House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
Previous PageNext Page

Governing Provisions

Committees, as creations of the House of Commons, only possess the authority, structure and mandates that have been delegated to them by the House. These are found in the standing and special orders which the House has adopted concerning committees. The House has specified that, in relationship to standing, special or legislative committees, “the Standing Orders shall apply so far as may be applicable, except the Standing Orders as to the election of a Speaker, seconding of motions, limiting the number of times of speaking and the length of speeches.” [46] 

With these exceptions, committees are bound to follow the procedures set out in the Standing Orders [47]  as well as any specific sessional or special orders that the House has issued to them. Committees are otherwise left free to organize their work. In this sense, committees are said to be “masters of their own proceedings”. [48] 

Effect of Prorogation on Committees

Committee mandates and powers may derive from standing or special orders, but they are in effect only during a session. When Parliament is prorogued, Members are released from their responsibility to attend the House (and its committees), all orders of reference lapse, and committees effectively cease to exist. The only aspect of a committee’s work which survives prorogation is a request for a government response to a committee report. [49] 

The House may choose to reconstitute a special committee or re-adopt a special order of reference to a standing committee at the beginning of the next session so that the work may be completed. To do this, the House adopts an order of reference containing the same elements as those used originally, along with a provision that evidence adduced in the previous session be referred to the reconstituted committee. [50] 

Where bills have been reinstated in a new session, the House has on occasion referred the evidence adduced and the documents received in the previous session to the new legislative or standing committee to which it had referred the reinstated bills. [51] 

Top of documentPrevious PageNext Page