House of Commons Procedure and Practice

Second Edition, 2009

House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 6. The Physical and Administrative Setting - Committee Rooms


The House of Commons delegates much of its work to committees which are composed of Members (and in the case of joint committees, Members and Senators).[102] Aside from Committees of the Whole House which meet in the Chamber,[103] committees meet in rooms outside the Chamber, often while the House is sitting. Committee rooms are located principally in the Centre, East and West Blocks. They are outfitted with sound amplification systems as well as the necessary equipment to record the proceedings and to provide simultaneous interpretation in both official languages. Two rooms are set up for television broadcasting, with an adjoining control room and cameras operated by remote control.[104] When required, temporary broadcasting equipment may be installed in other committee rooms. Although certain rooms are designated and equipped as committee rooms, they are all multifunctional and are used for other purposes. Committees may meet anywhere in the Parliamentary Precinct provided the requirements for interpretation and recording are met.[105]

Typically a committee room is set up with several tables placed in a rectangular formation. The Chair sits at the centre of one end with the committee clerk and other committee advisors. The Members take seats on either side; as in the House, the government Members normally sit to the Chair’s right and the opposition Members to the left. Witnesses are seated at the end opposite the Chair. Tables are available for representatives of the press, usually behind the witnesses’ chairs, together with additional seating for individuals viewing the proceedings.

While a committee may tend to hold its meetings in a particular room, no such formal room assignments are made. In the years immediately following Confederation, committees were fewer and larger and much business was conducted in Committees of the Whole. Certain rooms were set aside for committee meetings. For example, the room known informally as the Railway Committee Room came to be so called because (although it was used by other committees) it was the home of the standing committee dealing with railways.[106] Committees book rooms as needed; priority of use may be established from time to time by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.[107]

[102] For further information, see Chapter 20, “Committees”.

[103] For further information, see Chapter 19, “Committees of the Whole House”.

[104] For further information on broadcasting arrangements for committee proceedings, see Chapter 24, “The Parliamentary Record”.

[105] For further information on the recording of committee proceedings, see Chapter 20, “Committees”. On May 29, 2003, a point of order was raised regarding a committee meeting held in camera in the Parliamentary Restaurant, which some Members contended did not meet the requirements for simultaneous interpretation and recording. On June 3, 2003, Deputy Speaker Kilger stated that since Members present at the meeting had not objected to the ad hoc arrangements made for interpretation, and since an in camera meeting did not require recording, the committee meeting had been properly conducted (Debates, May 29, 2003, pp. 6643-6; June 3, 2003, pp. 6773-5).

[106] The Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines existed from 1867 to 1965, when its name was changed. The Railway Committee Room opens off the Hall of Honour. It is one of the largest committee rooms, and it has been equipped to broadcast committee proceedings.

[107] Standing Order 115(4). The priority system is based on a report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs adopted by the House on September 19, 1994. See the Twenty‑Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 10, 1994, Issue No. 16, pp. 9-10; Journals, September 19, 1994, p. 682. See also the Nineteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (presented to the House and concurred in on May 16, 2001 (Journals, pp. 419, 421)), which recommended that, on an experimental basis, disputes between committees regarding the allocation of committee rooms with broadcasting capabilities be resolved by the House Leaders, or by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs if the House Leaders could not come to an agreement. These recommendations have been continually renewed since their adoption. See, for example, the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House and concurred in on April 27, 2006 (Journals, p. 99). See also Chapter 20, “Committees”.

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