One of the historic changes adopted by the House of Commons in 2007, involved replacing 'Standing Committees' for the committee stage of legislation - and replacing them with 'Public Bill Committees', which can taken evidence. A written question was answered recently.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Leader of the House what assessment she has made of the effect of public bill committees on the legislative process.
Helen Goodman: The changes in procedure relating to the committee stage of Bills taken off the Floor of the House, including the renaming of standing committees on Bills by the more descriptive title of ‘Public Bill Committees’, which were agreed by the House on 1 November 2006, have been generally welcomed.
Oral evidence taking in Public Bill Committees began in January 2007. Four Bills which began their passage in session 2006-07 took such evidence, and in the current session it will now be standard practice for all programmed Government Bills starting in the Commons to hold sessions of oral evidence. The ability of such committees to take oral evidence before proceeding to clause by clause scrutiny has brought benefits to the consideration of Bills. Good co-operation between the Government and other representatives on the committee, and the House authorities, can maximise the effectiveness of the process. The power for such committees to receive written evidence is increasingly made use of by a range of organisations and individuals. The initial view is that these processes have helped to improve the opportunities for those outside Parliament to engage with the legislative process.