Special public bill committee
29.52Special public bill committees are public bill committees which are empowered to take written and oral evidence on bills before considering them clause by clause in the usual way. Law Commission bills are normally committed to a special public bill committee, but the procedure may also be used for any bill irrespective of the House of introduction.1 A bill is committed to a special public bill committee by a motion moved after second reading by the Lords Member in charge of the bill.2 Where it is proposed in advance that a bill be committed to a special public bill committee, the Committee of Selection reports on the membership of the committee before second reading to allow arrangements for taking evidence to be put in hand contingent on the bill being committed.3 The Government hold a majority over the other parties, with the balance held by the Crossbench Members. It has been the practice for the relevant Minister and frontbench spokesmen from the other parties to be members. Any Member of the House may attend any public meeting of the committee and may speak and move amendments but not vote. The committee is not normally given the other powers commonly possessed by select committees empowered to take evidence such as those to appoint advisers or to adjourn from place to place.4 The committee may sit whether the House is sitting or not.
Special public bill committees must conclude their taking of evidence within a 28-day period beginning with the date on which they are appointed, excluding any adjournment of the House for more than three days, but there is no time limit for their subsequent proceedings. The relevant government department produces with the bill a summary of the consultation undertaken, with an indication of representations received and changes made. The evidence-taking usually begins with the Minister giving evidence, following which he or she rejoins the committee on the other side of the table.
There is an interval after the conclusion of the evidence taking, to enable members of the committee to table amendments.5 The committee then meets to consider any amendments tabled. Notice of the proceedings is given on the Order Paper and amendments are published and circulated as for a Committee of the whole House. Proceedings are not time-limited. The Senior Deputy Speaker may take the Chair for these proceedings if desired but may not vote, not being a member of the committee. Special public bill committees, when considering amendments, follow the procedure of a committee stage in the Chamber as closely as possible. Members speak standing and, so far as they can, observe the same degree of formality as in the Chamber. The committee may vote on amendments and motions: if the question cannot be decided by collecting the voices, the Clerk reads out the names of the members of the committee. Each member when their name is called replies ‘Content’, ‘Not-content’ or ‘Abstain’. If a division in the House is called, the committee adjourns for ten minutes.
The committee does not produce any report on the bill other than the bill as amended, which is published in the usual way. The written and oral evidence is published, together with the verbatim report of the proceedings.
After a bill is reported from a special public bill committee the next stage is Report.
- 1. LJ (1994–95) 45, 90; Procedure Committee, First Report 2007–08.
- 2. LJ (1993–94) 361; ibid (1994–95) 50, 204. The order of commitment of the Arbitration Bill 1996 was discharged and the bill committed to a Committee of the whole House: HL Deb (1995–96) 569, c 10.
- 3. HL Deb (1995–96) 567, cc 1279–88.
- 4. The special public bill committee on the Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [Lords] received power to adjourn from place to place within the UK (22 January 2013). The committee on the Insurance Bill [Lords] was given power to appoint an adviser (25 November 2014).
- 5. Amendments may be tabled in the usual way at any time after second reading.