Committee of the Whole
A Committee of the Whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly
Deliberative assembly
A deliberative assembly is an organization comprising members who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions. In a speech to the electorate at Bristol in 1774, Edmund Burke described the English Parliament as a "deliberative assembly," and the expression became the basic term for a body of...

 is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee. This is usually done for the purposes of discussion and debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...

 of the details of bills
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

 and other main motions
Main motion
A main motion, in parliamentary procedure, is a motion that brings business before the assembly. Main motions are made while no other motion is pending...



In the House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

, the equivalent device is termed the "Main Committee", and is used for uncontroversial matters. It is slightly different from most Committees of the Whole in that it generally meets separately from the House and has its own committee room, and can be as small as the Speaker, a member of the Government and a member of the Opposition. This device is rather new, having been introduced only in 1994.


In the Canadian House of Commons
Canadian House of Commons
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament...

, a Committee of the Whole is when all the MPs
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 sit in the chamber in one large committee. The committee is chaired by the deputy speaker or the deputy chair of committees. It uses committee rules rather than House procedures.

In the past, the Committee of the Whole considered a majority of bills, with few bills being sent to parliamentary committees. The increased workload of MPs has led to a decline in this use of the Committee of the Whole. Now the Committee of the Whole is used mostly for monetary bills and on rare occasions to expedite the passage of other legislation.

On June 11th 2008, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper
Stephen Joseph Harper is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became prime minister when his party formed a minority government after the 2006 federal election...

 formally apologized in the House of Commons for the government's role in the Canadian residential school system
Canadian residential school system
-History:Founded in the 19th century, the Canadian Indian residential school system was intended to assimilate the children of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada into European-Canadian society...

. A Committee of the Whole was used, so that aboriginal leaders (who were not Members of Parliament) could be allowed to respond to the apology on the floor of the House.

Hong Kong

In the Legislative Council
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
The Legislative Council is the unicameral legislature of Hong Kong.-History:The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was set up in 1843 as a colonial legislature under British rule...

 of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, when the debate of the second reading resumes, members debate the general merits and principles of the bill. At the committee stage, the Legislative Council becomes 'a Committee of the whole Council' and goes through the bill clause by clause, making amendments where necessary. After the bill has passed through Committee with or without amendments, it proceeds to the third reading for passage by the Council.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom House of Commons, the Committee of the Whole House is used instead of a standing committee for the clause-by-clause debate of important or contentious bills. The sitting is presided over by the Chairman of Ways and Means, rather than the Speaker of the House.

In the United Kingdom House of Lords, the Committee of the Whole House examines the majority of bills.

United States Congress

In the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

, the Committee of the Whole
Committee of the Whole (United States House of Representatives)
In the United States House of Representatives, the Committee of the Whole, short for Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, is a parliamentary device in which the House of Representatives is considered one large congressional committee...

 is a device in which the House of Representatives is considered one large Congressional committee
United States Congressional committee
A congressional committee is a legislative sub-organization in the United States Congress that handles a specific duty . Committee membership enables members to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction...

. The presiding officer is chosen by the Speaker of the House and is normally a member of the majority party who does not hold the chair of a standing committee.

The United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 used the Committee of the Whole as a parliamentary device for 197 years from the 1st Congress
1st United States Congress
-House of Representatives:During this congress, five House seats were added for North Carolina and one House seat was added for Rhode Island when they ratified the Constitution.-Senate:* President: John Adams * President pro tempore: John Langdon...

 in 1789 and ceased using it in 1986 during the 99th Congress
99th United States Congress
The Ninety-ninth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from January 3, 1985 to January 3, 1987, during the fifth and sixth...


Non-legislative use and variants

Robert's Rules of Order states that the committee of the whole is suitable to large assemblies. The procedure is invoked by a motion
Motion (parliamentary procedure)
In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action. In a parliament, this is also called a parliamentary motion and includes legislative motions, budgetary motions, supplementary budgetary motions, and petitionary...

 to commit
Commit (motion)
The motion to commit , in parliamentary procedure, is used to refer another motion—usually a main motion -- to a committee.-Explanation and Use:...

 to the committee of the whole, or simply to go into a committee of the whole. The only motions in order in a committee of the whole are those to adopt a proposal for inclusion in the committee's report; to amend; to "rise and report"; as well as certain incidental motions and requests.

Variants of the committee of the whole are the quasi committee of the whole and to consider informally. The difference between a committee of the whole and a quasi committee of the whole is that in the latter, the presiding officer of the assembly remains in the chair and presides. Informal consideration simply removes the normal limitations on the number of times members can speak in debate.

The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure is a book of rules of order. It is the second most popular parliamentary authority in the United States after Robert's Rules of Order. It was first published in 1950...

rejects both the committee of the whole and quasi committee of the whole procedures as being outdated, and instead recommends the motion to consider informally in their place.


J.R. Odgers, Australian Senate Practice (11th edition), Department of the Senate, Canberra, Chapter 14.
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