The National Council has several competent subcommittees specialized on different topics.

Preliminary Deliberation of Items of Business

One principle of parliamentary procedure is that before decision on an item of business is taken in the Plenary, a preliminary deliberation of the subject in hand must have taken place in a committee. This is to ensure that competent Members of the National Council can discuss substantive issues in a restricted circle. They can also call in outside experts to advise them.

The final decision rests with the Plenary of the National Council, but it rarely deviates from the result achieved by the committee. This is, among other things, due to the fact that the composition of the committees in terms of parliamentary groups reflects, on a smaller scale, that of the Plenary. With a few exceptions, deliberations in committees are not open to the public.

Kinds of Committees

Public Committee Sittings

The President of the National Council refers reports of the Federal Government and its members to a committee for deliberation. Many committee deliberations on reports of this nature are final in the sense that they are not discussed by the Plenary of the National Council. For this reason, the public is admitted to the debates of and voting on reports of the Government and its members. On such occasions, sound and video recordings may be made.

The public also has access to deliberations in the Main Committee on European Union projects and to the General Debate or to the detailed discussion on a popular initiative in the presence of experts or other witnesses. By decision of a Commission of Enquiry parts of its sittings may be open to the public, while parliamentary hearings are usually open only to media representatives but not the general public.

The public is in all cases informed about the subject matters discussed in committees by the Parliamentary Correspondence, the media service of the Parliamentary Administration. Its staff attend all sittings and report extensively on them.