Bills with the same purpose as other bills of the same session
28.17There is no general rule or custom which restrains the presentation of two or more bills relating to the same subject, and containing similar provisions.1 But if a decision of the House has already been taken on one such bill – for example, if the bill has been given or refused a second reading – the other cannot be proceeded with if it contains substantially the same provisions;2 nor could such a bill be brought in under the ‘ten-minute rule’ procedure (see para 28.4 ). On the same principle, a bill may not be introduced under Standing Order No 57 if it is substantially the same as one for which leave has previously been refused under the ‘ten-minute’ rule.3 A Member who, in order to have the opportunity to make a speech, sought leave under the ‘ten-minute’ rule to introduce a bill, which was the same as one he had already introduced as a ballot bill, first withdrew the ballot bill.4 The Speaker has declined to propose the question for the second reading of a bill which would have had the same effect as a clause of a bill which had already received a second reading.5 Similarly, a new clause offered at the consideration stage of one bill was ruled out of order when it substantially repeated the provisions of another bill of the same session, the consideration stage of which had been adjourned.6 But if a bill is withdrawn, after having made progress, another bill with the same objects may be proceeded with.7 Objection to a bill related to, but not identical with, another bill being considered by the House of Lords has been overruled.8
The following examples illustrate the application of the rule originally laid down by the Commons on 1 June 1610, that ‘no bill of the same substance be brought in in the same session’.9
On 7 July 1840, Mr Speaker called attention to a motion for a bill to relieve dissenters from the payment of church rates, before he proposed the question from the Chair.10 Its form and words were different from those of a previous motion, but the object was substantially the same; and the House agreed that it was irregular and ought not to be proposed from the Chair (see para 20.12 ).
On 16 May 1860, the order for the second reading of the Charity Trustees Bill was withdrawn, as it was discovered to be substantially the same as the Endowed Schools Bill, which the House had already put off for six months (a procedure tantamount to rejection).11
On 4 May 1951, the Speaker ruled that the National Insurance (Amendment) Bill, set down for second reading that day, could not be proceeded with since the subject-matter of all of its provisions was dealt with in the National Insurance Bill, which had been read a second time on 26 April. The Member in charge of the bill was, however, permitted to make a brief explanatory statement before withdrawing it.12
In Session 1976–77, the Reduction of Redundancy Rebates Bill provided for a reduction expressed in percentage terms in the rebate payable under previous Acts; but the question ‘That the bill be now read a second time’ was negatived on division. A second bill was drafted, but the Speaker ruled privately that it could not be presented since it contained provisions which would achieve the same object as that of the original bill. The Redundancy Rebates Bill, which gave power to vary the rebates within wide limits by order, was then introduced, and proceeded without objection.
In Session 1994–95, the presentation of a Private Member's Bill (the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill) was followed by the presentation of a government bill (the Disability Discrimination Bill) which covered similar but not identical ground and gave rise to doubts about compatibility. Before the second reading of the government bill (which came first), the Speaker ruled that although the two bills overlapped, ‘in many respects they are incompatible and they cannot be said to contain substantially the same provisions. To the extent that their provisions differ and are incompatible, the House may at some stage have a choice to make between them’. She did not, however, consider it right to prevent the House from proceeding with the second reading of either bill.13
Objection on these grounds has been overruled where the question previously decided has related to an amendment on second reading;14 to a rejected instruction on a previous bill;15 to a new clause offered to an earlier bill;16 to an earlier bill which only partly overlapped with a second bill;17 to allowing a clause which reproduced a bill rejected on second reading;18 and to a reasoned amendment to an earlier bill which was not directed against the provisions of the second bill.19 When a bill was withdrawn by the Government after an amendment had been carried against it in committee, a fresh bill to the same effect as the original bill was introduced and ultimately passed.20
There is no rule against the amendment or the repeal of an Act of the same session.21
- 1. Parl Deb (1882) 268, c 1656; ibid (1883) 278, c 92; HC Deb (1975) 885, cc 411–13; ibid (16 January 1978) 942, c 67. However, notices of presentation of bills to regulate proceedings in the House on other bills (Parl Deb (1908) 190, c 879) and to require the Government to introduce other bills (HC Deb (1914) 60, c 1198) have been ruled out of order.
- 2. CJ (1920) 167; ibid (1929–30) 242; HC Deb (1950–51) 487, c 1513; ibid (1990–91) 185, c 1175.
- 3. CJ (1993–94) 454; Third Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, HC 880 (1992–93). By the Speaker's instructions the notice of presentation of the Hospital Lotteries Bill was removed from the Paper on the ground that leave had on 19 May 1931 been refused to bring in the same bill under the ‘ten-minute’ rule (Private ruling, 4 June 1931).
- 4. Income Tax (Earnings Exemption for Persons Living in Poverty) Bill and (No 2) Bill, CJ (2005–06) 72, 193, 279.
- 5. HC Deb (1987–88) 125, c 638.
- 6. HC Deb (1987–88) 134, c 742.
- 7. Ministers of the Crown (Fisheries) Bills, CJ (1953–54) 254, 275, and Speaker's ruling, HC Deb (1953–54) 529, c 2349.
- 8. HC Deb (1979–80) 983, c 219; see also ibid (1977–78) 942, c 67.
- 9. CJ (1547–1628) 434. For the reasons leading the Commons on one occasion to disregard this rule, see CJ (1806–07) 61.
- 10. CJ (1840) 495; Parl Deb (1840) 55, c 553.
- 11. CJ (1860) 249; Denison 45. For the obsolete ‘six months' amendment, see Erskine May (23rd edn, 2004), p 583, fn 7.
- 12. HC Deb (1950–51) 487, cc 1513, 1553–55.
- 13. HC Deb (1994–95) 253, c 146.
- 14. Representation of the People Bill (1859), and CJ (1859) 145, 170.
- 15. Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill (1884–85) (and Medical Relief Disqualification Removal Bill (1884–85)); see CJ (1884–85) 78, 317 and Parl Deb (1884–85) 294, cc 1938–43.
- 16. National Insurance (Widowed Mothers) Bill (1961–62) and Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill (1961–62); see HC Deb (1961–62) 653, c 876 and ibid 651, cc 487–518.
- 17. Game Laws Abolition Bill (1870), see Parl Deb (1870) 203, c 563. For the application of the principle where Lords amendments have overlapped a bill rejected in the same session, see para 30.28.
- 18. Profiteering Bill (1919), see HC Deb (1919) 119, c 1178.
- 19. Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Bill (1924) and Prevention of Eviction Bill (1924). See CJ (1924) 128, 129; HC Deb (1924) 172, c 138 and ibid 173, c 67. But a clause offered to the second bill which repeated the matter covered by the reasoned amendment was ruled out of order.
- 20. Factories Bill and Factories (No 2) Bill (1844), CJ (1844) 181, 225.
- 21. See Interpretation Act 1978, s 2. The British Nationality Act 1981 included in sch 9 (which was to come into force on an appointed day) the repeal of s 49 (which came into force on the passing of the Act). The Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 (passed on 21 July 1994) repealed the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, s 24 (passed on 5 July).