Bill Committees are used in the House of Commons to consider proposed legislation in detail. Bill Committees can have anywhere between 16 and 50 members and the makeup of the committee mirrors the political parties’ strengths in the House of Commons, so there is always a government majority. A new committee is appointed for every Bill that goes through Parliament and their scrutiny can take anything from a few minutes to a few months, depending on the complexity of the Bill.
Each Bill is assigned a chairman and the members then debate the Bill in the same way as they would do in the House of Commons. The Committees also have the power to take written and oral evidence from officials and experts from outside Parliament, giving them more information on which to base their decisions. Bill Committees examine each Bill line by line and then reports its conclusions and amendments to the Commons where the Bill then gets debated again, thereby giving more time for any objections to be registered or improvements to be made.
During my time as an MP I have been on a number of Bill Committees. These include:
- Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee (28/04/11-17/05/11)
- Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill Committee (21/06/11-05/07/11)
- Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill Committee (12/07/11-13/10/11)
- Children and Families Bill Committee
- Energy Bill Committee
- Mobile Homes Bill Committee
- House of Lords Reform (No 2) Bill Committee
This has provided me with an opportunity to discuss these important Bills in detail, listen to issues relating to specific clauses, and influence the decisions that are made about any amendments at this stage of the legislative process. The Children and Families Bill, debated in Commons Committee in Spring 2013, saw me table dozens of amendments that were all the subject of debate. The Bill received a great degree of scrutiny as a consequence.