The Committee’s Remit
The Welsh Affairs Committee is one of the departmental Select Committees of the House of Commons. Its terms of reference are to examine matters within the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Wales (including relations with the National Assembly for Wales). In practice, the Committee examines policies of the UK Government which have an impact in Wales (for example strategic transport, welfare and defence).
Since 1999, some responsibilities, such as health and education, have been devolved in Wales. The Welsh Government is accountable to the National Assembly for Wales, and the Assembly’s committees are responsible for scrutinising policies in devolved areas. You can find more information about the National Assembly’s committees.
What is the Membership of the Committee?
The Welsh Affairs Committee consists of 11 Members of Parliament, of whom the quorum is 3. The Chair of the Committee is elected by the House of Commons. The Committee is nominated by the House at the beginning of each Parliament for the duration of the Parliament, although individual Members may be discharged or added during the course of the Parliament. The membership reflects the party strengths in the House as a whole.
How does the Committee work?
Select Committees operate normally by conducting inquiries into subjects within their areas of responsibility. Once a subject has been chosen, and the terms of reference of the inquiry have been agreed, the Committee requests written memoranda from interested organisations. Formal evidence sessions are then arranged with the individuals and bodies principally concerned. Informal briefing sessions and visits may also be held. On the basis of the evidence, a report is drafted under the direction of the Chair, which the Committee considers, may amend, and finally agrees to. The report is then published and the Government is under an obligation to reply to it in due course.
The principal powers of Select Committees
- to send for persons, papers and records
- to adjourn from place to place (i.e. to travel and to meet away from Westminster)
- to appoint Specialist Advisers
In practice, the Welsh Affairs Committee, in common with the other departmental committees, prefers to proceed by consent, inviting the submission of written memoranda and inviting witnesses to appear before it.
The National Assembly for Wales
The way in which the Welsh Affairs Committee operates has, of course, been affected by devolution and the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales. The Committee liaises with National Assembly Committees and has established a way of working through consultation, visits and invitation to appear before each others’ committees.