The National Assembly normally forms its system of standing committees at its constituent sitting and also decides which committees to operate along with committee names, number of members and officers. Since 1990, the system of standing committees has always been formed and amended based on an accord reached among the parliamentary groups (except in 2010).
The Act on the National Assembly lays down the requirement to form separate standing committees on immunity, incompatibility, discipline and mandate control; constitutional affairs; the budget; foreign affairs; defence; European Union affairs; national security; and, more recently, Hungarian communities abroad.
The number and scope of responsibilities of standing committees are essentially adjusted to the structure of government, but the match is not automatic (there have been standing committees in operation that attend to the affairs of two or more ministries, and there are examples of duties relating to one ministry being assigned to two standing committees). The National Assembly sets-up some of its standing committees to resolve issues relating to its internal operation and to the legal status of Members (these include the Committee on Procedure and the Committee on Immunity, Incompatibility, Discipline and Mandate Control).
The National Assembly formed 14 standing committees at its constituent sitting for the 1990–1994 election cycle, and there were 18 standing committees in operation when the term ended. The number of standing committees at work after the constituent sitting for the 1994–98 period stood at 17 and ultimately grew to 19. The 1998–2002 cycle witnessed 22 standing committees engaged in the business of Parliament with a record set at 25 standing committees operating in the term between 2002 and 2006. Parliament then developed a simpler and less costly system of 18 standing committees during the period from 2006 to 2010. Finally, the 2010–2014 cycle saw 20 standing committees engaged in their respective areas with that number dropping to 14 in 2014–2018. The new parliamentary cycle started after the general elections of 2018, but the number of standing committees have not changed, so this number is still 14 not including the Committee on Legislation and the Committee on Nationalities.
Standing committees are parliamentary bodies that initiate measures; express opinions, and put forth proposals; make a final decision in cases set down in the law and in the provisions of the Rules of Procedure; and participate in monitoring the work of the government (the Rules of Procedure grant final decision-making authority to the Committee on European Affairs on matters relating to the European Union: it is this committee, and not the plenary, that takes a stand on the government's position in this area).
Standing committees are responsible for providing continuous assistance to the National Assembly in its legislative and monitoring activities, and for promoting the effectiveness of parliamentary discussions. Standing committees play a more pronounced role in the new legislative process, as detailed debates are to be conducted in committee meetings instead of during plenary sittings. Committees now have competence in any matter for which the National Assembly is responsible and may even take the initiative to address any issue they regard as essential in a particular area of the state and society. Committees therefore enjoy an extraordinary degree of latitude, on which they may also rely in exercising their monitoring function. Committees play an important part in laying the groundwork for personnel decisions in the National Assembly by conducting hearings from candidates.
The activity of standing committees is linked to the main functions of the National Assembly. However, participation in legislation and monitoring the work of government are assigned different weights in the work of certain standing committees.
Standing committees frequently assign certain tasks to sub-committees. Each standing committee is required to form a sub-committee to monitor deregulation processes, enforcement of laws and the impact of those laws on society and the economy.
The number of Members from each parliamentary group acting as members in the work of a standing committee shall preferably be proportionate to the numbers in each parliamentary group. The parliamentary majority of Members of Parliament representing the governing parties is replicated in the standing committees. Each Member of Parliament must be granted the option to participate in the work of a committee. An exception to this rule is made for Members who are also members of the Government or State Secretaries, so they are not members of any committee.
The parliamentary groups for the governing and opposition parties can delegate an equal number of Members to committees of inquiry and to the Committee on Immunity, Incompatibility, Discipline and Mandate Control (based on the principle of parity).
Most committees are chaired by a Member from the governing party in line with the parliamentary proportions for the different parties. However, to give special emphasis to the checks over government for a variety of reasons, certain committees will be headed by opposition Members. These include the Committee on National Security, pursuant to law, and the Committee on Audit and the Budget, on the basis of political agreement.
The National Assembly elects committee officers and members from the ranks of Members of Parliament.
The Committee on Legislation and the Committee Representing the Nationalities
These two committees attend to a set of unique tasks that diverge from the responsibilities of the standing committees.
The new provisions in the Rules of Procedure have established a new legislative process. The key to the new process is the new Committee on Legislation. It is chaired by the Deputy Speaker for Legislation to lend the committee added weight. The Committee on Legislation compiles proposed amendments submitted by committees into a summary of proposed amendments and then submits a report on the summary. The plenary sitting of the National Assembly then decides on the summary of proposed amendments. The Committee on Legislation has decision-making powers, as it has the authority to decide which of the proposed amendments will come before the National Assembly for a vote.
The Committee Representing the Nationalities is unique in that its membership consists of a nationality MP, who is the chairperson, and 12 nationality advocates. Nationality advocates have the right to vote in this committe, in costrast to the plenary sitting. The Committee Representing the Nationalities forms its position on the report by the government on the status of the nationalities and the report by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. The committee chairperson may move to have the House Committee place an item on the orders of the day, as one affecting the interests and rights of the nationalities, and by doing so authorise nationality advocates to participate in the debate on the item.