Instructions to committees on bills

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28.69A committee to which a bill has been committed may be given an instruction the purpose of which is either to empower it to do something which it could not otherwise do, or to define the course of action which it must follow.1 The first type of instruction, which is called permissive, may be given to a Committee of the whole House, or to any other committee. The second type, which is called mandatory, may be given only to a select committee or to a committee on a private bill. (For instructions to joint committees, see para 41.2.)

Standing Order No 65 gives a general authority to any committee on a bill to amend the bill as it sees fit (even if this entails amending the bill's long title in consequence), provided that the amendments are relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. Instructions are therefore required only when it is desired to make amendments which fall outside the scope of the bill (see para 28.81 ). Even an instruction, however, cannot authorise consideration of an amendment that is not cognate to the purposes of the bill, so the area within which an instruction can be effective is closely circumscribed, as the following examples of admissible and inadmissible instructions illustrate.


  1. 1. Instructions to public bill committees are tabled after the committee has been nominated, but before any relevant provision in question is considered. For examples of instructions made after a committee has begun, see CJ (10 February 2010) 231, CJ (9 May 2011) 630.