Programme motions

28.59A programme motion typically specifies:

  • whether a bill is to be committed to a public bill committee or to Committee of the whole House;
  • a date by which a public bill committee charged with considering the bill should report; and
  • time to be allotted for consideration of the bill on report, and subsequent stages up to and including third reading.

It cannot, to benefit from the favourable terms under the standing orders for such motions, contain provisions which go beyond programming.1

Debate on second reading may extend to the merits of the programme motion. The question is put forthwith at the end of debate on second reading, precluding any possibility of amendment. Under Standing Order No 83A(13), proceedings on a programme motion are exempted business. The effect, when taken in conjunction with Standing Order No 83I(2), is that proceedings on a programme motion or on any business governed by a programme motion may be continued beyond or entered upon after the moment of interruption, without any further provision.

If a programme motion needs to be amended, a supplementary programme motion may be moved with notice.2 Such motions are commonly moved immediately before consideration of a bill on report, to make more detailed provision for the use of time at report stage and at third reading, or before consideration of Lords amendments. They may also be used to amend the date by which a public bill committee must report a bill, whether on the basis of a proposal by the public bill committee under Standing Order No 83C(12)3 or not.4 Supplementary programme motions have also been moved to give effect to recommendations from a public bill committee relating to consideration of a bill on report and at third reading.5

The question on a programme motion or a supplementary programme motion is to be put forthwith, subject to the following four exceptions:

  • where the public bill committee has reported a resolution under para (12) of Standing Order No 83C (Programming sub-committees) proposing an alteration of the date by which the bill is to be reported to the House, and the motion made under para (13) of the Standing Order does not give effect to the public bill committee's proposal;
  • where the motion makes further provision for proceedings on consideration and third reading of the bill otherwise than in accordance with a resolution of the public bill committee;
  • where the motion reduces the amount of time allocated under a programme order for any proceedings on the bill (whether or not it also increases the amount of time allocated for other proceedings on the bill);
  • where the motion relates to a resolution of the programming committee.

In an excepted case, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on a programme motion is to be put not later than three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion. In these circumstances, amendments may be tabled and selected.6

Standing Order No 83 (Allocation of time to bills) does not apply to a programme motion, and neither Standing Order No 82 (Business Committee) nor Standing Order No 120 (Business Sub-Committees) applies to a bill for which a programme order has been agreed. A programme motion takes precedence over any other motion in connection with the bill in question.7


  1. For instance, it cannot provide that the House should not adjourn until a Reasons Committee has reported, or make provisions relating to the receipt of written evidence by a public bill committee. (But SO No 83H requires a Reasons Committee to report before the conclusion of the sitting.)
  2. The Government has invited the House to agree a motion on the understanding that a revised version will be tabled in the following few days, HC Deb (2004–05) 429, c 650.
  3. Identity Cards Bill, CJ (2005–06) 117.
  4. Digital Economy Bill, Votes and Proceedings, 18 October 2016.
  5. Police Reform Bill, CJ (2001–02) 672; Age-Related Payments Bill, CJ (2003–04) 366.
  6. Protection of Freedoms Bill, CJ (2010–12) 884; Crime and Courts Bill [Lords], CJ (2012–13) 636; Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, CJ (2013–14) 163.
  7. For example, to commit the bill to a special standing committee, HC Deb (2002–03) 403, c 134.