Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords


10.42  The following committees are usually reappointed by the House in each new session. They fall into three categories: first, those on public matters; second, those on private business; finally, the "domestic" committees through which the House regulates its internal affairs.

Committees on public matters

10.43  The chairman of these committees is nominated by the Committee of Selection, save for the joint committees which appoint their own chairman.


10.44  This joint committee is described at paragraphs 7.201-7.202.


10.45  The committee's terms of reference are to examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution.


10.46  The committee's terms of reference require it to report "whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of delegated power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; … [on] documents laid before Parliament under section 14 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006; and to perform, in respect of such draft orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments."

10.47  The committee considers bills (except consolidation and supply bills) as soon as possible after introduction, on the basis of a memorandum from the relevant government department. The committee aims to issue its reports before the bills are considered at committee stage. If time allows, the committee also reports on government amendments if these involve delegated powers.[467] The committee has also reported on delegated powers in draft bills.[468]

10.48  The committee also scrutinises draft orders laid before Parliament under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 (see paragraph 9.19).


10.49  This committee is appointed "to consider economic affairs". The committee appoints a sub-committee to examine each Finance Bill.[469] The sub-committee examines tax administration, clarification and simplification, and not the incidence or rates of tax. The sub-committee conducts its activities with full regard to the traditional boundary between the two Houses on fiscal policy.[470]


10.50  This committee considers European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union. The work of the committee is supported by the scrutiny reserve resolution passed by the House on 6 December 1999 (see appendix M, page 230).

10.51  The chairman of the committee is the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, and the Second Counsel to the Chairman of Committees acts as its legal adviser. The chairman of the committee is authorised in urgent cases to present the report of a sub-committee to the House on behalf of the committee.[471]


10.52  The Joint Committee on Human Rights is empowered to consider matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom, excluding individual cases. It also has functions in connection with remedial orders (see paragraphs 9.32-9.35).


10.53  The terms of reference of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee require it to consider the merits of all instruments laid before each House of Parliament and subject to parliamentary proceedings (with certain exceptions). In particular, it is required to draw to the special attention of the House those instruments which are politically or legally important or give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House; those which may be inappropriate in view of the changed circumstances since the enactment of the parent Act; those which may inappropriately implement European Union legislation; and those which may imperfectly achieve their policy objectives. The committee may conduct broader inquiries from time to time.[472]


10.54  This committee reports on subjects of its own choosing within the fields of science and technology.


10.55  This is a joint committee, and scrutinises delegated legislation in certain technical and legal respects. Its terms of reference are embodied in SO 74. It does not consider the merits or policy of delegated legislation. Under SO 73 a motion to approve an affirmative instrument may not be moved in the House of Lords until the joint committee has reported on the instrument.[473] The chairman is, by practice, a Member of the House of Commons.


10.56  This joint committee is described in paragraphs 7.204 and 7.205.

Committees on private business

10.57  The Chairman of Committees chairs these committees.


10.58  This committee considers hybrid instruments in accordance with private business SOs 216 and 216A. The committee rarely meets, reflecting the fact that many bills now include provisions exempting delegated legislation from hybrid instrument procedure.


10.59  This committee examines petitions for personal bills in accordance with private business SO 154. Two members of the committee are Lords of Appeal.


10.60  This committee considers cases referred to it on a certificate of non-compliance, or on a special report, from the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, who certify whether in the case of a particular private bill the standing orders have been complied with. In a case of doubt, the committee decides whether the standing orders have been complied with. In case of non-compliance, it reports whether the standing orders ought to be dispensed with and, if so, on what conditions.

10.61  The parties either appear in person or are represented by their parliamentary agents. Counsel are not heard. In opposed cases, the quorum of the committee is three; but in unopposed cases, the Chairman of Committees normally acts alone.

Domestic committees


10.62  This committee is appointed to consider administrative services, security, works and accommodation, within financial limits approved by the House Committee. It decides on requests to make television programmes about the House. The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.


10.63  This committee is appointed to supervise the general administration of the House and guide the work of the Management Board; to agree the annual Estimates, Supplementary Estimates and the three-year spending forecasts; to approve the House of Lords Annual Report; and to approve changes in employment policy. The Lord Speaker chairs the committee. The Chairman of Committees is a member, and speaks for the committee when presenting its reports and answering questions on administrative matters.[474]


10.64  This committee is appointed to consider information and communications services, including the Library and the Parliamentary Archives, within financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is nominated by the Committee of Selection.


10.65  This committee advises the House on the resources required for committee work and on allocation of resources between committees. It reviews the committee work of the House; it considers requests for ad hoc committees for particular inquiries; it seeks to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and it considers the availability of members of the House to serve on committees. The committee consists of eleven members of the House, including the Leaders of the three main parties and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers or their representatives, together with four backbenchers. The Chairman of Committees is chairman, and the chairmen of the main investigative committees are entitled to attend the meetings of the committee on agenda items which concern them.


10.66  The House refers to this committee questions regarding its privileges and claims of peerage and of precedence. The Committee for Privileges also oversees the operation of the Register of Interests (see paragraphs 4.81-4.82). The House referred to the committee two questions of law arising from the House of Lords Bill in 1999.[475] The committee consists of 16 members of the House, together with any four Lords of Appeal.[476] In any claim of peerage, the committee may not sit unless at least three Lords of Appeal are present. The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.

10.67  The Committee for Privileges appoints a sub-committee on Lords' Interests to consider matters relating to the declaration and registration of interests (paragraphs 4.81-4.82).


10.68  This committee considers any proposals for alterations in the procedure of the House that may arise from time to time, and whether the standing orders require to be amended. The committee has authority to appoint sub-committees without an express order of the House.

10.69  The members of the committee are the Chairman of Committees (in the chair), the Lord Speaker, the Party Leaders and Chief Whips, the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, three Labour backbenchers, three Conservative backbenchers, two Liberal Democrat backbenchers and two other Crossbenchers. [477]

10.70  The committee as named by the Committee of Selection is supplemented by one alternate for each party group of backbench members and one for the Crossbenchers, plus an alternate for the Convenor. The alternates are also named by the Committee of Selection. They receive papers, and are entitled to attend if any of the relevant members cannot, and if necessary to vote.


10.71   This committee is appointed to consider the refreshment services provided for the House, within financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is nominated by the Committee of Selection.


10.72  In addition to proposing the names of members of the House to form, and to chair, select committees, this committee also proposes the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees for each session, as well as the members of any other bodies referred to it by the Chairman of Committees (currently Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) and the Board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)) .[478] The chairman is the Chairman of Committees.


10.73  This committee is appointed to administer the House of Lords Works of Art Collection Fund; and to consider matters relating to works of art and the artistic heritage in the House of Lords, within financial limits approved by the House Committee. The chairman is nominated by the Committee of Selection.

Bodies analogous to select committees


10.74  The Audit Committee consists of members of the House and an external element. The peers concerned hold no other office in the House, including membership of any domestic committee.[479] Membership of the committee and its terms of reference are the responsibility of the House Committee.


10.75  The Ecclesiastical Committee is a statutory body, whose proceedings are not proceedings in Parliament; but by a resolution of 22 March 1921 it follows the procedure of a parliamentary joint committee. It consists of 30 members, 15 of whom are nominated by the Lord Speaker[480] from the House of Lords for the duration of a Parliament, to consider Measures: see paragraphs 7.215-7.220.


10.76  The Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited (PARBUL) was set up in 1991 and is funded by various broadcasting companies. It has a board of directors which includes representatives of those companies, and members of both Houses. PARBUL contracts an independent company to record for television all proceedings on the floors of both Houses and some committee proceedings. The broadcasting companies who are shareholders of PARBUL are then entitled to use the recordings for broadcast use.


10.77  The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) provides members of both Houses with information on science and technology issues. It is controlled by a Board of members of both Houses and non-parliamentarians. There are currently four Lords members. By practice they include the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee and a member of the Information Committee.

467   Procedure 1st Rpt 1999-2000. Back

468   Liaison 1st Rpt 1998-99. Back

469   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

470   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2003-04. Back

471   Procedure 1st Rpt 1973-74. Back

472   Procedure 1st Rpt 2005-06. Back

473   SO 73 sets out certain exceptions, including regulatory reform orders, remedial orders and hybrid instruments. Back

474   Report of the Select Committee on the Speakership of the House of Lords, HL Paper 92 2005-06. Back

475   LJ (1998-99) 653. Back

476   SO 78. Back

477   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2005-06. Back

478   SO 64. Back

479   House 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

480   Under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, as amended by Schedule 6 to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Back

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