House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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General Provisions

Committees cannot take up the responsibilities assigned to them until their membership has been named. At the commencement of the first session of a Parliament, [168]  a motion is typically moved by the Government House Leader [169]  to appoint the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to act as a striking committee, [170]  that is, to prepare a list of the members to serve on the standing committees of the House (or, in the case of standing joint committees, the House members on those committees). The Committee is also responsible for naming members to legislative committees and for dealing with changes to the membership of standing committees. It may also be called upon to report a proposed membership for a special committee. The membership of the Standing Committee on Procedural and House Affairs continues from session to session throughout the life of a Parliament. The Committee has chosen to delegate to the whips of the recognized parties the authority to strike the membership of committees. [171] 

Committee membership generally reflects the proportions of the various recognized parties in the House. Where the governing party has a majority in the House, it will also have a majority on every House committee. Independent members have not ordinarily been appointed to committees. [172] 

The membership of committees must be composed of Members of the House of Commons. They may serve on more than one committee. While no rule prevents any Member from being named to a committee, current practice normally excludes certain Members who have other parliamentary functions: the Speaker [173]  and other Chair occupants, [174]  Ministers [175]  (including the Prime Minister [176] ) and the leaders of recognized parties. Parliamentary Secretaries are usually named to the standing committees having a mandate in their area of responsibility. [177]  Lists of the members of standing, legislative and special committees, of sub-committees and of the Liaison Committee are appended weekly to the Debates and are available on the Parliamentary Website. [178] 

Only members of a committee (or officially designated substitutes) may move motions, vote and be counted as part of the quorum. Other members of the House may attend committee meetings, question witnesses and participate in the committee’s public proceedings, unless the House or the committee orders otherwise. They may not, however, move motions, vote or be part of a quorum. [179]  The attendance of other Members at in camera meetings is a matter for the committee to decide; however, they usually withdraw when the committee deliberates on a report to the House.

Standing Committees

The Standing Orders provide for standing committees to be composed of 16 to 18 members. [180]  Within 10 sitting days of its appointment at the beginning of a Parliament, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is required to report to the House the list of standing committee members. [181]  The list of committee members must be revised annually within the first 10 sitting days following the summer adjournment as provided for in the parliamentary calendar, and again at the beginning of each new session, provided that only one such report is presented by the Committee between the third Monday in September and December 31. [182] 

The membership of standing committees comes into effect when the Procedure and House Affairs Committee’s report is concurred in by the House. [183]  Until such a report is concurred in, the committee membership previously approved by the House, if any, remains in force. [184] 

Legislative Committees

The Procedure and House Affairs Committee is also responsible for naming members to legislative committees, which are struck on an ad hoc basis. Within five sitting days of the commencement of debate on a motion to establish a legislative committee or to refer a bill to one, the Procedure and House Affairs Committee must meet to establish a membership list of not more than 15 members to serve as the legislative committee. [185]  The membership list does not include the Chair of the committee, who is named separately by the Speaker from the Panel of Chairmen. [186]  The report, which must be presented in the House no later than the following Thursday, [187]  is deemed adopted upon presentation.

Special Committees

The Standing Orders provide that special committees shall have no more than 15 members. [188]  The membership of special committees may be established in several ways: the order of reference establishing such a committee may include its members; [189]  the membership may be named separately by order of the House; [190]  or the order of reference establishing the special committee may contain an instruction to a striking committee to prepare and bring in a list of names of members. [191]  The report by a striking committee must be concurred in by the House.

Joint Committees

Joint committees, both standing and special, have memberships proportional to the relative size of both Houses. [192]  House membership on joint committees is established following the procedure for the corresponding type of House committee (i.e., standing or special). House membership on standing joint committees is determined by the concurrence in a report from the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. [193]  House membership on special joint committees may be included in the order of reference which establishes the committee; [194]  or it may be named later either by motion of the House [195]  or by concurrence in a report from the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. [196]  In every case, the House must inform the Senate of the members who will represent it by way of a message. This may be accomplished either by communicating the original order of reference (if it contains the membership list) [197]  or by a separate message. [198] 


The membership of a sub-committee is usually determined by the main committee. Members of sub-committees may be named directly as part of the order of reference passed by the main committee [199]  or by the Chair of the main committee following consultations with the party whips. [200]  They can be selected either from the regular members of the committee or from the list of associate members established by the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. [201]  The House has, on occasion, named the members of a sub-committee directly. [202]  The main committee may alter the composition of a sub-committee it has named, but not that of one whose membership was named by the House. [203] 

Where committees have agreed to establish sub-committees on agenda and procedure (steering committees), their memberships have varied considerably to suit the needs of individual committees. This sub-committee typically consists of the Chair of the committee, the Vice-Chairs, representatives of each of the other recognized parties and, on committees having a departmental responsibility, the Parliamentary Secretary. [204] 

The membership of a sub-committee need not necessarily reflect the proportions of party membership either on the main committee or in the House itself. For ex-ample, the membership of the Sub-committee on Private Member’s Business has consisted of a Chair from the government party and a single representative from each recognized party. [205] 

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