Restrictions on power of rescission

20.102The rule was urged (2 April 1604), ‘That a question, being once made and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again, but must stand as a judgment of the House’.1 Also, by a rule formerly in force, a second bill, at variance with the provisions of a bill passed during the same session, could not be introduced (see para 28.17 ). Further, rescission is opposed to the spirit of the existing rule that no question shall be offered which is substantially the same as one on which judgement has been expressed during the current session (see para 20.12 ). But the practical inconvenience of a rigid rule, especially where the House as a whole wishes to change its opinion, has proved too great for a body confronted with the ever-changing problems of government; and the rule prohibiting reconsideration of a decided question has come to be interpreted very narrowly, so as not to prevent open rescission when it is decided that that is desirable.2

The power of rescission has been exercised only in the case of a resolution resulting from a substantive motion, and even then sparingly.3 It cannot be exercised merely to override a vote of the House, such as a negative vote. Proposing a negatived question a second time for the decision of the House would be, as stated earlier, contrary to the established practice of Parliament. Sufficient variation would have to be made, not only from the form but also from the substance of the rejected question, to make the second question a new question.

Similarly, the House of Commons has shown strong objection to rescinding a vote by which the House has made an amendment to a resolution.4


  1. 1. CJ (1547–1628) 162.
  2. 2. Resolutions of the House relating to its own proceedings are more commonly rescinded, eg CJ (1997–98) 744–45 (Advisory Committee on Service Candidates—rescinded without a replacement resolution); ibid (1997–98) 812 (European business); ibid (1998–99) 350; ibid (2001–02) 194 (Sub judice ), 542 (Travel to EU Institutions). The House has rescinded a decision to disagree with the recommendation of a Committee on Standards report and establish a committee to re-consider the matter before the committee had been nominated (Votes and Proceedings, 16 November 2021). See also para 5.26 above, and para 38.3 below.
  3. 3. CJ (1834) 59; ibid (1864–65) 463; ibid (1867–68) 145. See also Colchester ii, 9, 12.
  4. 4. On 11 November 1912, an amendment was made to a resolution authorising the financial provisions embodied in a bill. Subsequently, the Government desired to rescind this amendment before the consideration of the resolution, as amended, was resumed. Objection was taken to this, but the Speaker stated that the House could not reconsider its decision on the further consideration of the resolution. An amendment was proposed to the motion for rescission affirming the principle that a question should not be again proposed or questioned in the same session. The Speaker had to adjourn the House in consequence of grave disorder arising during debate on the amendment. On the following day, the amendment was not proceeded with. The resolution, as amended, was subsequently disagreed to and a new resolution differing from the original resolution was proposed in a Committee of the whole House and agreed to, and the necessary amendments were made in due course, CJ (1912–13) 404, 408, 409, 410, 414, 416; HC Deb (1912) 43, cc 1993, 2090; ibid 44, cc 36, 121. See also ibid (1918) 105, c 1956.