committee system in parliament: how can it be made more effective?

Question: committee system in parliament: how can it be made more effective?

1) Introduction:

In 1789 the committee system began. When House members establish themselves bogged down in continuous discussions of proposed new laws. [1][2] The first committees dealt with Revolutionary War claims, post roads and territories, and trade with other countries.[3] All the way through the years, committees have formed and disbanded in response to social, political, and economic changes. For example, there is no longer any need for a Revolutionary War claims committee, but both houses of Congress have a Veterans’ Affairs committee.[4]

The word parliament means a legislature, consisting of the sovereign, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is consequential from the French parliament, the action of parlor (to speak): a parliament is a discussion. The appearance came to mean a meeting at which such a conversation took place. It acquired its modern meaning as it came to be used for the body of citizens (in an institutional sense) who would meet to talk about matters of state.[5]

Parliaments may consist of chambers or houses, and are usually either bicameral or unicameral—although more complex models exist, or have existed.

A nation’s Prime Minister (“PM”) is almost always the head of the majority party in the minor house of parliament, but only holds his or her office as long as the “confidence of the house” is maintained. If members of the lower house lose faith in the leader for whatever reason, they can call a vote of no confidence and force the PM to resign. [6] This can be particularly risky to a government when the division of seats is relatively even, in which case a new election is often called shortly thereafter. On the other hand, in case of general discontent with the head of government, his replacement can be made very efficiently without all the complications that it represents in the case of a presidential system.[7]


[1] Copeland, G and Patterson, S (1994), “Parliaments in the Twenty-first Century”, Copeland, G and Patterson

S (eds.), Parliaments in the Modern World, Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, p.10-11. Longley,

Lawrence D. and Davidson, Roger H. (1998), “Parliamentary Committees: Changing Perspectives on

Changing Institutions”, in Longley, Lawrence D. and Davidson, Roger H. (eds.), the New Roles of

Parliamentary Committees, London or Portland: Frank Cass, p.5.

[2] Norton, Philip, “Nascent Institutionalization: Committees in the British Parliament”, in Longley, Lawrence D. and Davidson, Roger H. (eds.), op. cit. pp. 151-52.

[3] During the period of Holly Roman Emiror, the Reichstag (imperial assembly) and Reichstände (provincial

parliament) appointed committees to negotiate with the Empiror on finacial matter. It was more convenient

for the Emperor to consul with the committees than the whole diet.

[4] Parliament began to meet in Frankfurt on May 18, 1848 and it was forced to yield to reactionary forces and

convened for the last time on May 30, 1849.

[5] Eyck, Frank (1968), The Frankfurt Parliament: 1848-49, London: Macmillan, p.95, 198.

[6] Quoted from Huitt, Ralph K. (1954), “The Congressional Committee: A Case Study”, The American Political

Science Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, p.340.

[7] Benda, Susan R. (1996), “Committees in Legislatures: A Division of Labor”, Legislative Research Series

Paper, No.2, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Mattson, Ingvar and Strøm, Kaare,

“Parliamentary Committees”, in Herbert Döring (ed.), Parliaments and Majority Rule in Western Europe. New York: St. Martins Press, p. 249.

The function of parliament system:

In parliament, elected legislators are viewed as the symbol of representative government:[8] as it is not possible for all citizens to directly share in policy making, they elect persons who perform these duties on their behalf. These representatives convene in the county’s legislature (which is referred to as congress in America, parliament in United Kingdom, also in Bangladesh, or the oireachtas in Ireland).[9] This is thus the institution that links the government and the governed. In addition, to this symbolic function, legislatures undertake a number of specific tasks which we consider now. [10]


[8] Koen J. Muylle, “Improving the Effectiveness of Parliamentary Legislative Procedures”, Statute Law Review,

Vol. 24, No.3, 2003, p.176.

[9] Meny, Yves (1990), Government and Politics in Western Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.190-1.

[10] Londgley, Lawrence D. and Davidson, Roger H. (eds.) (1998), The New Roles of Parliamentary Committees,

London: Frank Cass, p.2.

Law making:

The parliament systems constitute the law –making body within a country’s system of government. Thus making the law (or amending or repealing it) is a key function which they perform. A specific, although important, aspect of this role is approving the budget and granting authority for the collection of taxes.[11][12][13]

A key issue concerns the extend to which legislature themselves initiate law or respond to proposal put forward by the executive branch of the government. Although there is a  tendency for legislatures to respond to the initiatives of the executives branch in both presidential and parliamentary systems of government (thus transforming the legislature into a body which legitimizes decision rather than one which initiates them),[14] this is not invariable the case. The committee system of the German parliament is particularly influential in securing a policy –making role for this body. Much of the work of the Bundestag is carried out through specialized committees whose areas of activity corresponded to the federal ministries.[15] These committees provide a forum in which ministers, cavils servant and members of parliament (including those of the opposition parties) jointly engage in the process of policy making. [16][17]


[11] Strom Kaare (1998), “Parliamentary Committees in European Democracies”, Journal of Legislative Studies,

Vol.4, No.1; Laundy Philip (1989), Parliaments in the Modern World, Aldershot: Dartmouth Publishing

Company Ltd., p.96; Shaw Malcolm (1998), “Parliamentary Committees Global Perspective”, in Lawrence D.

Longley and Roger H. Davidson, The New Roles of Parliamentary Committees, London: Frank Cass.

[12] Shaw Malcolm (1998), “Parliamentary Committees: A Global Perspective”, in Longley, Lawrence D. and

Davidson, Roger H. (eds.), op cit., pp. 247, 229.

[13] Jewell, Malcolm E., and Samuel C. Patterson (1973), The Legislative Process in the United States, New York: Random House, p.219.

[14] Reuven Y. Hazan (2001), Reforming Parliamentary Committees: Israel in Comparative Perspective,

Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, p.40.

[15] Malcom Shaw, “Parliamentary Committees: A Global Perspective”, Lawrence D. Longley and Roger H.

Davidson (ed.), The New Roles of Parliamentary Committees, London: Frank Cass, 1998, pp.232-234.

[16] Strengthen Parliament, the Norton Commission Report, July 2000, p. 21.

[17] M. Mezey, Comparative Legislatures, Durham: Duke University Press, 1979, p.64.

2) How can it be made more effective?

The key feature of government:

A parliament describes the essential features of a country’s system of government. A parliament contains a formal statement of the composition of the key branches of government –the legislature, executive and the judiciary-and reference to the role which each of these plays in the machinery of government. [18][19]

A parliament further informs us of the relationship between the branches of government. The American president, for example, is required to deliver a state of the union address to congress periodically and may put forward legislative proposal for the body’s consideration. [22]


[18] East Pakistan Assembly Papers, Vol. XVI, No. 5,pp. 112-3, cited from Najma Chowdhury, op. cit., pp. 42-43

[19] Huq, M. Mufazzalul (1991), “Parliamentary Committees and Public Enterprise Accountability in Bangladesh

(1973-75)”, Management Development, Vol., 20, pp.30-31.

[20] Ahmed Emajuddin (1988), Military Rule and the Myth of Democracy, Dhaka: University Press Limited, p.32.

[21] Alavi, Hamza(1966), “The Army and the Bureaucracy in Pakistan”, International Socialist Jornal,Vol.3,


[22] Ahmed, Emajuddin (2004), The Military and Democracy in Bangladesh, the Australian National University

Press, p. 113-115.

Legal Basis and Structures to made effective

In an article of the Bangladesh Constitution guarantees establishment of a divide secretariat for the Bangladesh JS. That article says: “(i) a Parliament shall have its own Secretariat. (ii) a Parliament may, by law, regulate the recruitment and circumstances of the service of persons appointed to the secretariat of the Parliament.

(iii) Until provision is made by the Parliament the President may, after discussion with the spokesperson, make policy modifiable the employment and situation of examine of persons appointed to the secretariat of the Parliament, and policy so made shall have effect subject to the provisions of any law.” [23] The first section of the Article uses the word “own” to mean that the parliament secretariat shall be independent in all matters. The second section empowers the JS in making laws for regulating the recruitment and conditions of service. Until the formulization of such laws the recruitment and service conditions were regulated by the law made by the president. It is experiential that the parliament did not border any law for the institution of a self-governing parliament secretariat until 1994. on the other hand, the parliament secretariat existed since the establishment of the first JS. During the period of the fifth JS, the parliament has initiated and passed “Parliament Secretariat Act, 1994”. Some of the major features of this Act are as follows6:

1. Parliament Secretariat is not under the administrative control of any ministry, or department or Government office;

2. The administrative responsibility for the Parliament Secretariat is entrusted to the Speaker and he/she discharges his/her responsibility either him/herself or shall impose it on an officer determined by rule. The Speaker should be always accountable to the JS in respect of all activities of the Parliament Secretariat;

[23] Government of Bangladesh, The Constitution of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka: the Ministry ofLaw, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, as modified up to 2006.6 Government of Bangladesh, “The Parliament Secretariat Act, 1994”, Bangladesh Gazette Extraordinary, May18, 1994.

3. Until the rules have been made, Parliament Secretariat shall be constituted with employees and officers who shall be recruited according to the Parliament Secretariat Officers and Employees Recruitment Rules, 1982. [24]

4. The representative is finally responsible to support the budget of the Parliament Secretariat with the proposal of the Parliament Secretariat Commission by forwarding it to the Ministry of Finance for its integration in the yearly financial statement of the government; [25]

5. The Parliament Secretariat Act (PSA) has constituted the Parliament Secretariat

Commission, which can find out its own process. The commission is consisted of the five members, the Speaker, as its Chairman; the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department of Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister of Finance. The work also provides that any Member of this commission can assign an MP to represent him/her in the commission [26]. The Parliament Secretary Commission has advisory function with regard to the willpower, decrease and increase of the number of officers and employees of the Parliament Secretariat and on the research of the yearly budget of the Secretariat and the expenses of the budget appropriations;

6. The PSA represents that the Parliament Secretary shall release all necessary secretarial duties for the Parliament. They shall execute all functions compulsory on it by the Rules of Procedure of the parliament of Bangladesh. [27]


[24] Hashem, Abul (2001), “The Parliament Secretariat: Public Administration at the Service of the House”,(research monograph) Dhaka: Bangladesh Institute of Parliamentary Studies, pp. 18-21.

[25] Rule 218 (2), Rules of Procedure of the Parliament Secretariat, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka, 2006.

[26] Five committee officers were interviewed in August 2006.

[27] The Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad and the Institute of Parliamentary Studies, Parliamentary Committee System,

Conference Proceedings, Dhaka, 1999.

3) Conclusion:

This study has intended to explain how parliamentary committees perform in a country where the political institutions, at least partly, have been imposed from outside rather than being fully indigenous and also how can it be made more effective.

In conclusion, we can say that parliament is a huge and very important system for every country. So we should take some steps to strengthen it .The following measures can be taken for strengthening the parliamentary committees in Bangladesh:

v     It should be mandatory for the government departments to put into operation Committee decisions. Also they should be responsible to the committees for not affecting out the recommendations.

v     The CAG office should be self-governing from the decision-making and put up a high-quality tie with the financial committees, particularly with the PAC.

v     It is necessary to make sure holding committee meetings regular. Also make it necessary for the committees to submit at least one report to the House timely.

v     To make a bigger and strong parliamentary tradition, the ROP can be amended to adopt some important and useful and also positive methods for distributing committee positions among the parliamentary parties.

v     Political parties should highlight on political professionalism to a certain extent. Than the individual preference and faithfulness in the collection of parliamentary candidates.

v     For strengthening the parliament, parliamentary parties should have some specialized working groups and subgroups on particular policy area.

v      In categorize to smooth the progress of the standing committees to purpose effectively. Parliamentary support services including staff services, research support, financial benefits and necessary logistic support should be increased.

v      Every committee ought to have a person secretariat with specialized employees.

v      Lastly, there should be an effective mechanism to link the people with the

Committee activities.






5)Ahmed Emajuddin (1988), Military Rule and the Myth of Democracy, Dhaka: University Press Limited.



8)Ahmed, Moudud (1984). Bangladesh: The Era of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Dhaka:

University Press Limited.



11)Ahmed, Nizam and Obiduallh, A.T.M.(eds.) (2007), The Working of Parliamentary

Committees in Westminster Systems: Lessons for Bangladesh, Dhaka: the University

Press Limited.



14)Alfred Morris (ed.) (1997), The Growth of Parliamentary Scrutiny by Committee, Oxford:

Pergamon Press.

15)Allan Kornber (ed.)(1973), Legislatures in Comparative Perspective, New York: David


16)Andaleeb, Syed Saad (ed.)(2007), Political Culture in Bangladesh: Perspective and Analyses,

Dhaka: University Press Limted.

17)Chowdhury, Najma (1980), The Legislative Process in Bangladesh, Dhaka; Dhaka


18)Maniruzzaman, Talukder (1994), Politics and Security of Bangladesh, Dhaka: University

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