Every year, the Riksdag makes hundreds of decisions. The 15 parliamentary committees are a driving force in the work of the Riksdag. It is here that the members of the Riksdag prepare the decisions. After a committee has presented its proposal for a decision, the 349 members of the Riksdag adopt a position on the proposal. The Committee on Civil Affairs holds a public hearing. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand Each parliamentary committee is made up of 17 members of the Riksdag. A committee is like a miniature Riksdag as its composition reflects the composition of the Riksdag as a whole. The largest party in the Riksdag also has the most members in each committee. When the Government submits a government bill to the Riksdag, it is first referred to a parliamentary committee. This is known as mandatory preparation of items of parliamentary business. The same applies to 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 and members' proposals. 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 considers proposals concerning healthcare. Members and officials Each parliamentary committee is made up of 17 members of the Riksdag. This number is determined by the Riksdag after each election. The Riksdag committees and the Committee on EU Affairs must always consist of an odd number of members, but no fewer than fifteen. The number of members a party has in the committees is determined by the party's relative size in the Riksdag. Directly after the elections the Riksdag decides, on the basis of proposals from the parties, which members are to be included in the committees. The composition of the committees Since the 2014 election the parties in government - the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party - have seven members in each committee. The opposition parties have a total of ten members in each committee. The Social Democratic Party has six members in each committee, while the Green Party has one member in each committee. The Moderate Party has four members in every committee. The Sweden Democrats have two members in each committee. The Centre Party, Left Party, Liberal Party and Christian Democrats all have one member in each of the committees. Committee chairs Each committee has a chair and a deputy chair who are chosen by the committee. The chairs preside over the committee meetings. If a member from one of the government parties heads a committee, the deputy chair will normally be a member of one of the opposition parties. If the chair comes from the opposition, the deputy chair will instead be a member of one of the government parties. 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. Secretariats Each committee has its own secretariat, headed by a committee secretary, and staffed by between five and ten officials. The officials assist the members in drafting their reports with proposals for decisions which the Riksdag then decides on. These reports are referred to as committee reports. The officials also help to write statements on EU green and white papers and other EU documents which are then debated and decided on in the Chamber. Green and white papers are the equivalent in the EU to reports from commissions of inquiry. 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 non-political appointees, which means that they assist all eight parties in the Riksdag. Furthermore, they are not permitted to favour any particular party. They retain their jobs even if there is a new political majority following an election. Meetings and contacts It is at committee meetings that the members decide what position to adopt on various proposals. These meetings are not open to the public. The committees make study visits and receive visitors in order to keep up to date with developments. The committees hold their meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The members of the Riksdag devote a significant part of their time to committee work. It takes time, for example, to read all incoming documents that the committees must adopt a position on. The members also have to consult with their party colleagues on what line the party should take on various issues. Visits provide knowledge The committees make study visits and receive visitors in order to keep up to date with developments within their particular areas of responsibility. The members' contacts with voters and party colleagues across the country are also a significant part of their work in the committees. Social problems that the members are confronted with in their contacts with the voters are often discussed in the committees. Sometimes, the committees travel to another country to study how it has solved a particular problem. 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. This provides 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 committee takes a position A significant part of the committees' work involves taking a position on various proposals. Most proposals are presented in Government bills or private members' motions from members of the Riksdag. Adopting a position on the proposals is a time-consuming process. 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. Time to read proposals After a bill has been referred to a committee, the members are given time to read it. They then discuss the proposals in the bill with their party colleagues at the party group meetings. They also write follow-up motions to the bills submitted by the Government. In the follow-up motions, the members present their views on the subject. For natural reasons, most follow-up motions are submitted by the opposition parties, since they often have a different opinion from that of the Government. 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. The Centre party group, for example, comprises the 22 Centre Party members of the Riksdag. The party groups meet on Tuesday afternoons. 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 what are known as follow-up motions? The committee makes a decision 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? Is the committee unanimous in its decision? Do the parties have to make compromises? 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. The media take up any reports of special public interest. The Riksdag Administration also disseminates press releases about major items of business considered by the committees. 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. During the debate, the majority position and reasons for this position is presented by the committee. The members representing any minority position will then say why they are against the majority proposal and will present their counter-proposals. When the debate has finished a vote is held. In most cases, the position of the committee majority wins. This is because the committee composition reflects the composition of the Riksdag as a whole. Public hearings to obtain information The committees hold a number of hearings that are open to the public. The idea is to provide members of the parliamentary committees with more information on a specific subject. The Riksdag first started to hold public hearings in the late 1980s. Today the committees hold some 40 public hearings every year. When a hearing is held the committee invites experts and representatives of various stakeholders 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 from the Chamber or via the Riksdag webcast service. The public hearings can be watched on demand after they have been held via the Riksdag website. 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 choose to carry out a more detailed study of a certain subject and to investigate whether, for example, the purpose of a law or financial support in a particular case has been achieved. The findings are often documented in a report in the series Reports from the Riksdag (RFR) and 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. These form part of the ongoing follow-up process. 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 in a more strategic fashion. The information the members use as a basis for their decisions should provide answers to a whole range of questions. What resources are needed? What priorities can be made? What problems can be predicted? This is where contacts with the research community come in. If the committees work more strategically with research and future-related issues, their background information and committee reports will have a stronger knowledge base. More research findings in data on which decisions are based The committees maintain contact with the research community in different ways. They can develop regular contacts with various research environments, participate in seminars and conferences on current research or arrange seminars of their own. The committees often organise public hearings and invite researchers to participate. Anyone who wishes to come and listen is welcome to attend. The committees can make research reviews in their particular areas of responsibility. These reviews can deal with any issues whatsoever and 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. Documentation in reports 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 Guidelines for work with research and evaluation In 2006, the Riksdag adopted a set of guidelines for its work with research and future-related issues, as well as follow-up and evaluation. A report was drawn up on how these guidelines can be put into practice. The parliamentary committees and the EU The parliamentary committees monitor 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. Many of the proposals from the Government and from members of the Riksdag that are considered by the committees concern the EU. These proposals are dealt with in the same way as other proposals, in the committee responsible for the matter at hand. 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. Monitor EU affairs In order to be able to follow developments in the EU, the committees need information. The Riksdag receives virtually all official documents from the European Commission. These documents are referred to the committee with responsibility for the matter at hand. The Government is to inform the Riksdag of its views on new documents from the EU which the Government considers important. The information is provided in writing in explanatory memorandums. The committees can also request information from the Government and public agencies on various EU matters. This information can be provided orally at committee meetings. 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 examination of EU documents The committees examine green and white papers from the EU. These are policy documents in which the European Commission presents its ideas, proposals and concrete measures on various issues on the EU agenda. They are the equivalent of commissions of inquiry in Sweden. Once a committee has scrutinised a green or white paper, it must write 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 decision may not include any proposals or instructions to the Government. The Riksdag Administration then sends the statement to the European Commission and to the Government Offices. In the same way, the committees can also examine other important documents from the EU. 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 According to the Lisbon Treaty, the Riksdag is to examine the compliance of certain draft EU proposals with what is known as the principle of subsidiarity. Under this principle, decisions are to be taken at the political level that can take the most effective decision, as close to the citizens as possible. The legislative proposals normally come from the European Commission. They are referred by the Chamber to the committee responsible for the matter at hand. If the committee considers that it does not conflict with the principle of subsidiarity, a note is made in the minutes which are returned to the Chamber. If, however, the committee considers that it conflicts with the principle, it forwards a statement to the Chamber. If the Chamber supports the committee's assessment, the Riksdag sends a communication stating its position to the EU institutions. A statement is also written if at least five members of the committee disagree with the committee majority and consider that the proposal conflicts with the principle of subsidiarity. Here they can include a reservation in which they explain their opinion. The statement can then be debated and decided on in the Chamber. The national parliaments cannot examine the compliance of all legislative proposals from the EU with the principle of subsidiarity. It is only proposals in areas in which both the EU and the member states have the competence to make laws. These include, for example, the internal market, the environment, energy and combating crime. If a sufficient number of countries agree that a draft item of legislation conflicts with the principle of subsidiarity, the European Commission must review the proposal. If the Commission stands by its proposal, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament can, in certain cases, adopt a position on whether consideration of the matter should continue. Deliberations with the Government It is up to the committees to decide which EU issues the Government must deliberate with the committees on. During these deliberations, the parties can inform the Government of their position on the matter. Deliberations also make it possible for the Government to find out whether its positions have support in the Riksdag. The committees can decide to hold the deliberations in public. 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 manages 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 new 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.