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General Committees (including Public Bill Committees)

The House of Commons appoints General Committees on a routine basis 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. Commons legislation committees reflect the political makeup of the House. The government always has a majority.

Legislation committees in the Commons

Public Bill Committees [PBCs]

A committee is generally appointed for each public Bill that goes through the House of Commons. Depending on its complexity, the consideration of a Bill can take a few minutes to a few months. Members are nominated by the Committee of Selection.

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 replaced, 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.

Reporting back

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.

Delegated Legislation Committees [DLCs]

Secondary legislation (affirmative procedure Statutory Instruments, for example) are usually debated by a Delegated Legislation Committee instead of in the main Commons chamber.

DLCs are numbered consecutively rather than having a specific title. Their members are nominated by the Committee of Selection and they are similar to PBCs in size and composition.

Second Reading Committees

Second Readings of non-controversial Bills can be debated in a committee in the Commons, although this is rare. If a Bill passes through such a committee, its Second Reading and committal motions must still be agreed by the House in the Chamber, but will be decided there without debate.

Other General Committees

General Committees have also been created to debate matters in specific countries or regions of the UK, such as the Scottish Grand Committee, the Welsh Grand Committee, the Northern Ireland Grand Committee.

Read Public Bill Committee debates

Find recent debates in Public Bill Committees in Hansard Online

Find Public Bill Committee debates from 1997-2016 in the archive

Debates in Delegated Legislation Committee

Find recent debates in Delegated Legislation Committees in Hansard Online:

Find debates in Delegated Legislation Committees from 1997-2016 in the general committee debate archive:

Glossary

An alphabetical list of parliamentary terms with definitions.

View glossary