.
Everyone can watch committees at work. Entry to watch meetings is free and meetings are broadcast online at parliamentlive.tv.
Committees can conduct short, narrowly focused investigations or investigate broad, long-term issues. Committees normally publish reports on their findings.
- are debated in the House of Lords
- provoke discussion outside Parliament
- make recommendations to government.
The government must respond in writing to each report.
Members of the House of Lords come from all parts of the UK, and represent a wide range of professions. Many remain active in their careers after joining the House. This professional experience is an especially useful resource in carrying out committee work.
The House decides which members sit on each committee. The number in a committee varies, from about 10 to 18. Typically a committee of 12 members would be made up of four Conservative, four Labour, two Liberal Democrat and two Crossbench members.
Committee work is a way for members to:
- investigate public policy and government activity in detail and report findings of the House
- build up further expertise in a particular policy area
- look at broad, long-term issues and produce in-depth reports on findings
- provoke discussion outside Parliament and make recommendations to government.
What happens in committee meetings?
Who: During the course of an inquiry into a particular policy area committees meet experts in the field, individuals affected by the policy, organisations working in the area and government representatives. Members question them and hear different viewpoints.
When: Committees normally meet weekly. Meetings are scheduled at different times, usually Monday to Thursday. Most meetings are open to the public, but after all the witnesses have been seen committees hold private meetings to discuss and agree reports.
Where: Meetings take place in Parliament, in rooms on the committee corridor. Sometimes committees visit places and organisations outside Parliament.
- Entry to watch committee meetings is free. You can turn up on the day or watch or listen online at parliamentlive.tv.
- Dates and times are available in the What's On section.
What happens in inquiries?
- Committee decides a subject to investigate.
- It issues a ‘call for evidence’, asking any interested people or organisations for their views or information, in writing.
- It holds public meetings to hear from people in person (and sometimes visits places and organisations outside Parliament).
- It meets in private to discuss and study the ‘evidence’ gathered.
- It drafts and agrees a report which is published.
- Government gives a response and committee may follow it up.
- The report may be debated – any member of the House of Lords can take part.
What usually happens during a public committee meeting?
- Committee meets briefly in private to discuss what questions to ask and what issues to focus on at the public meeting when the ‘witness’ (person being questioned) is present.
- Witness(es), media and the public are invited in.
- Members ask questions and follow up witness(es') responses.
- Witness(es) leave and members may meet in private to discuss what they have heard.
- Committees also meet in private to consider the conduct of their inquiries, to review their emerging conclusions and to consider their reports and recommendations.
Further information on committees
Image: House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris