Power and duties of Chairs

28.86Order in debate in a Committee of the whole House is enforced by the Chairman, as he is responsible for the conduct of its business, and no appeal from his decision should be made to the Speaker.1 Nor should an appeal from a decision given by a Deputy2 or a temporary Chair3 be made to the Chairman of Ways and Means on his resuming the Chair. The rules observed by the House regarding order in debate are followed in committee. For example, the rule that a Member who has used objectionable words must explain or retract them, or offer an apology (see para 21.44 ), applies equally in committee and in the House. Just as reference to debate in committee is not permitted in the House (except on the later stages of a bill: see para 21.16 ), reference in committee to the conduct of the Speaker is not allowed.4 In addition, the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Deputies (but not temporary Chairs) have the following powers under standing orders:

  1. Under Standing Order No 32, they may select the amendments, new clauses and schedules to be proposed to bills in Committee of the whole House.
  2. Under Standing Order No 29, they may exercise the same powers as the Speaker in relation to the proposal of the question.
  3. Under Standing Order No 36, they may exercise the same powers as the Speaker in relation to the closure of debate.

Any occupant of the Chair of a Committee of the whole House has the following powers under standing orders:

  1. Under Standing Order No 42, the Chair may direct a Member to discontinue their speech for persistent irrelevance or tedious repetition.5
  2. Under Standing Order No 43, the Chair has the power to order a Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately,6 or, if such power is deemed to be inadequate, the Chair may name the Member for disregarding their authority7 or for persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House.8 In the latter event, as the suspension of a Member from the service of the House or other serious forms of punishment are inflicted by the House only with the Speaker in the Chair, the Chair is directed under Standing Order No 44 to suspend the proceedings of the committee and to report the circumstances to the House. A similar course is followed in the event of grave disorder arising in Committee of the whole House.9
  3. Under Standing Order No 35, the Chair may put forthwith or decline to propose the question on a dilatory motion.
  4. Under Standing Order No 40, if the Chair considers a division unnecessarily claimed, the vote of the committee may be taken by calling on Members who support and who challenge the Chair's decision successively to rise in their places.
  5. Under Standing Order No 68, the Chair may put forthwith the question ‘that a clause stand part of the bill’ (or ‘that a schedule be the schedule to the bill’).
  6. Under Standing Order No 163, the Chair has the same powers as the Speaker with regard to the withdrawal of members of the public.10

Footnotes

  1. Parl Deb (1893) 9, c 975; ibid (1901) 98, c 978; ibid 99, c 365; ibid (1904) 135, c 722; HC Deb (1912–13) 48, c 749; ibid (1960–61) 634, cc 644–45. In this connection, see also CJ (1836) 104; ibid (1854–55) 352; Parl Deb (1852–53) 126, c 1245; ibid (1855) 139, c 486; HC Deb (1912) 40, cc 1275, 1338.
  2. Parl Deb (1906) 157, c 731.
  3. Parl Deb (1893–94) 18, c 1883.
  4. HC Deb (1964–65) 708, c 429. Nor can the enforcement of closure at a previous sitting of the committee be discussed: Parl Deb (1888) 323, c 1446.
  5. For example, CJ (1965–66) 38.
  6. CJ (1893–94) 424.
  7. CJ (1881) 111; ibid (1890) 72; ibid (1901) 62; Parl Deb (1901) 90, c 691; CJ (1908) 404; ibid (1923) 156, 237; ibid (1930–31) 22; ibid (1936–37) 125; ibid (1951–52) 54.
  8. CJ (1882) 322; ibid (1926) 117.
  9. CJ (1961–62) 55. See para 17.18, fn 2.
  10. For example, CJ (1966–67) 558.