Public bill committees

In November 2006, the House of Commons approved changes recommended by the Modernisation Committee. ‘Standing’ committees (a misleading name because they were not permanent) were renamed ‘public bill committees’. New members, and a new chair or chairs, are appointed to a public bill committee specifically for each bill; and, when the committee has reported the bill back to the House, it is dissolved. At the same time, the Modernisation Committee also proposed that public bill committees should be empowered to receive oral and written evidence, in addition to line-by-line consideration, thereby taking on many of the features of what were called ‘special standing committees’ (which had been used very rarely since their invention in 1981, and were abolished as part of the reforms). For the 26 bills considered in public bill committee in the 2013-14 session, there were 195 consideration sittings, 34 oral evidence sessions and 383 written submissions. Government bills starting in the Lords do not have an oral evidence-taking stage, although this is purely government practice rather than a procedural restriction.

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