Skip to main content

Reasoned amendments to question for second (or third) reading

28.46A Member who wishes to place on record any special reasons for not agreeing to the second reading of a bill may move what is known as a ‘reasoned amendment’ to the question for the second reading.1 Such an amendment is to leave out all the words in the main question after the word ‘that’ and to add other words. A reasoned amendment is nonetheless placed on the Order of Business in the form of a motion.

A reasoned amendment is intended to offer reasons for rejecting a bill. It may be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill;2 or it may express opinions as to any circumstances connected with the introduction or prosecution of the bill,3 or otherwise opposed to its progress.4 Amendments selected by the Speaker have commonly included the words, ‘this House declines to give a second reading to a bill which …’, or ‘to the … Bill because …’5 or similar words. Thus, the drafting of reasoned amendments reflects the fact that supporting such an amendment is tantamount to opposing the bill. Amendments which have welcomed some of a bill's provisions whilst opposing others have on occasions not been selected; in the case of a bill with two purposes, an amendment affirming one purpose, but hostile to the bill on account of its second purpose, has been selected.6

A reasoned amendment may also be moved to the question for the third reading of a bill.7

The following rules govern the contents of reasoned amendments:

  1. The principle of relevancy in an amendment (see para 20.37 ) governs every such motion. The amendment must ‘strictly relate to the bill which the House, by its order, has resolved upon considering’,8 and must not include in its scope other bills then standing for consideration by the House. Whilst a reasoned amendment on third reading should not urge the rejection of the bill because of what it omits, an amendment on second reading need not be confined to the contents of the bill but may refer to matters which are cognate to it.9
  2. The amendment must not be concerned in detail with the provisions of the bill upon which it is moved, nor be confined to alleging defects which could be cured by amendments to the bill which might be moved in committee.10
  3. It is not permissible to propose merely the addition of words to the question, that the bill be now read a second time, as such words must, by implication, attach conditions to the second reading.
  4. An amendment which amounts to no more than a direct negation of the principle of the bill is unlikely to be selected as being insufficiently distinct from a vote against the question on second reading.


  1. 1. For the obsolete ‘six months' amendment on the second or third reading of a public bill (which survives in connection with private bills), see Erskine May (23rd edn, 2004), p 583, fn 7.
  2. 2. For example, Gas Bill, CJ (1985–86) 76.
  3. 3. Conspiracy to Murder Bill, CJ (1857–58) 65; Paper Duty Repeal Bill, ibid (1860) 126; Intoxicating Liquor, etc (Ireland) Bill, ibid (1890) 214; Newfoundland Fisheries Bill, ibid (1890–91) 313; Government of India Bill, ibid (1934–35) 66; Guyana Independence Bill, ibid (1966–67) 31; Statutory Instruments (Production and Sale) Bill, ibid (1995–96) 454; Superannuation Bill, ibid (2010–12) 154; Welfare Reform Bill, ibid (2010–12) 502. Cf also CJ (1851) 321; ibid (1854) 90.
  4. 4. Australian Colonies Government Bill, CJ (1850) 334; Government of India Bill, ibid (1852–53) 609; Representation of the People Bill, ibid (1866) 213; Elementary Education Bill, ibid (1876) 262; Valuation of Property Bill, ibid (1877) 86; Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, ibid (1878) 282.
  5. 5. For variations on this formula, see eg CJ (1992–93) 366; ibid (1993–94) 99. See also HC Deb (1993–94) 235, c 20.
  6. 6. CJ (2010–12) 145.
  7. 7. See, for example, Votes and Proceedings, 17 January 2018.
  8. 8. HC 517 (1837) p 5; Parl Deb (1856) 143, c 643; ibid (1882) 269, c 961; ibid (1900) 86, c 506; HC Deb (1917) 97, c 523.
  9. 9. For example, CJ (2000–01) 44; ibid (2001–02) 241; CJ (2002–03) 88; Votes and Proceedings, 7 September 2017.
  10. 10. Parl Deb (1905) 145, c 1149; ibid (1908) 188, c 76.