In British politics, parliamentary select committees can be appointed from the House of Commons, like the Foreign Affairs Select Committee; from the House of Lords, like the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; or as a "Joint Committee of Parliament" drawn from both, such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Committees may exist as "sessional" committees – i.e. be near-permanent – or as "ad-hoc" committees with a specific deadline by which to complete their work, after which they cease to exist, such as the Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change.
The Commons select committees are generally responsible for overseeing the work of government departments and agencies, whereas those of the Lords look at general issues, such as the constitution, considered by the Constitution Committee, or the economy, considered by the Economic Affairs Committee. Both houses have their own committees to review drafts of European Union directives: the European Union Committee in the House of Lords, and the European Scrutiny Committee in the House of Commons.
The Intelligence and Security Committee is not a select committee, though it contains members from both houses. It is a unique committee of parliamentarians nominated by the Prime Minister and reporting to him or her, not Parliament.
In the United Kingdom, departmental select committees came into being in 1979, following the recommendations of a Procedure Select Committee, set up in 1976, which reported in 1978. It recommended the appointment of a series of select committees covering all the main departments of state, with wide terms of reference, and with power to appoint specialist advisers as the committees deemed appropriate. It also suggested that committee members should be selected independently of the party whips, as chosen by the Select Committee of Selection. The 14 new committees began working effectively in 1980.
In the House of Commons
The chairs of (the majority of) select committees have been elected by the house as a whole since June 2010: before that members were appointed by their parties and chairs voted on solely by those members.
Rarely, there are also select committees of the Commons (and sometimes joint standing committees) that are tasked with the detailed analysis of individual Bills. Most Bills are referred, since the 2006–7 session, to public bill committees, and before that, there were Standing Committees.
In July 2005, the Administration Select Committee was instituted, replacing the five Domestic Committees which had been responsible for the consideration of services provided for the House in the Palace of Westminster from 1991 to 2005. It deals with issues as diverse as catering services, the House of Commons Library, computer provision, and visitor services.
In the House of Lords
The House of Lords has a set of five major select committees:
- The European Union Committee, which currently has six sub-committees
- The Constitution Committee
- The Economic Affairs Committee
- The Science and Technology Committee (House of Lords)
- The Communications Select Committee
These committees run inquiries into topics within their remit, issuing reports from time to time. The European Union Committee also scrutinises EU legislation and other EU proposals, as well as conducting inquiries.
Some English local authorities also have a select committee system, as part of their Overview and Scrutiny arrangements.