A select committee in Portcullis House

In British politics, parliamentary select committees can be appointed from the House of Commons, like the Foreign Affairs Select Committee; from the House of Lords, like the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; or as a joint committee of Parliament drawn from both, such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Committees may exist as "sessional" committees – i.e. be near-permanent – or as "ad-hoc" committees with a specific deadline by which to complete their work, after which they cease to exist, such as the Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change.[1]

The Commons select committees are generally responsible for overseeing the work of government departments and agencies, whereas those of the Lords look at general issues, such as the constitution, considered by the Constitution Committee, or the economy, considered by the Economic Affairs Committee.

The Intelligence and Security Committee is not a select committee, though it contains members from both houses and has a chair elected by the House of Commons. It is a unique committee of parliamentarians nominated by the Prime Minister and reporting to them, not Parliament.[2]

The Backbench Business Committee was created in 2010 as a non-ministerial committee to cover non-government business, following recommendations from the Reform the House of Commons report under the Wright Committee.[3][2]

Other changes occurring as a result of recommendations by the Wright Committee included limiting the number of members per committee to 11, requiring those members and chairs to be appointed to their positions by the House, and a reduction in the number of committees.[4][2]


Specialised committees of investigation had existed within Parliament since the Tudor period and the system of committees was further developed during the mid-1960s by Richard Crossman as Leader of the House of Commons.

In the United Kingdom, the modern system of departmental select committees came into being in 1979, following the recommendations of a Procedure Select Committee, set up in 1976, which reported in 1978. It recommended the appointment of a series of select committees covering all the main departments of state, with wide terms of reference, and with power to appoint specialist advisers as the committees deemed appropriate. It also suggested that committee members should be selected independently of the party whips, as chosen by the Select Committee of Selection. The fourteen new committees began working effectively in 1980 after the 1979 general election.[5]

Following general elections, chairs and members of select committees have to be reappointed.[6]

In the House of Commons

Main article: Parliamentary committees of the United Kingdom

Departmental select committees

Committee Chair Responsibility
Name Since
Business and Trade Select Committee Liam Byrne 2023 Department for Business and Trade and related bodies
Culture, Media and Sport Committee Caroline Dinenage 2023 Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Defence Select Committee Jeremy Quin 2024 Ministry of Defence
Education Select Committee Robin Walker 2022 Department for Education and related bodies
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Robert Goodwill 2022 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and associated bodies
Foreign Affairs Select Committee Alicia Kearns 2022 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and associated bodies
Health and Social Care Select Committee Steve Brine 2022 Department of Health and Social Care and related bodies
Home Affairs Select Committee Diana Johnson 2021 Home Office and related bodies
International Development Select Committee Sarah Champion 2020 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and associated bodies
Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee Angus MacNeil 2023 Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and related bodies
Justice Select Committee Bob Neill 2015 Ministry of Justice, related agencies including the Crown Prosecution Service, and other agencies that report to the Lord Chancellor
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee Clive Betts 2010 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Robert Buckland 2019 The work of the devolved government and the Northern Ireland Office
Science, Innovation and Technology Committee Greg Clark 2020 Government Office for Science, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and related bodies
Scottish Affairs Committee Pete Wishart 2015 The work of the devolved government and the Scotland Office
Transport Select Committee Iain Stewart 2022 Department for Transport
Treasury Select Committee Harriett Baldwin 2022 Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs
Welsh Affairs Select Committee Stephen Crabb 2020 The Wales Office and UK Government policies which impact Wales
Work and Pensions Select Committee Stephen Timms 2020 Department for Work and Pensions

Topical select committees

Committee Chair Responsibility
Name Since
Environmental Audit Select Committee Philip Dunne 2020 Examines the contribution of government policies to environmental protection and sustainable development
European Scrutiny Committee Bill Cash 2010 Examines key EU documents, as well as deciding which documents should be debated on the floor of the Commons
Liaison Committee Bernard Jenkin 2020 Examines the work of select committees in general, as well as hearing annual evidence from the Prime Minister
Public Accounts Select Committee Meg Hillier 2015 Examines government and parliamentary expenditure to ensure honesty and fairness
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee William Wragg 2020 Examines the work and administration of the Civil Service, as well as reports from the Parliamentary Ombudsman
Arms Export Controls Committee Mark Garnier 2020 Composed of members of the Business, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development committees, examines exports of arms from the UK
Regulatory Reform Committee Stephen McPartland 2017 Examines draft legislative reform orders as proposed under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, as well as regulation in general
Select Committee on Statutory Instruments Jessica Morden 2017 Examines all statutory instruments laid before the Commons
Women and Equalities Committee Caroline Nokes 2020 Examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the Government Equalities Office
Petitions Cat Smith 2023 Oversees petitions submitted to Parliament

Internal select committees

Committee Chair Responsibility
Name Since
Administration Committee Paul Beresford 2017 Examines the services offered to members of the Commons, as well as services offered to the public
Backbench Business Committee Ian Mearns 2015 Determines business to be debated at certain times set aside for backbenchers
Finance Committee Nick Brown 2021 Examines the budget and expenditure of the House of Commons, including the administration budget
Committee on Standards Chris Bryant 2020 Oversees Parliamentary standards and members' interests and conduct
Committee of Privileges Considers specific matters relating to privileges referred to it by the House
Procedure Committee Karen Bradley 2020 Examines the practice and procedures of the Commons in dealing with public business
Committee of Selection Bill Wiggin 2017 Recommends the appointment of members to parliamentary committees


The post-1979 system is made up of three main types of committee. Departmental committees shadow each of the main government departments – for example the Education Select Committee shadows the Department for Education. A number of committees work on general themes which are not the responsibility of any single department – for example, the Science and Technology Select Committee, and Women and Equalities Select Committee. Another group of committees deal with the internal affairs of the House (for example, the Procedure Select Committee and Standards and Privileges Select Committee).

Rarely, there are also select committees of the Commons (and sometimes joint standing committees) that are tasked with the detailed analysis of individual bills. Most bills are referred, since the 2006–07 session, to public bill committees, and before that, there were standing committees.[7]

The chairs of (the majority of) select committees have been elected by the house as a whole since June 2010: before that the members were appointed by their parties and chairs voted on solely by those members.[8][9]

The chairs of committees are allocated to political parties on the basis of their numerical strength in the House of Commons. Negotiations between party managers determine which party will hold which committee chair. By convention, the Public Accounts Committee is chaired by a member of the main opposition party, while the Treasury Select Committee is chaired by a member of the governing party. The remaining places on the committee are allocated in proportion to the numerical strength of the parties in the House of Commons. These positions are filled by votes conducted within party caucuses.[7] This means that positions on select committees are only ever contested among members of the same party. The standard number of members on a departmental committee is 11, although some committees such as Public Accounts have a larger membership.

In July 2005, the Administration Select Committee was instituted, replacing the five 'domestic' committees which had been responsible for the consideration of services provided for the House in the Palace of Westminster from 1991 to 2005. It deals with issues as diverse as catering services, the House of Commons Library, digital services provision, and visitor services.[10]

The powers of Select Committees in the Commons are governed by the Standing Orders. The powers of departmental select committees are set out in standing order 152 as follows:

"Select committees appointed under this power shall have power-

(a) to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from time to time;

(b) to appoint specialist advisers either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity within the committee's order of reference; and

(c) to report from time to time the minutes of evidence taken before subcommittees, and to lay upon the Table of the House the minutes of the proceedings of subcommittees;

and the subcommittees appointed under this order shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, to report from time to time the minutes of their proceedings, and shall have a quorum of three"[11]

In the House of Lords

The House of Lords has a set of five major select committees:

These committees run inquiries into topics within their remit, issuing reports from time to time. The European Union Committee also scrutinises EU legislation and other EU proposals, as well as conducting inquiries.


Some English local authorities also have a select committee system, as part of their Overview and Scrutiny arrangements.

Rules regarding their work

The Osmotherly Rules set out guidance on how civil servants should respond to parliamentary select committees.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change - UK Parliament. Parliament.uk. Retrieved on 12 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b c https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmrefhoc/1117/1117.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ "Select Committees". UK Parliament. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Reform of the House of Commons Committee". UK Parliament. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  5. ^ Jones et al. (2001) Politics UK 4th Edition, pp. 359–363
  6. ^ Kelly, Richard (3 July 2024). "What happens in the Commons after the general election?". UK parliament.
  7. ^ a b Norton, Philip (2013). Parliament in British Politics. Basingstoke: PalgraveMacmillan.
  8. ^ Results of elections for select committee chairs announced - News from Parliament - UK Parliament. Parliament.uk (10 June 2010). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  9. ^ House of Commons - Rebuilding the House - House of Commons Reform Committee. Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved on 12 August 2013.
  10. ^ Role - Administration Committee - UK Parliament. Parliament.uk.
  11. ^ "Standing Orders of the House of Commons - Public Business". Retrieved 4 February 2020. This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. Crown copyright.
  12. ^ Gay, Oonagh (4 August 2005). "The Osmotherly Rules (Standard Note: SN/PC/2671)" (PDF). Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009.