While many people are familiar with parliamentary debates in the House of Commons chamber, it is less well known that MPs often work behind the scenes to help turn bills into law. Part of this process involves MPs serving on public bill committees and, over the past couple of weeks, I have recently been sitting on the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill Committee.
This particular legislation is designed to ensure the sustainability of the Northern Ireland Institutions, the transparency and accountability of the Executive and petitions of concern. You can read more here: Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill.
A public bill committee examines the details of draft legislation after the bill’s second reading in the House of Commons. There are at least 16 MPs on a Committee, and the government always has a majority.
Each committee is assigned a chairman, and debates bills like in the Commons chamber. However, public bill committees can also take written and oral evidence from relevant people outside of Parliament, helping MPs make more informed decisions. For example, on the Northern Ireland Committee, we heard from local politicians in Northern Ireland, as well as academics and former civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office.
Though public bill committees are not quite as eye-catching as the famous green benches of the Commons, they are important components of the legislative framework and help MPs produce better legislation.
For more information about Committees: Committee stage (Commons).