Departmental select committees were first established in 1979. This briefing paper charts changes in their number and size over the 40 years since 1979.
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When they were first established in 1979 there were 14 departmental select committees, including the Welsh Affairs Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee, which were established shortly after the first 12.
Over time the number of departmental select committees appointed under what is now Standing Order No 152 has increased to 20. In addition, following the creation of the Department for Exiting the European Union, in 2016, a temporary Standing Order was agreed, in both the 2015 and 2017 Parliaments, to establish the Exiting the European Union Committee, to scrutinise the work of the Department for Exiting the European Union.
The changes in the numbers and names of committees have generally followed changes to the structure of government. As departments were created, split, merged, or simply renamed committees were similarly established, replaced, abolished or renamed. However, from time to time committees have been established to scrutinise existing departments that either did not have a corresponding committee or were scrutinised by another committee.
This note revises and updates Appendix 2, Evolution of select committees, which appeared in the Library Research Paper The Departmental Select Committee System, which was published on 15 June 2009.
It also reviews the composition of select committees, reporting on the number of places held by women when committees were first nominated at the beginning of each Parliament from 1979 to 2017.
Generally, it does not discuss other select committees, provided for by other Standing Orders.