Amendments to be relevant

20.37The fundamental rule that debate must be relevant to a question (see para 21.15 ) also means that every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed.1

Stated generally, no matter ought to be raised in debate on a question which would be irrelevant if moved as an amendment, and no amendment should be used for importing arguments which would be irrelevant to the main question. Thus, the Speaker has ruled that on the third reading of a bill, when debate is limited to the contents of the bill, a reasoned amendment should not urge the rejection of the bill because of what it omits (see para 28.148 ).

The effect of moving an amendment is to restrict the field of debate which would otherwise be open on a question. This is not obvious if an amendment proposes to leave out all the words of a question and substitute a different (but, of course, relevant) proposition (see para 20.31 ). Even that kind of amendment, however, by concentrating debate on the main question and the amendment as alternative propositions, does tend to exclude the consideration of other relevant alternatives. In practice, the Chair will often allow debate to range over both the amendment and the motion.

It would be impracticable to attempt to classify here all the grounds on which amendments have been held to be irrelevant to a question. Some examples are given elsewhere in connection with specialised forms of procedure such as bills, particularly in committee (para 28.105 ff).

Footnotes

  1. 1. Parl Deb (1903) 120, c 806; ibid 121, c 505; ibid (1905) 144, c 1497. This principle was asserted for the first time in Erskine May (9th edn, 1883), p 325. See also Parl Deb (1843) 70, c 213; ibid (1882) 266, c 1846; ibid 269, c 461.