Simplified Rules of Order

Procedures Used in Meetings

Committee of the Whole

The committee of the whole house ("committee of the whole" is the commonly used term) is a procedure used occasionally by meetings. When a meeting resolves itself into a committee, discussion can be much more free.

Robert distinguishes three versions of committee of the whole, each appropriate for a meeting of a particular size.

  1. In a formal committee of the whole, suited to large meetings, the results of votes taken are not final decisions of the meeting, but have the status of recommendations that the meeting itself must vote on under its regular rules. Moreover, a chairperson of the committee of the whole is appointed, and the regular presiding officer of the meeting leaves the chair. The purpose for this move is to disengage the presiding officer from any difficulties that may arise during the committee's session, so that he/she can be in a better position to preside effectively during the final consideration of the matter by the regular meeting.
  2. The quasi committee of the whole is particularly suitable for meetings of medium size (about 50-100 members). The results of votes taken in committee are reported to the meeting for final consideration under the regular rules, as with a committee of the whole. In this form, however, the presiding officer of the meeting remains in the chair and presides over the committee's session.
  3. Informal consideration is suited to small meetings. The procedure simply removes the normal limitations on the number of times members can speak in debate. The regular presiding officer remains in the chair, and the results of the votes taken during informal consideration are decisions of the meeting, and are not voted on again.

The procedure is for a member to rise and move: "That this meeting go into committee of the whole to consider..." A seconder is required.

In forming a committee of the whole, the meeting elects a chairperson, or the chair appoints another person to preside over the committee session and then vacates the chair. (When the president has been chairperson, the vice-president is usually named to chair the committee session.) Any guests who are present may then be asked to leave the meeting. If the meeting wants to discuss a matter without the presence of visitors, it can decide formally or informally to ask the chair to request guests to leave temporarily, and that the meeting proceed in camera.

Regular rules of order apply as in a meeting, except that members may speak more than once to the same question and that motions made in committee do not require seconders. The committee may consider only the matters referred to it by the meeting (in the motion forming the committee of the whole). No minutes are kept of the committee's session, although notes should be kept for the purpose of reporting to the meeting.

Calls for orders of the day are not in order in a committee of the whole.

When the committee of the whole has fully considered the matter referred to it, a member will move: "That the committee now rise and report." If this motion carries, the chairperson of the meeting resumes the chair and calls upon the chairperson of the committee to report. A report usually takes the form: "The committee of the whole considered the matter of ... and makes the following recommendations ..."

A mover and seconder are required for each recommendation. Amendments may be proposed in the usual manner. Because the only minutes kept are those of the regular meeting, it is important that any action wanted be correctly reported to the meeting from the committee session and that proposed motions be made regarding the action required.

If the committee of the whole wants additional time to consider the matter referred to it, it may decide to ask the regular meeting for permission to sit again. A time will then be established by a regular motion.

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Last changed: 10/08/2002
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