Bills referred to a second reading committee

28.53Under the provisions of Standing Order No 90, a public bill, instead of being debated on second reading in the House, may be referred to a second reading committee on motion made by a Minister at the commencement of public business. At least ten days' notice must be given of any such motion, and no motion can be made until the bill to which it relates has been printed. The question on the motion is put forthwith and must be decided without amendment or debate; but if not fewer than 20 Members signify their objection by rising in their places, the Speaker must declare that the noes have it.1

The Standing Order also enables private Members to move motions to refer their bills to second reading committees subject to the following conditions: (i) the Member must give at least ten days' notice; (ii) the bill must have been printed before the notice is given; (iii) the notice must be for a day on which Private Members' Bills have precedence; (iv) it must be for a day not earlier than the eighth Friday on which such bills have precedence; and (v) it can be moved only with the leave of the House, with the result that a single objection nullifies the motion. If all these conditions are met, the motion is moved at the commencement of public business and the question on it is put forthwith. If the question is agreed to, the order for second reading (whether for that day or a future day) is treated as discharged. Only one Private Member's Bill has benefited from this provision to date,2 although unsuccessful attempts have been made to have other bills so referred.3

When a second reading committee has reported to the House whether or not it recommends that the bill ought to be read a second time (see para 39.32 ), a note of its recommendation is appended to the order for the second reading of the bill among the remaining orders of the day; and when the bill subsequently comes before the House, the question for its second reading is decided without amendment or debate.4 Proceedings on the question are not exempted business.5

Since its first introduction, this procedure has been generally regarded as suitable only for bills ‘which are not measures involving large questions of policy nor likely to give rise to differences on party lines'.6


  1. 1. For example, CJ (1966–67) 178; ibid (1968–69) 62. For a Government Bill referred to a Second Reading Committee by a motion outside the terms of SO No 90, see Votes and Proceedings, 21 June 2018.
  2. 2. Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Bill, CJ (1989–90) 397. See also Votes and Proceedings, 14 February 2019, for a government motion agreed to which provided for a Private Member’s Bill to be referred to a Second Reading Committee.
  3. 3. See HC Deb (1979–80) 975, c 919; ibid (1993–94) 241, c 537.
  4. 4. For example, Insurance Companies Bill [Lords], CJ (1979–80) 376, 397, 403. No second reading committee has ever recommended that a bill ought not to be read a second time.
  5. 5. For example, CJ (1990–91) 184, 188.
  6. 6. First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, HC 149 (1964–65) para 3. See also HC Deb (1964–65) 718, c 172.