Review of House of Lords Investigative and Scrutiny Committees: towards a new thematic committee structure Contents

Chapter 2: House of Lords committees: the present structure


12.House of Lords committees which deal with public matters can be categorised as either ‘investigative’ committees (a select or joint committee established to consider matters of public policy) or ‘legislative scrutiny’ committees (considering draft, primary or secondary legislation). Each type of committee is composed of a limited number of members of the House, hence the term ‘select committee’. Some committees are set up each session (permanent, or sessional committees)3 while others are set up for the purpose of a single inquiry (special inquiry, formerly known as ad hoc committees).

13.Our inquiry did not cover select committees which deal with private business (including personal bills, standing orders (private bills) and hybrid instruments committees) or the domestic and procedural affairs of the House.

Sessional select committees

14.Over the past 45 years, the House of Lords has developed a large number of permanent (or sessional) select committees, as follows:

Joint committees

15.Joint committees may be appointed permanently to conduct investigative or scrutiny work, to consider specific public policy matters (such as parliamentary privilege and Lords reform), public bills and draft bills. There are currently three main permanent joint committees, as follows:

16.The Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, first established in 1894,5 considers the form rather than the merits of bills that consolidate the law, by repealing and re-enacting existing provisions in other Acts relating to one area, without amending it.6

17.Other joint committees are appointed from time to time, for example to consider draft bills (pre-legislative scrutiny).

Special inquiry, or ad hoc, committees

18.The third main category of investigative committees in the House of Lords is special inquiry, or ad hoc committees. As described above, this part of House of Lords committee work has expanded considerably since 2012, and in recent years it has become the norm to appoint four new special inquiry committees each year.

19.An overview of House of Lords investigative and scrutiny committees in financial year 2018/19 is shown in the following diagram.

Figure 1: House of Lords investigative and scrutiny committee structure in 2018/19

Organogram showing the structure of investigative and scrutiny committees 2018/19

3 Under House of Lords Standing Order 64 certain committees are appointed on a “sessional” basis, which means that their orders of appointment remain in force from one session to the next throughout a Parliament until the House orders otherwise. Sessional committees are for most practical purposes in permanent existence.

4 The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments must be appointed each session pursuant to House of Lords Standing Order 73, but in practice it has always been re-appointed.

5 The Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills must also be appointed each session pursuant to House of Lords Standing Order 51.

6 The Committee last met in February 2014, when it considered the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Bill, which was referred to it, together with a Report of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on the Bill (Cm 8768).

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