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The scope of a bill

28.81Any amendment (or new clause or new schedule) proposed to a bill must be within its scope. The scope of a bill represents the reasonable limits of its collective purposes, as defined by its existing clauses and schedules. In particular cases, difficult questions of judgment may arise. The scope of a bill, particularly of a bill with several purposes, may be wider than its long title, although the long title may help to determine the scope. Conversely, a bill with a single purpose may have a narrow scope even though the long title is apparently wide (for example, ‘a Bill to amend a certain Act’).1

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, that is to say, within the scope of the bill. When it is desired to make amendments which fall outside the scope of the bill, but which are nonetheless cognate to the purposes of the bill, an instruction is required (see para 28.70 ).2

Where a bill has one or two3 purposes, only amendments relating to those purposes, or touching on matters closely connected with them, fall within the scope of the bill. Where a bill has three or more purposes, amendments directed to objects not specifically covered by the bill, but broadly germane to its subject-matter, may be found to be within its scope. This may have an impact on decisions about the final form of a bill before it is presented. For example, having announced in a previous Business Statement that the House would consider a Northern Ireland (Assembly Members, Regional Rates and Energy) Bill,4 the Government announced on the day before the Bill was to be taken that the House would instead consider two separate Bills: the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Bill and the Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Pay) Bill.5 The former, with two substantive clauses, was a two-purpose bill; the latter, with a single substantive effective clause, had a single purpose. No amendments were tabled to either Bill; but, as indicated above, the scope for amendment might have been wider had the substantive provisions been brought forward in a single bill with three or more purposes. The scope of a bill to combat inequality and discrimination in relation to the general population did not extend to amendments about religious discrimination in respect of royal marriages or sex discrimination in respect of succession to the Crown.6

The scope of a bill may change in the course of the bill's passage through the House depending on the amendments made to the bill.7

Each clause of a bill has its own distinct scope, and any amendment proposed to a clause must be within the scope of the clause. An amendment which is outside the scope of a clause may be admissible if presented as a new clause, provided that it is within the scope of the bill.


  1. 1. HC Deb (1999–2000) 350, c 611.
  2. 2. See Erskine May (20th edn, 1983) for fuller treatment of this subject, and see also paras 36.1, 36.46 for instructions relating to Finance Bills.
  3. 3. The inclusion in one bill of two distinct purposes which are unrelated to each other may give rise to objection.
  4. 4. HC Deb (15 March 2018) 637, c 998.
  5. 5. HC Deb (20 March 2018) 638, c 181.
  6. 6. Equality Bill (2009–10); Supplement to Votes (2009–10) 102–3.
  7. 7. Greater London Authority Bill (2006–07); Supplement to Votes (2006–07) 278.