The committee’s first meeting takes place in private, which means only committee members and House staff can attend. At that meeting, almost without exception, a committee will agree to admit the public to its future oral evidence sessions. Committees have no power to admit the public to their private meetings and this exclusion extends to MPs’ staff.
After that, committees usually start with a private meeting and then move into a public session to take oral evidence.
Committees use private meetings to choose and plan inquiries and consider reports and other matters. Public sessions must be used only for questioning witnesses. Committee members must not debate matters between themselves or deliberate in public.
Public sessions are all webcast and sometimes broadcast. It’s important to be aware when a private session ends and a public session begins, because of the risk of private discussions inadvertently being broadcast.