Programmed bills

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28.58Only government bills may be programmed, and almost all such bills are programmed. Exceptions include bills which need to take effect urgently and for which provision is made under business of the House motions or allocation of time motions to accelerate their passage through the House; hybrid bills; technical, uncontentious bills (such as some Law Commission bills);1 and bills which are of a class already subject to a distinct procedure under standing orders (such as consolidation bills or tax law rewrite bills). Private bills cannot be programmed.

Standing Order No 83A provides that if notice of a programme motion is given before second reading by a minister of the Crown, the motion may be made immediately after second reading (but no later) and Standing Order No 63 shall not apply to the committal of the bill. The question on the motion is put forthwith, but the Speaker usually permits discussion of the proposed programme during the debate on second reading.

In the case of the House of Lords Reform Bill in 2012, the Speaker ruled that the tabling of a programme motion had the effect of disapplying Standing Order No 63, even though the programme motion was not moved.2 The bill was therefore in limbo. It was withdrawn on 3 September 2012. A similar ruling was made where a programme motion had been negatived.2A

A programmed bill has been committed to a public bill committee (formerly to a standing committee), to a Committee of the whole House, to a public bill committee in respect of some of its provisions and to a Committee of the whole House in respect of other provisions (see para 28.64 ),3 or to a select committee followed by re-committal to a Committee of the whole House.4


  1. 1. Such as the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill [Lords], Votes and Proceedings, 17 January 2017 (Second Reading).
  2. 2. HC Deb (10 July 2012) 548, c 187.
  3. 2A. Votes and Proceedings, 22 October 2019 and HC Deb (22 October 2019) 666, c 934; see SO No 83A(1).
  4. 3. Hunting Bill, CJ (2000–01) 36; Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill, CJ (2002–03) 32; Finance Bill, (CJ (2002–03) 370); Electoral Administration Bill, CJ (2005–06) 217; Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, CJ (2005–06) 492; Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [Lords], CJ (2007–08) 381.
  5. 4. Armed Forces Bill, CJ (2005–06) 332; ibid (2010–12) 359.