President Woodrow Wilson said that ‘Congress at work is Congress in committee’, and the idea is becoming increasingly true in the UK that ‘Parliament at work is Parliament in committee’. While the general public rarely look beyond votes on major bills or prime minister’s question time, this ignores the vast majority of the day-to-day work of Parliament.
Every bill goes through five stages, but what is rarely recognised is the extent of the detailed work done at the committee stage. While the government remains in control and will rarely, if ever, concede a major point, the detail is often strongly influenced by the work of the committee. Bill committees consist of around 12 MPs, representing at least three parties but with a government majority, along with the chairperson (Box 1).
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