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I'm French, and I'm currently working on a historical report on English society in the early 19th century for a school exam. I'm working from an English book, and I have a translation problem.

I don't know how to translate "Select Committee" into French, as I'm not quite experienced with juridical terms. Should I translate with Commission d'Enquête Parlementaire ("Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry") or by Commité sélectif/restreint (a word-for-word translation)? Below is the complete sentence of the book, for the context:

In 1833 he gave evidence to the Select Committee on the employment of children in factories.

EDIT: I finally found the information! For people interrested: the french translation is - apparently - "Commission Restreinte". It seems to be organised by the House of Lords - a part of the Parliament. Thanks to all of you!

  • Putting child labour & 1833 together it seems you are referring to British MP M.T Sadler's select committee. In this case I would go for whatever translation(s) have been used (or are used) in history books. Comité parlementaire is often used for it, it is used also in the translation of Engel's La situation de la classe laborieuse en Angleterre. But it is usually referred to as le comité Sadler" just as it is known in English as "Sadler’s Committee". In any case do not use *Commission d'Enquête Parlementaire which would be an anachronism and out of place in Britain. – Laure Feb 8 '15 at 18:48
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OED has the following for committee:

3.a. A body of (two or more) persons appointed or elected (by a society, corporation, public meeting, etc.) for some special business or function. (Cf. 1b, which shows that each member was originally called a committee.)

Hence, in the usage of Parliament, or other legislative assemblies:

Committee of the whole House: the whole of the members sitting as a committee to consider the details of a measure which has been ‘committed’, or for kindred purposes, as in the Committee of Supply, Committee of Ways and Means; hence the phrases to resolve itself into a committee, to go into committee, to be in committee, etc. select or special committee: one consisting of a small number of members, selected to investigate a special matter. standing committee: a permanent committee appointed to deal with all matters within a particular sphere, during the existence of the body appointing them. joint committee: one composed of members nominated by two or more distinct bodies, such as the Houses of Lords and Commons, in order to arrange the terms of joint action, adjust differences, etc.

In terms of the UK Parliament, a select committee consists of around a dozen members selected for that particular committee, which usually has a particular remit (for example, the Public Accounts Select Committee, which deals with expenditure on public projects). The Parliament website has a detailed description of what they do.

We can't help with translation, though. Perhaps having read about the committees, you can identify an equivalent or analogous function within the French legislature whose name you could use. Perhaps it will be acceptable to use the English term, perhaps set in italics as a foreign expression. Perhaps you could simply call it a "special committee" and translate that.

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A Parliamentary Select Committee is not the same thing as Commission of Inquiry. A Select Committee (they are not necessarily Parliamentary) is a body set up for the purpose of looking into a particular matter.

Like you I have seen your quoted alternatives in various on-line English to French dictionaries.

Personally I would use Commité Parlementaire. It gets across the idea that it is parliamentary, but avoids the Commission d'Enquête idea which suggests a much larger and more formal inquiry, e.g. like the The Chilcot Inquiry.

But translators must be using these words every day. It should not be a very difficult thing to find how a newspaper such as Le Monde reports a British Select Committee.

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