Chapter 22 - Instructions to Committees

149  Effect of instruction

An instruction empowers a committee to consider matters not otherwise referred to it, or extends or restricts its order of reference.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SO 320 but renumbered as SO 316 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SO 328 combined with part of old SO 331 (“an instruction to a select committee extends or restricts the order of reference …”) and renumbered as SO 149


Instructions may be given either to committees of the whole or select committees (in the generic sense). Adopted without debate in 1903 from fairly rudimentary precursors, instructions are a little used procedure which may nonetheless have some residual value.[1]

The purpose of an instruction to a committee is to empower it to undertake an action it would not otherwise have power to undertake or which is outside its terms of reference. An instruction may also require a committee to do something which is within its power and which the Senate requires to be done; for example, in the cases of standing or select committees, to take evidence on particular matters and to hear particular witnesses.[2]

An instruction binds a committee to undertake the action determined by the Senate. An instruction may also be used to extend or restrict the order of reference to a committee but, in practice, this is invariably achieved by an ordinary resolution altering the committee’s terms of reference.