Much of the work of the House now takes place away from the chamber. The past thirty years have seen a significant growth in the number of select committees. The increase in the active membership of the House, with many of these members having expertise or experience in particular areas, has enabled the House to become much more specialised in its investigative work.
The extent of the committee work is evident in the Weekly Bulletin detailing the current inquiries, programme of meetings and the reports of the committees. It can be read at:
On the back page is a contact number and e-mail for anyone wishing to receive copies electronically.
The Bulletin is a mine of information for anyone interested in what the committees are doing and, indeed, for anyone with particular interests or expertise who may be considering submitting evidence to a committee. When I chaired the Constitution Committee of the Lords, one of the points I stressed was that we did not wish to confine our evidence-taking to the usual suspects. Committees want to hear from anyone with relevant information.
The Bulletin lists not only current inquiries but also recent reports and those reports that are to be debated in the House. When a committee publishes a report, it does so either for the information of the House or for debate. If it is for debate, then time is found to debate it. Among reports awaiting scheduling for debate are two from the Constitution Committee – one on relations between the executive, the judiciary and Parliament, and the other on pre-legislative scrutiny – and one from the Economic Affairs Committee on the economic impact of legislation. A report from the Science & Technology Committee on allergy is to be debated on 8 May.