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What is a Parliamentary Committee? PDF Print E-mail
At the first business Sitting of the House of Representatives after a general election a Committee of Selection is selected by the Speaker and given the authority to select Members of all Standing Committees of the House. Presently, each Standing Committee consists of six Members, four from the ruling party and two from the Opposition party. The composition is determined by the proportion of Members represented in each political party in the House.

The Standing Committees of the House of Representatives, by nature, are creatures of the House. They undertake business on behalf of the House. The Standing Committees also have the authority to initiate their own work. They derived their powers from the House Standing Orders and they must report their findings back to the House.

The Committees consider matters that are within their terms of reference. Each Committee is afforded total independence in its deliberations and can do detailed examination on matters before it which is not possible in the Committee of the Whole House. In most cases it allows members of the public to have direct input in the process by inviting written submissions or attendance of meetings in person. A Committee may travel within Belize to hear the public's view on a particular matter that is referred to it.

In addition to what is mentioned above, Special Committees can be appointed by order of the House with specific terms of reference. A Special Committee ceases to exist after it has completed its mandate and presented its final report to the House.

The Membership of each Standing Committee usually excludes the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers who have particular interest in the work of a Committee. A Minister may choose to attend a particular meeting as an observer with the permission of the Committee and may participate in Committee debate, but does not have a right to vote.

House of Representatives Standing Order section 73 (4) states that every Member of a Standing Committee may appoint an alternative Member of the House who may attend the meetings of the Committee in the event of the inability of such Member to attend, and every alternate so appointed shall have the same power and authority (including but not limited to the right of vote) as enjoyed by the Member by whom he was so appointed.  Inability in this case means that a Member is either out of the country or is ill.

Each Standing Committee must elect a Chairman at the first business meeting.  In the temporary absence of the Chairman the Member next in rank in the order the names are listed shall act as Chairman but in the case of a permanent vacancy in the Chairmanship of any Committee, the Committee of Selection of the House shall recommend the appointment of a new Chairman to the House for its approval.  The Chairman is responsible for maintaining order and decorum during meetings, deciding questions of procedure, and generally ensuring that the Committee's work proceed smoothly in accordance with the Standing Orders.

The main responsibilities of a Chairman of any Standing Committee are to rule on all procedural matters, to call Committee meetings, subject to the authorization of the Committee, to sign Committee Reports and present them to the House. The contents of Committee's Reports are privileged, and therefore they are kept confidential until the Report is made public by presenting it to the House.

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