Notice of amendments in committee

28.98It is usual, though not obligatory, to give notice of an amendment to a bill in committee. Notice should be given whenever possible of every amendment, as the moving of any amendment without notice causes obvious difficulty and inconvenience to the committee. In public bill committees and Committee of the whole House, amendments of which notice has been given only on the previous sitting day are marked on the amendment paper with a star; amendments of which notice has been given only two sitting days previously are marked on the amendment paper with a hollow star.1 Chairs normally do not select such amendments.2 Amendments of which no notice has been given until the day itself (manuscript amendments) are rarely selected.

Notices of amendments to a bill in committee are not normally received until the bill has been read a second time. When a bill has required to be passed unusually quickly, however, the House has authorised the acceptance of amendments before second reading,3 and the same procedure is sometimes followed in the case of other bills when it is intended that the committee stage should be taken on the same day as second reading;4 in the case of Consolidation Bills, which are never debated on second reading, the procedure is authorised by Standing Order No 58. On the day on which a bill is set down for second reading, amendments may be handed in after the second reading motion is agreed to only to the Clerks at the Table, and not to the Table Office or the Public Bill Office.

Under Standing Order No 64, whenever the House is adjourned for more than one day, notices of amendments, new clauses or new schedules or of amendments to Lords amendments received in the Public Bill Office at any time not later than 4.30 pm on the last day on which the House is not sitting may be accepted as if the House were sitting, but Saturdays, Sundays, bank holidays and public holidays in England are excluded from being regarded as the ‘last day’.5 Non-sitting Fridays appointed under Standing Order No 12 are treated for the purposes of Standing Order No 64 as sitting days, and amendments may be received by the Public Bill Office between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm on such days, unless the House has also not met on the previous day.

Notices of amendments are integrated into a marshalled list on the day they are tabled. A small number of each of these documents is printed and distributed on blue paper the following day and the document is published on the Parliament website. A larger number of the marshalled amendment paper is usually printed and made available online for the convenience of Members two sitting days before that on which the committee stage of the bill is due to begin (see also para 7.4 ). On the day upon which a bill is to be considered in committee, the amendments appear on a white amendment paper marshalled in the order in which the text of the bill is to be considered.6 An amendment to leave out words in order to insert other words takes precedence over an amendment merely to leave out words. Otherwise, amendments are marshalled, if relating to the same point in the bill, in the order in which they were first handed in, except that amendments by the Member in charge of the bill take precedence over all others offered at the same place in a clause. New clauses in the name of the Member in charge of the bill are marshalled before other new clauses and may appear in any order specified by the Member in charge.7 When notice has been given by the Member in charge of the bill of a motion to vary the order in which clauses are considered (including a motion in the terms of a resolution of a programming sub-committee), the amendments will be marshalled in accordance with the order to be proposed, with an explanatory note to that effect.

To avoid the repetition of identical amendments on the paper, the name of any Member who has handed in an identical amendment is added to the existing list of signatories unless the Member instructs otherwise. If the Member in charge of the bill adds their name to an amendment, their name appears at the top.

It has been noted by the Speaker that it has never been the practice of the House or its committees to allow a single global amendment to make a series of identical or very similar amendments to different points in a bill.8

Members are permitted to submit a brief explanatory statement when giving notice of an amendment to a bill committed to a public bill committee. Such statements are limited to about 50 words and are not to contain argument. The explanatory statement is printed on the amendment paper in italics immediately following the amendment to which it relates. This practice began as an experiment and the House subsequently resolved that Members could continue with this practice on a voluntary basis.9 Explanatory statements accompany all government amendments tabled in the House of Commons.10

Footnotes

  1. 1. See Votes and Proceedings, 23 May 2016, and Fourth Report from the Procedure Committee, HC 823 (2015–16). Fridays on which the House does not sit are treated as sitting days for these purposes.
  2. 2. A practice confirmed by a private decision of the Chairmen's Panel, 27 November 1996.
  3. 3. For example, Votes and Proceedings, 26 January 2017 (European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill); HC Deb (1974–75) 882, c 570.
  4. 4. The House has agreed to motions enabling Members to table before second reading amendments for consideration in committee of the whole House of bills which had been presented that day: Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Bill and Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Pay) Bill, Votes and Proceedings, 21 March 2018.
  5. 5. No notice of motion, eg to re-commit a bill or to vary the order in which a bill is considered, may be received under this Standing Order, but under Standing Order No 12(3) notices of motions relating to proceedings on bills committed to a public bill committee may be received on a non-sitting Friday.
  6. 6. HC Deb (1987–88) 132, c 1143. The Speaker has the power to direct that amendments relating to the same point in a bill be marshalled in the order that he or she thinks most appropriate.
  7. 7. Parl Deb (1893) 18, c 1162.
  8. 8. HC Deb (6 September 2011) 532 c 186.
  9. 9. HC Deb (13 October 2011) 533, cc 515–55; ibid (6 November 2013) 570, cc 381–83. For details of the experimental phase, see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 573, fn 276.
  10. 10. Cabinet Office, Guide to Making Legislation, July 2017, ch 24. Exceptionally, in the case of Finance Bills, such explanatory statements are omitted and explanatory material for amendments is published on the government website for the bill.