House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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Reports to the House

Committees make their views and recommendations known to the House by way of reports. There are several types of reports that committees may present, including: reports dealing with routine matters affecting a committee’s operation (such as requesting the extension of a deadline or permission to travel, or drawing the House’s attention to irregularities in their proceedings); reports on bills, Estimates or Order-in-Council nominees or appointees; and reports following the completion of an inquiry into some matter referred by the House, or related to the mandate, management or operation of a committee’s designated ministry or area of responsibility. This includes not only subject-matter studies but also such topics as the Public Accounts of Canada, delegated legislation and specific procedural issues, such as questions of privilege, referred by the House.

Power to Report

The power to report their findings to the House is essential to the role of committees. The Standing Orders provide standing committees with the power to report from time to time, enabling them to report to the House as often as they see fit. [543]  A similar provision is usually included in the order of reference which establishes a special committee. [544]  Legislative committees are only empowered to report the bill or bills referred to them with or without amendment. [545] 

Committees are entitled to report to the House only with respect to matters within their mandate. When reporting to the House, committees must indicate the authority under which the study was done (i.e., the Standing Order or the order of reference). If the committee’s report has exceeded or has been outside its order of reference, the Speaker has judged such a report, or the offending section, to be out of order. [546] 

Although committees have conducted hearings for the sole purpose of receiving a briefing on a certain topic, [547]  most committee studies result in reports to the House. A committee may present one or several reports related to a particular study. In addition to any administrative reports dealing with matters such as requests for additional powers or an extension of the final reporting deadline, [548]  the committee may present interim reports or a series of reports dealing with various aspects of the subject matter before it. [549] 

Sub-committees present their reports to the main committee. [550]  The main committee may simply adopt the sub-committee report as its own or amend it before doing so. [551]  The report is then presented to the House as a report from the main committee. [552] 

A committee may receive an order of reference which includes a reporting deadline. Both Main and Supplementary Estimates, as well as private Member’s bills are deemed reported back to the House if the committee does not present its report within the time period set out in the Standing Orders. [553]  While no time period is set out with respect to private bills, the Standing Orders require that they be reported to the House in every case. [554]  In some cases, statutory reviews also carry reporting deadlines. [555]  While a committee ordinarily reports on any matter referred to it by the House, unless the House sets out a specific deadline, the committee may report when it sees fit. [556] 

Once committee members have agreed on the contents of the report, it is formally adopted by motion. The committee then specifies clearly and explicitly, by way of a motion, the format of the report. [557]  In addition, the committee adopts another motion instructing the Chair to report it to the House. [558]  As final changes to the report may have been made at the meeting prior to its adoption, it is also usual to adopt a motion giving editorial power to the Chair, to ensure that the final text of the report in both official languages is in conformity with the decisions taken by the committee, provided that no change be made to the substance of the report. [559]  The committee may also adopt a motion, requesting that the government provide a response to the committee’s report. [560]  Finally, the committee may decide to hold a press conference, following the presentation of the report, to publicize the results of their study. [561] 

Contents and Format

Reports to the House can take a variety of formats depending on the subject matter under consideration and the conclusions which the committee has reached. Besides preparing printed versions of their reports, committees have presented reports in Braille, on audiocassette and computer diskette, and in large-print formats. [562]  All substantive reports are posted in electronic format at each committee’s website. All reports cite the authority under which the study was conducted (either the order of reference from the House or the appropriate Standing Order), and are signed by the Chair of the committee. The Minutes of Proceedings relevant to the report are tabled when the report is presented to the House.

Reports on certain subjects, such as the Estimates and Order-in-Council appointments, are restricted in the types of recommendations which can be proposed. In the case of the Estimates, the committee reports the Estimates as adopted, reduced or negatived. Reports on Order-in-Council appointments indicate that the committee has reviewed the appointment and states the committee’s view of the qualifications and competence of the appointee. In consequence of this limited scope, reports on these subjects follow brief, established formats. In the case of legislation, the bill itself is reported back to the House, with or without amendments. When a bill is referred to committee, the actual House copy of the bill is delivered to the clerk of the committee. If the committee carries the bill without amendment, it is this copy which is returned to the House, suitably endorsed, as the committee’s report. Where the committee has ordered a reprint of the bill, incorporating amendments made by the committee, a copy of the reprint is tabled together with the original House copy of the bill. The reprinted copy of the bill clearly indicates the changes which the committee has made to the bill.

Committees also present a variety of procedural or administrative reports from time to time, seeking additional powers not provided in their permanent or special orders of reference. Where a possible breach of privilege related to a committee’s work has occurred, the committee is not empowered to deal with the matter itself, but may report the incident to the House. [563] 

Substantive Reports

Substantive reports, especially lengthy ones, are often prepared as printed documents with special covers. While committees have considerable latitude in the format of such reports, there are a number of elements which are normally included. The text of the report follows the citation of the authority under which the study was carried out. It outlines the issue or issues dealt with and often includes reference to appropriate portions of the submissions the committee received, both oral and written. For large studies, the text is usually divided into separate chapters, dealing with the various aspects of the subject. Following the text, the committee’s recommendations on the subject are listed. Appendices are usually included, listing the witnesses heard and the briefs submitted in the course of the study. If the committee has chosen to request a government response to the report, the request is inserted before the Chair’s signature at the end of the report. Any dissenting or supplementary opinions which the committee has agreed to attach appear after the Chair’s signature. The relevant minutes of proceedings, relating to the committee’s adoption of the report, conclude the document. [564] 

Supplementary and Dissenting Opinions

A committee report reflects the opinion of the committee and not that of the individual members. Members of the committee who disagree with the decision of the majority may not present a separate report. There is no provision in the Standing Orders or the practices of the House for presenting minority reports. [565]  Where one or several members of a standing committee are in disagreement with the committee’s report or wish to make supplementary comments, the committee may decide to append such opinions to the report, [566]  after the signature of the Chair. [567]  Dissenting or supplementary opinions may be presented by any member of a committee. [568]  Although committees have the power to append these opinions to their reports, they are not obliged to do so. [569]  In agreeing to append a dissenting or supplementary opinion, the committee will often specify the maximum length of the text, the deadline for submission to the clerk and whether it is to be submitted in one or both official languages. [570] 

Presentation in the House

Committee reports are presented during the Daily Routine of Business, when the Speaker calls, “Presenting Reports from Committees”. [571]  Reports are ordinarily presented by the Chair, on instruction from the committee. [572]  In the Chair’s absence, a report may be presented by another member of the committee. The Member presenting a report may offer a brief explanation of its subject matter. [573]  Where a report has supplementary or dissenting opinions appended to it, a committee member from the Official Opposition may offer a succinct explanation. [574]  The Standing Orders do not permit any other Member to comment on the report at this time. Where no dissenting or supplementary opinion has been appended, no other Member is permitted to comment on the report when it is presented. On occasion, the House has granted consent to Members from other parties to make a brief statement either concerning a dissenting opinion or on the report itself. [575] 

The House sometimes makes provision for the presentation of committee reports during adjournment periods, by having them filed with the Clerk of the House. This has been done both for individual reports and as a general provision for any committee reports completed during the adjournment period. [576] 

Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public. The majority of committee reports are discussed and adopted at in camera meetings. Even when a report is adopted in public session, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented in the House. In addition, where a committee report has been considered and approved during in camera committee meetings, any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation, either by Members or non-Members, may be judged a breach of privilege. Speakers have ruled that questions of privilege concerning leaked reports will not be considered unless a specific charge is made against an individual, organization or group, and that the charge must be levelled not only against those outside the House who have made in camera material public, but must also identify the source of the leak within the House itself. [577] 

It is not in order for Members to allude to committee proceedings or evidence in the House until the committee has presented its report to the House. This restriction applies both to references made by Members in debate and during Oral Question Period. [578]  If there is an irregularity in the committee’s proceedings, the House can only be seized of it once it is reported to the House. [579] 


Concurrence in a committee report may be moved by any Member of the House, after 48 hours’ notice, during Routine Proceedings. The concurrence motion is moved under the heading “Motions” [580]  and is debatable. [581] 

A motion to concur in a report on the Estimates can only be debated on an allotted day under the Business of Supply. [582]  The Standing Orders also provide a special procedure for concurrence in reports concerning the revocation of a regulation, contained in a report from the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. [583] Where a bill has been reported back from committee, it is subject to the rules and practices governing the legislative process, rather than those relating to committee reports in general. [584]

The House frequently gives its consent to waive the 48 hours’ notice required by the Standing Orders [585]  in order to concur in a report concerning certain administrative matters, such as changes to the membership of committees. Reports concerning the selection of votable items of Private Members’ Business and the membership of legislative committees are deemed adopted when presented in the House. [586] 

Recommendations in committee reports are drafted in the form of motions so that, if the reports are concurred in, the recommendations become clear orders or resolutions of the House. [587]  In framing their recommendations, committees cannot exceed the authority of the House. Most importantly, with respect to the expenditure of funds or the introduction of legislation, committees may recommend only that the government “consider the advisability” of such measures. [588] 

When a motion to concur in a report is before the House, it is the concurrence in the report as a whole which the House is considering. No amendment may be presented to the text of the report. [589]  A motion may be presented to recommit the report to the committee so that the report may be re-examined. [590] 

Government Response

When a report is presented in the House, a standing or special committee may request that the government table a comprehensive response to it within 150 days. [591]  The committee may request a response either to the whole report or to one or more parts. [592]  The request for a partial response does not prevent the government from responding to the entire report. Speakers have consistently refused to define “comprehensive” in this context, maintaining that the nature of the response must be left to the discretion of the government. [593]  When the House is sitting, the response may be tabled by a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary during Routine Proceedings under “Tabling of Documents” or filed with the Clerk. [594]  When the House is adjourned, the response may be filed with the Clerk, or the Minister may wait until the House resumes sitting to table it. [595]  The Speaker has ruled that a request for a government response survives a prorogation in the same manner as orders for the production of papers. [596]  The Standing Orders do not provide for any sanction should the government fail to comply with the requirement to present a response. [597] 

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