In 1919 a Parliamentary Subcommittee was established to monitor bills before Parliament, and report to the Executive Committee; as well as dealing with issues of national interest which the National Federation of Women's Institute (NFWI) wished to comment on. Initially, collaboration occurred with the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship. In 1923, the Subcommittee became responsible for the organisation of the Welsh Counties Conference. In 1926, issues involving public questions became the responsibility of the general Education Subcommittee. In 1932 this was dissolved and the Education and Public Questions Subcommittee was set up. In 1940, the function of Public Questions was devolved to a new separate Subcommittee for one year that undertook questionnaire research into the Government's evacuation scheme. This information was then collated and disseminated to various bodies, in particular the Women's Group on Public Welfare, which it continued when the two Subcommittees re-merged in 1941. It was also active in pressing for the recruitment of women police, as the NFWI had done since the start of the national organisation. However, the function of public questions was again split off from that of education with the formation of the Public Questions Subcommittee in 1949.
In the mid-1950s, survey work subsequently published as 'Our Villages' was undertaken as a project to assess the state of housing and facilities in the rural community of the time. In 1957, the General Education and the Public Questions subcommittees were merged under the title of the Education and Public Questions Subcommittee.
The Subcommittee was amalgamated with the Education Committee once more in 1961 for four years until the two functions were once more split in 1965. In 1970 it became the Public Questions and Countryside subcommittee with responsibility for the WI Town and country project. It was then renamed the Public Affairs committee in 1973.
In 2002 Public Affairs covered all aspects of rural affairs, social policy, health policy, consumer affairs, citizenship issues and international affairs. In line with the 1997 Resolution in support of Agenda 21 and the NFWI's long-standing commitment to sustainable development, the environment was a theme that ran through all the work of the Department. As at 2005 Public Affairs work consisted of three areas: Rural Affairs; Home Affairs (including health and social policy); and International Affairs (including debt cancellation and fair trade).