Both the king's council and the House of Lords had long used committees to prepare and expedite business.1 It was an old and natural way of proceeding. A fragment of the Lords journal indicates that bills were committed in 1461.2 In the Tudor period, although many bills were referred to an officer or officers of the crown, committees of lords were used for particularly significant or controversial bills and for other matters of importance.3 By the early seventeenth century, much of the work of the upper House was assigned to committees and the committee structure had developed in an interesting way. During this period, the House established and used extensively the device of the committee of the whole House and, beginning in 1621, it increasingly delegated responsibility to standing committees. Committees in the House at this time may be divided into two groups, depending on their membership.4 Select committees were composed of "particular persons named for that purpose."5 A committee of the whole House, as its name indicates, was formed when the House adjourned and reconstituted itself as a committee. It was thus composed of all members of the House then present. This section will discuss select committees, including standing committees, which were also select committees. Successive sections will analyze the committee of the whole House and joint committees.
The way in which committees were chosen helped to determine their political significance. In the reign of Henry VIII, members of some committees seem to have been approved by the Lords; but the records do not make clear just how these members were selected.6 John Hooker, alias Vowell, writing in 1571 and 1572, noted that the lord chancellor or lord keeper chose committees for bills. However, Hooker was a Commons