We study the relationship of the European Parliament's (EP) standing committees and party groups. According to recent studies, committees are the centre of EP policy-making, while party groups enable the transmission of policy positions from specialists to generalists through the mechanism of ‘perceived preference coherence’ (Ringe 2010: 25). We argue that this view underestimates the importance of party groups during the committee stage, if there is outside attention to committee negotiations, or if specialists expect conflict at the plenary stage. Under these conditions, committee members use the party groups to pre-empt the anticipated risk of plenary conflict in an effort to protect their reputation and legislative goals. Finding intra-party co-ordination at the committee stage is important, since the rise of early legislative agreements diminishes the formal relevance of the plenary in EP policy-making. The study of intra-party co-ordination also speaks to a growing scholarly interest in informal European governance.