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16 October 2014

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Committees

Committees play a central role in the workings of the Scottish Parliament. The committees have various powers to enable them to encourage participation, access, power and accountability. In the Parliamentary News Release, 034/2003, Presiding Officer George Reid described the committees as being 'the power house of the Parliament.'

There are eight Mandatory Committees that are stated within the Standing Orders (the rules about the way the business of Parliament is organised). The first is the Public Petitions Committee (PPC). This committee is designed to allow the public access to the Parliament. Anybody, whether as an individual or as a group can petition for the Parliament to take a position on a matter of public interest, change existing legislation or introduce new legislation. The PPC is often used by pressure groups to have their concerns brought to the Parliament's attention. A petition has to be concerned with a devolved matter within the Scottish Parliament's remit. As long as this is the case, the PPC must consider the petition.

Having listened to the petition, the PPC can take a variety of actions:
  • consider and agree to take no further action.
  • consider and forward to another committee of the Parliament or to another body or person within the Parliament such as the Presiding Officer, the Parliamentary Bureau or the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body for its consideration.
  • consider and forward to another body or organisation outside Parliament for consideration and response.
  • consider and recommend to the Parliamentary Bureau that the petition be debated at a meeting of the Parliament.
  • invite the petitioner(s) to appear as expert witnesses.
  • invite the petitioner(s) to provide additional information to assist it in reaching a decision on the action to be taken in relation to the petition; or take any other action it considers appropriate.
The other 7 mandatory committees are:
Audit Committee Considers and reports on any accounts laid before Parliament and any other document laid before Parliament concerning financial control, accounting and auditing relating to public expenditure.
Equal Opportunities Considers and reports on matters relating to equal opportunities and upon the observance of equal opportunities within the Parliament.
European and External Affairs Considers and reports on proposals for European Communities legislation; the implementation of European Communities legislation; any European Communities or European Union issue; the development and implementation of the Scottish Administration's links with countries and territories outside Scotland, the European Communities (and their institutions) and other international organisations; and co-ordination of the international activities of the Scottish Administration
Finance Considers and reports on any report laid before Parliament by a member of the Scottish Executive or a committee containing proposals for public expenditure. Considers and reports on Budget Bills.
Procedures Considers the practice and procedures of the Parliament in relation to its public business.
Standards Considers and reports on whether a member's conduct is in accordance with Standing Orders or a Code of Conduct, and to adopt, amend and apply a Code of Conduct for members. The committee may by a motion recommend that a member's rights and privileges be withdrawn for a period as specified in the motion.
Subordinate Legislation Considers and reports on subordinate legislation laid before Parliament and other questions relating to subordinate legislation.
A number of subject committees are also formed to deal with specific areas within the parliamentary process. For the parliamentary session 2003 - 2007, these will be:
Education Committee Considers and reports on matters relating to school and pre-school education and social work and such other matters relating to young people as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Young People.
Communities Committee Considers and reports on matters relating to school and pre-school education and social work and such other matters relating to young people as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Young People.
Health Considers and reports on matters relating to health policy and the National Health Service in Scotland and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Health and Community Care.
There are two Justice committees. The first one had become overloaded with complex legislation and another was formed to scrutinise the action of Departments and the Executive:
Justice 1 Considers and reports on matters relating to the administration of civil and criminal justice, the reform of the civil and criminal law and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, and the functions of the Lord Advocate other than as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigations of deaths in Scotland.
Justice 2 Considers and reports on matters relating to the administration of civil and criminal justice, the reform of the civil and criminal law and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, and the functions of the Lord Advocate other than as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigations of deaths in Scotland.
Local Government and Transport Considers and reports on matters relating to local government (including local government finance), cities and community planning and such other matters (excluding finance other than local government finance) which fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and Public Services; and matters relating to transport which fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Transport.
Environment and Rural Development Considers and reports on matters relating to rural development, environment and natural heritage, agriculture and fisheries and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Environment and Rural Development.
Enterprise and Culture Considers and reports on matters relating to the Scottish economy, business and industry, energy, training, further and higher education, lifelong learning and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning; and matters relating to tourism, culture and sport and such other matters as fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport.


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