1.The Jellicoe Committee was established in 1991 to conduct the first comprehensive review of the use of committees in the House. At that time the House had two sessional committees, the European Union Committee, first established as the European Communities Committee in May 1974, and the Science and Technology Committee, first established in 1980.
2.The Select Committee on the European Union is the largest of the permanent Lords select committees and is responsible for scrutinising the most important draft EU legislation (after conducting a regular ‘sift’) deposited by the Government, and it also examines the broader aspects of EU policy. With regard to its former role, it is assisted by the scrutiny reserve resolution. Its work is currently supported by six sub-committees which involve more than 70 members of the House in total. The Chairman of the European Union Committee is formally appointed by the House as Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees.
3.The Science and Technology Committee considers all science and technology matters by undertaking cross-departmental inquiries into a range of different activities, including public policy areas which ought to be informed by scientific research, technological challenges and opportunities, and public policy towards science itself.
4.The Jellicoe Committee put forward proposals for what it called a “more balanced and structured committee system”, including a recommendation that ad hoc committees should become a regular part of the House’s work and that limited experiments should also be conducted with the use of public bill committees, special standing committees and a Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. For the first time, it also articulated the principle that select committees in the Lords should generally seek to complement rather than duplicate the work of those in the Commons. The Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers was established later in 1992, and its remit has subsequently been expanded to include the scrutiny of Regulatory Reform Orders (1994), draft orders laid under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and draft orders laid under the Localism Act 2011.
5.The Jellicoe Committee also recommended that a Steering Committee should be established to allocate resources between select committees, keep under review the committee work of the House, consider requests from Peers for the appointment of new permanent and ad hoc committees, ensure the effective coordination of committee work with the Commons (so as to avoid duplication), and to consider the availability of Members to serve on those committees. This was duly established in November 1992 as the Liaison Committee, and is composed of the Senior Deputy Speaker, all party Leaders, the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers and six backbenchers.
6.Before this Committee was established, the method by which ad hoc select committees were established varied considerably, with decisions either being made on the initiative of the Government, as a result of debates in the House or within existing select committees. However, despite the regularisation of the process with the establishment of the Liaison Committee, select committees have still occasionally been established on the initiative of the House. In 2001, the Select Committee on Stem-Cell Research was established in this way without recourse to the Liaison Committee. In a similar fashion, the House agreed a motion asking the Liaison Committee to consider establishing a Select Committee on Chinook ZD 576 but, despite this committee’s express view that it was not appropriate to establish a committee to undertake a quasi-judicial function, the House still chose to appoint this committee in the same year.
7.The Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords (‘the Wakeham Commission’), which was established in January 1999 and reported a year later, was primarily concerned with the powers, functions and constitution of a reformed House, but also declared that “specialist committee work should continue to be an important function of the reformed chamber”. It accordingly recommended the expansion of permanent select committees, including the appointment of two new committees to consider economic affairs and the constitution. The report also suggested that further select committees could be established to scrutinise international treaties and devolution, with a sub-committee of the constitution select committee established to consider human rights issues.
8.In 2000 the Liaison Committee endorsed the Wakeham Commission’s recommendations for the creation of two new permanent committees, and the Constitution Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee were first appointed in 2001. With regard to the Wakeham Commission’s other suggestions for select committees, only one of these was established, in the form of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2001. The Liaison Committee postponed its consideration of the proposal for a committee on international treaties pending the outcome of similar deliberations in the House of Commons. The Commons chose not to establish a treaties committee and when the matter was considered again in the Lords, they also decided not to establish such a committee.
9.Over the next few years further committees were added to the growing structure, including the following:
(a)Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (first appointed in 2003–04 as the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee)
(b)Communications Committee (first appointed in 2007 on a temporary basis)
(c)Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (2009–10)
10.Following the 2010 general election, the Liaison Committee conducted a further review of select committee activity and concluded that no major changes were required to the existing select committees’ terms of reference and that they should all be reappointed as they continued to “have a relevant and useful function”. It noted that the additional marginal cost of a new unit of committee activity was estimated to be around £225,000.
11.The Committee reaffirmed the principle that no more than one ad hoc committee should be established at any one time to complement the activities of the permanent select committees.
12.Also in 2010, a Leader’s Group was appointed to consider the working practices of the House. The Group was chaired by Lord Goodlad and reported on 26 April 2011, making a large number of recommendations regarding the committee functions of the House. These included:
(a)A presumption that all substantive bills, particularly constitutional ones, should be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.
(b)The establishment of a Legislative Standards Committee, to report on all government bills before second reading regarding their compliance with standards of best practice in bill preparation.
(c)The appointment by the House of a Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, to review up to four selected Acts of Parliament each year.
(d)The establishment of a Backbench Business Committee.
(e)The establishment of two additional sessional select committees, to enhance the capacity of the House to scrutinise government policy.
(f)That select committees should, in future, be charged with electing their own chairmen for three sessions and that the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (now referred to as the Chairman of the European Union Committee) should also be elected by secret ballot of the whole House.
(g)In order to promote wider interest among members in the work of select committees, the scheduled publication of reports should be listed in the Order Paper and, for a trial period, up to five minutes at the end of oral questions should be made available for committee chairmen to draw the House’s attention to newly published reports.
13.The Group concluded that it was time for a thorough review of committee work, in order to enhance the House’s ability to scrutinise the Government. In future it also stated that the following principles should be applied when considering the establishment of new committees:
(a)Make best use of the expertise of members of the House.
(b)Complement the work of Commons departmental select committees.
(c)Address areas of policy that cross-departmental boundaries.
14.When the House debated the Goodlad report on 27 June 2011, the Leader of the House indicated that his preference was for an ad hoc committee to conduct post-legislative scrutiny of particular Acts rather than a new sessional committee. Whilst not supporting the creation of a Legislative Standards Committee, he confirmed that specific recommendations in the Goodlad report would be taken forward by the Procedure and Liaison Committees; with their reports being considered by the House in due course.
15.In March 2012, this Committee considered the committee proposals of the Goodlad report by reviewing existing committee activity in the light of its recommendations. The 2012 report recommended the creation of new committees contingent on the reduction of existing committee activity, as well as an additional unit of committee activity. The report made the following recommendations:
(a)A reduction in the number of sub-committees of the European Union Committee from seven to six.
(b)The Science and Technology Committee should be allocated the resources of a single select committee, retaining the powers to appoint a sub-committee and to co-opt additional members for particular inquiries, but those powers should not be exercised in such a way as to increase the workload of the committee beyond that of a single unit.
(c)The Communications Committee should be re-appointed as an ad hoc committee in the next session, with a further review to take place at the end of the 2012–13 session.
(d)The appointment of three ad hoc committees; two to consider matters of public policy and another to conduct post-legislative scrutiny; the latter for the first time.
(e)The appointment of an ad hoc post-legislative scrutiny committee to examine the Children and Adoption Act 2006 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002, to report in a timely manner, so as to allow for evaluation of the committee’s work by the Liaison Committee before the end of the 2012–13 session. If time allowed, then the resources of this committee could be deployed on another Act during the same session.
(f)An invitation for the Procedure Committee to consider the reduction of the rotation rule relating to length of service on such committees from four to three years, with a more regular turnover of membership providing a wider range of Peers with the opportunity to participate in the committee functions of the House.
16.The House debated the report and approved its recommendations on 26 March 2012. The Goodlad report’s proposal for a Legislative Standards Committee was not pursued any further by the House, but its establishment as a joint committee was later endorsed by the then Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee in the Commons. The Goodlad report’s recommendation concerning the election of select committee chairs was not considered by the Procedure Committee.
17.The expansion of committees in 2012 was considered a success, and during the following session the number of ad hoc committees was expanded further, so that the House typically now appoints four such committees each year, including one devoted to post-legislative scrutiny. These committees have addressed a wide range of highly topical issues, including those which cut across government departments and therefore may be difficult for an elected House to consider, such as HIV/AIDS policy in the United Kingdom, and sexual violence in conflict. Others have been more technical, such as the Licensing Act 2003 Committee, which undertook post-legislative scrutiny of licensing legislation.
18.In May 2016 a further new sessional committee was appointed - the International Relations Committee. In its report recommending this new committee to the House, the Liaison Committee announced the present review.
178 The House of Lords and the House of Commons have each agreed a “Scrutiny Reserve Resolution”, according to which the Government has given an undertaking that ministers will not agree to draft EU policies or laws that have been deposited in Parliament until the committees of both Houses have completed their scrutiny work. The most recent Scrutiny Reserve Resolution was passed by the House of Lords on 10 March 2010.
179 House Committee, (1st Report, Session 2016–17, HL Paper 19)
180 House of Lords Committee on the Committee Work of the House (Volume 1: Report, Session 1991–92, HL Paper 35) para 12, page 9
181 Ibid., para 133
182 R Blackburn, A Kennon and M Wheeler-Booth (eds), Griffith & Ryle on Parliament: Functions, Practice and Procedures, 2003, p 702
183 Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, A House for the Future, Cm 4534, January 2000: [accessed 23 April 2019]
185 Liaison Committee, (1st Report, Session 2010–11, HL Paper 6)
187 Leader’s Group on Working Practices, (Session 2010–12 HL Paper 136)
188 A report by the Constitution Committee, (14th Report, Session 2003–04, HL Paper 173) —recommended that most Acts, other than Finance Acts, should be subject to some form of post-legislative scrutiny by a select committee. The Government asked the Law Commission to develop this concept further and after a consultation process, it published a in October 2006 that recommended the establishment of a joint committee on post-legislative scrutiny. The to this report, published in March 2008, did not endorse the creation of such a committee. However, since that date, government departments now regularly produce post-legislative scrutiny memorandums on Acts, after three to five years have elapsed since their enactment, which cover specific elements of the Act’s implementation and operation. These are submitted to the relevant Commons departmental select committee for consideration. This approach broadly reflects other recommendations in the Constitution Committee’s report.
189 Leader’s Group on Working Practices, (Session 2010–12, HL Paper 136)
191 HL Deb, 27 June 2011,
192 Liaison Committee, (3rd Report, Session 2010–12, HL Paper 279)
193 This suggestion was not taken forward.
194 HL Deb, 26 March 2012,
195 Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, (First Report, Session 2013–14, HC 85)
196 Select Committee on HIV and AIDS in the United Kingdom, (Report of Session 2010–12, HL Paper 188)
197 Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, (Report of Session 2015–16, HL Paper 123)
198 Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003, (Report of Session 2016–17, HL Paper 146)