Committees and Reporting Bodies. Composition, functioning and types

Last update: 10/05/2018

Composition

The Committees of the Senate are the House’s basic workhorses, each comprising a number of Senators in proportion to the presence of each Parliamentary Group in the House (article 51 of the Standing Orders of the Senate). The number of Senators per Committee is twenty-seven, with the following distribution:

COMPOSITION OF THE COMMITTEES IN THE 12th LEGISLATURE
PARLIAMENTARY GROUP SENATORS
Popular Group in the Senate 15
Socialista 6
“Unidos Podemos - En Comú Podem - En Marea” Group 2
“Esquerra Republicana” Group 1
Basque Group in the Senate (EAJ-PNV) 1
“Partit Demòcrata (PDeCAT-CDC) - Agrupación Herreña Independiente-Coalición Canaria” Nationalist Group (AHI/CC-PNC) 1
Mixed Group 1

An exception to this rule occurs in the following cases:

The General Committee on Self-governing Communities currently comprises 54 Senators (article 51.3 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Nominations Committee currently comprises 7 members (article 185 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

On the other hand, the Joint Committees (Agreement of the Bureaus of the Congress of Deputies and of the Senate dated April 26th, 2018, amending the Agreement of the Bureaus of the Congress of Deputies and of the Senate dated September 27th and 28th, 2016, on the composition of the Congress-Senate Joint Committees) currently comprises 39 Members of Parliament, with the following distribution among the Parliamentary Groups:

  • Popular Group: 8 Deputies and 10 Senators.
  • Socialist Group: 5 Deputies and 4 Senators.
  • Confederal Group of “Unidos Podemos–En Comú Podem–En Marea” and “Unidos Podemos-En Comú Podem-En Marea” Group: 3 Deputies and 2 Senators.
  • “Ciudadanos” Group: 2 Deputies.
  • “Esquerra Republicana” Group: 1 Deputy or 1 Senator
  • Basque Group: 1 Deputy or 1 Senator.
  • Mixed Group: 1 Deputy and 1 Senator.
  • “Partit Demòcrata (PDeCAT-CDC)-Agrupación Herreña Independiente-Coalición Canaria” Nationalist Group (AHI/CC-PNC): 1 Senator.

Operation

The members of the various Committees each elect a Bureau, comprising a President, two Vice-Presidents and two Secretaries (article 53 of the Standing Orders of the Senate). The exceptions are the General Committee on Self-governing Communities which has another two Secretaries (article 55 of the Standing Orders of the Senate) and the Nominations Committee, which does not have a Bureau and is chaired by the Speaker of the Senate.

The procedure used for the election of the Bureaus of the Committees is the same as for the election of the members of the Bureau of the House (article 53 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Committees may set up Reporting bodies, comprising Senators from various Parliamentary Groups, for the preparation of reports, whether for legislative, study or other purposes, that are used as the basis for the work of the Committee.

All meetings of Committees are open to the duly accredited representatives of the mass media, unless the Committee has adopted an express decision for a specific meeting to be held in camera. On the other hand, the sessions of the Committee on Incompatibilities and the Committee on Petitions from Courts are always confidential (article 75 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The most outstanding competencies of the Committees are to issue rulings on legislative texts and hold informative sessions with members of the Government, authorities, public servants and other personalities, as well as to process oral questions and motions related to the specific areas of their individual remit, without prejudice to the possibility of performing other functions established in the Standing Orders.

The foregoing notwithstanding, it must be remembered that only the Legislative Standing Committees (see below) can process legislative initiatives, with the result that neither Non-Legislative Standing Committees, Committees of Enquiry, Special Committee nor Joint Committees are able to carry out this function.

On the other hand, the remit of certain Committees is limited to a particular type of activity, such as:

The Committee on Petitions examines all petitions submitted to the Senate, whether individually or collectively (articles 192 a 195 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Committee on Standing Orders is the competent body for studying and ruling on proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of the Senate (article 196 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Committee on Nominations is competent to examine candidates for the different positions appointed by the Senate (members of the General Council of the Judiciary, Judges of the Constitutional Court, etc.). To this end, it holds audiences, drafts reports on suitability and, where appropriate, proposes candidates to the Plenary Session (articles 184 a 186 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Committee on Incompatibilities is competent to issue a ruling about the situation of each of the Senators with respect to any possible situation of incompatibility (article 16 of the Standing Orders of the Senate).

The Committee on Petitions from a Court is competent to issue a ruling about petitions received from a court for the prosecution of a Senator.

Categories

Senate Committees

Standing Committees

Standing Committees are created for the entire legislature and may be Legislative or non-Legislative in nature.

Legislative Standing Committees

The following committees are currently the Legislative Committees of the Senate, in addition to the General Committee on Self-Governing Communities:

  • Constitution.
  • Foreign Affairs.
  • Justice.
  • Home Affairs.
  • Defence.
  • Finance, Industry and Competitiveness.
  • Treasury and Public Administration.
  • Budget.
  • Public Works.
  • Education and Sport.
  • Employment and Social Security.
  • Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda.
  • Agriculture, Fishing and Food.
  • Health and Social Services.
  • International Cooperation for Development.
  • Culture.
  • Equality.
  • Local Entities.
  • Environment and Climate Change.
  • Integrated Disability Policies.
Non-Legislative Standing Committees
  • Standing Orders.
  • Incompatibilities.
  • Petitions by a Court.
  • Petitions.
  • Ibero-American Affairs.
  • Nominations.
  • Rights of Families, Childhood and Adolescence.

Committees of Enquiry or Special Committees

Committees of Enquiry or Special Committees are created ad hoc in each Legislature in order to carry out surveys or studies into any matter of public interest. They cease to exist once the work for which they have been set up has been concluded.

Joint Committees of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate

Joint Committees may be standing committee of special committees.

They are made up of members from both Houses. The Joint Committees are currently as follows:

  • The Joint Committee on the European Union, a standing committee.
  • The Joint Committee on Relations with the Court of Auditors, a standing committee.
  • The Joint Committee on Relations with the Ombudsman, a standing committee.
  • The Joint Committee on National Security, a standing committee.
  • The Joint Committee on Parliamentary Oversight of the RTVE Corporation and its Companies. This Special Committee has been set up since the 8th Legislature.
  • The Joint Committee on the Study of the Problem with Drugs. This Special Committee has been set up since the 4th Legislature.