Every year, the Riksdag makes hundreds of decisions. The 15 parliamentary committees are a driving force in the work of the Riksdag. This is where the members of the Riksdag prepare their decisions. After a committee has presented its proposal for a decision, all 349 members of the Riksdag adopt a position on the proposal. The Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 2018. The committees are like a miniature Riksdag, where all the parties in the Riksdag are represented. Photo: Anders Löwdin When the Government submits a proposal – in the form of a government bill – to the Riksdag, it is first referred to a parliamentary committee. The same applies to proposals in motions submitted by members of the Riksdag. The committee adopts a position first before it is time for all the members of the Riksdag to take a decision on the Government's or the members' proposals. The obligation on the part of the committees to consider a matter before a decision is taken in the Chamber is known as mandatory preparation of parliamentary business. Each committee is responsible for the consideration of a number of policy areas. Military issues, for example, are considered by the Committee on Defence, while the Committee on Health and Welfare deals with proposals concerning healthcare. Members and meetings The Riksdag committees must always consist of an odd number of members, at least fifteen in all. Currently, each committee consists of 17 members. This number is determined by the Riksdag after each election. The composition of members in each committee reflects the distribution of seats in the Riksdag. The largest party in the Riksdag also has the most members in each committee. Directly after the elections, the Riksdag decides, on the basis of proposals from the parties, which members are to be included in the committees. Members cannot lose their place in a committee even though they have left their party, for example. The chair has the casting vote All the committees have a chair and one or more deputy chairs. The parties agree how the posts of chair and deputy chair are to be distributed among the parties in the committees. Each committee then decides which members are to be chair and deputy chair of the committee. The chairs preside over the committee meetings. In the event of a tied vote, the chair has the casting vote. This means, in other words, that if the votes are evenly divided between two proposals, it is the proposal supported by the committee chair that wins. Closed meetings Committee meetings are held behind closed doors, which means that neither the public nor the media can attend. This allows members to discuss sensitive political issues without outside listeners. The idea is that this should provide better opportunities for reaching agreements and compromise solutions between the parties. Everyday political life is very much about "give and take". Since no party has a majority of its own in the Riksdag, the parties need to be prepared to negotiate with each other. The role of officials Each committee has a secretariat with officials who assist the members when it comes to writing the proposals upon which the Riksdag will then decide. These are called committee reports. The officials also help to write statements on various EU documents which are then debated and decided on in the Chamber. The officials also assist the members in their follow-up and evaluation of decisions by the Riksdag and their work with issues relating to research and the future. The officials are party-politically impartial. This means that they help all eight parties in the Riksdag in the same way and are not allowed to favour any particular party. The Chamber takes a position on proposals A significant part of the committees' work involves taking a position on various proposals. Most of the proposals are presented in government bills or private members' motions from members of the Riksdag. Most of the committees' time is devoted to adopting a position on government bills. All bills must be considered by a committee before a decision is taken by the Riksdag. A bill about railways will, for example, be referred to the Committee on Transport and Communications for consideration. Consultation within the parties The party groups play an important role in the work of the Riksdag. A party group consists of all the members of a party in the Riksdag. A common question at the meetings of the opposition party groups is what position to take on government bills. Should they say yes to the proposal or present their own alternatives in a follow-up motion? The committee takes a position Once the members have read and discussed the proposals with their party colleagues, it is time for a discussion in the committee. The proposal is presented by an official at the committee secretariat. The members then discuss what position they are going to take on the proposal and any follow-up motions to the bill. Does a majority of the members want the Riksdag to approve the Government's proposals? Is there a committee majority that wants to say yes to any of the follow-up motions? Sometimes the members adopt a position at their first meeting, but often, they need to meet several times before the committee can present a proposal for a decision by the Riksdag. Counter-proposals from the opposition parties The committee's proposal is based on the position held by the majority of the committee's members. Members who do not agree may submit reservations on the matter. In their reservations, the minority give an account of their view of the matter. When the committee has reached its decision, the report is made public. The committee reports with proposals for decisions by the Riksdag are, in other words, available for anyone to read. The report also contains any reservations from the committee minority. Debate and decision in the Chamber Once a committee has presented its proposal for a decision in the Riksdag, the matter is referred to the Chamber. The 349 members of the Riksdag now have to take a position on the report. After the committee has completed its report, it normally takes one to two weeks before it is time for a debate and decision in the Chamber. When the debate has finished, a vote is held. Usually, the committee majority's proposal wins the vote in the Chamber. This is because the committee composition reflects the composition of the Riksdag as a whole. Public hearings to obtain information The committees can hold public hearings to obtain more information on a particular subject. The committee invites experts and representatives of various interest groups in society to answer questions from the members. The Committee on Education may, for example when considering a Government bill on higher education, decide to hold a public hearing attended by representatives of the academic sector. The public can follow public hearings on location or via the Riksdag webcast service. It is usually also possible to see them on demand. The committees can organise public hearings within their areas of responsibility where experts are invited to speak and answer questions. The members of the Committee on Industry and Trade at a public hearing on piracy and other infringements of rights on the digital market. In the forefront sits Hanna Westerén (SocDem). Photo: Melker Dahlstrand The committees follow up the Riksdag's decisions As stated in the Instrument of Government, the committees have to follow up and evaluate decisions taken by the Riksdag. The idea is that a committee that has prepared a particular decision should evaluate the result of the decision. The follow-up procedure consists partly of in-depth follow-ups and evaluations, and partly of ongoing follow-ups. In-depth follow-ups and evaluations In in-depth follow-ups, the committees may choose to carry out a more detailed study of a certain subject or to investigate whether the purpose of a particular law has been achieved. The findings are often documented in a report in the series Reports from the Riksdag (RFR) and are usually subsequently considered by the committee in a committee report. Reports from the Riksdag Ongoing follow-ups In the budget bill every year, the Government lists the results that have been achieved in various areas of society. The committees adopt positions on the information provided on the results in their work with the Budget Bill. The committees also consider the results of the reviews carried out by the National Audit Office. The committees also arrange hearings, study visits and information meetings with representatives from the Government and central government agencies. Research and the future It is important that the members of the Riksdag are given high-quality detailed information on developments in society to enable them to take decisions. The Riksdag has therefore decided to integrate research and future-related issues into Riksdag work. The committees maintain contact with the research community in different ways. They can have regular contact with various research environments, participate in seminars and conferences on current research or arrange seminars of their own. The committees organise public hearings and invite researchers to participate. Sometimes, the committees make research reviews in their particular areas of responsibility. The research reviews often provide an answer to the question of what the research community as a whole has to say on a particular issue. This may for example concern the level of knowledge in the area of health, the environment and climate, infrastructure investments or the economy. Several of the committees' research reviews, technology evaluations and public hearings have been documented in the series Reports from the Riksdag (RFR). Reports from the Riksdag The parliamentary committees and the EU The parliamentary committees monitor and take a position on EU affairs within their respective areas of responsibility. They examine new proposals from the EU and determine which EU matters the Government must consult the committees on. The committees are also obliged to examine certain EU proposals to ensure their compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, that is that decisions about new laws should be taken at the political level at which the decision can be made most effectively – as close to the citizens as possible. Many of the proposals from the Government and from members of the Riksdag that are considered by the committees also concern the EU. If, for example, the Government submits a proposal on amendments to tax regulations in response to an EU decision, the Government's proposal will be considered by the Committee on Taxation. The Riksdag also has an official who is based in Brussels who monitors the EU's work and reports back to the committees and other bodies in the Riksdag. Early scrutiny of EU documents The Riksdag receives official EU documents af various kinds from the European Commission. These documents are referred to the committee with responsibility for the matter at hand. The committees examine green and white papers from the EU, in which the European Commission explains its ideas, thoughts and forthcoming measures. Once a committee has scrutinised a green or white paper, it writes a statement on the matter. The committee comments on the issue in its statement and describes the various points of view that may be held by the various parties in the Riksdag. The Chamber then holds a debate and takes a decision on the statement. The Riksdag Administration then sends the statement to the European Commission and to the Government Offices. The committees may also scrutinise other EU documents. It is the Speaker, in consultation with the party group leaders, who decides which other EU documents the committees are to examine. Examination of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity The Riksdag has to examine whether completed legislative proposals from the EU fulfil the requirements of the principle of subsidiarity, that is that decisions are to be made at the political level that can take the most effective decision, as close to the citizens as possible. An examination is also carried out as to whether the proposed measures are compatible with the principle of proportionality, that is that they do not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives in the EU treaties. It is the task of the committees to carry out subsidiarity checks. Their task is to assess whether a particular decision should be taken by the EU or by the various member states themselves. If the committee considers that the proposal conflicts with the principle of subsidiarity, it will write a statement to this effect. If the Chamber agrees with the committee's assessment, the Riksdag sends a statement of opinion to the EU's decision-making institutions.If a sufficient number of parliaments of the EU member states consider that the EU should not take a decision regarding a specific legislative proposal, the European Commission is sent a warning. In this case, the European Commission must re-examine, that is consider amending, the EU proposal. Deliberations with the Government The Government has to inform the Riksdag of its views on new documents from the EU which the Government considers important in what are referred to as explanatory memorandums. It is up to the committees to decide which EU issues the Government must deliberate with the committees on. At these deliberations, the parties have the opportunity to tell the Government what they think about the matter in question. Deliberations also make it possible for the Government to find out whether its positions have support in the Riksdag. The Committee on the Constitution scrutinises the Government The Committee on the Constitution has a central role in the exercise of parliamentary control, that is, examining how the Government carries out its work. Every year, the Committee also examines how well the Government has succeeded in providing information to and consulting the Riksdag on EU matters. If the Committee identifies shortcomings, it issues criticism and statements on what the Government can do to improve its information etc. The Committee on the Constitution also follows up the Riksdag's examination of proposals from the EU on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity. Meetings between committees from different EU member states Cooperation between the national parliaments of the EU member states and the European Parliament mainly take place between the committees of the national parliaments. Several meetings are held every year. For example, the chairs of the parliamentary foreign affairs committees meet regularly to discuss foreign policy. The parliament of the EU country currently holding the presidency has a special responsibility for the meetings that are held and their contents.