Intervals between stages of taxation legislation

33.23It was formerly a rule of the House that not more than one stage of a bill brought in on a Ways and Means resolution (ie a taxation bill) should be taken on the same day, although for many years this rule was more honoured in the breach than the observance. This rule was modified in 2011 so that the third reading of such a bill may be taken at the same sitting of the House as its consideration on report.1 The rule continues to apply to any other two stages of such bills and represents the last remaining expression in the House's practice of what was once a general principle—that the House's agreement to expenditure or to the imposition of taxation should be conditional upon a number of distinct opportunities for discussion.2 The Speaker has intervened to prevent two stages of a bill brought in upon tax-imposing resolutions being taken on the same day, and proceedings on third reading taken inadvertently on the same day as the committee stage prior to the 2011 change have been declared null and void.3

The rule is capable of being relaxed at any time in respect of any particular bill by order of the House. In cases of extreme urgency, the stages of Finance Bills have been accelerated. Thus, in 1979 a resolution was agreed to enable the Finance Bill to be brought in and passed through all stages in one day before a dissolution,4 whilst the 1992 Finance Bill, having been ordered to be brought in the previous day, completed its passage at a single sitting.5 In 2005, the Finance Bill having been withdrawn, a business of the House order was passed, under which a motion was made for the reading of certain of the founding resolutions for that Bill, and a Finance (No 2) Bill was presented and completed its passage, all within four hours.6 On 24 April 2017, the House agreed a Business of the House motion which enabled the Finance Bill to be committed to a Committee of the whole House and go through all subsequent stages the following day.7

Footnotes

  1. SO No 77(2); HC Deb (14 December 2011) 537, cc 811–34. The third reading of a Finance Bill was routinely enabled to be taken immediately after consideration prior to the change by means of a specific order or by provision in a programme order: see eg CJ (1999–2000) 523–24; ibid (2000–01) 354–55.
  2. Three customary expressions of this principle have now ceased to be the practice of the House: (i) that founding resolutions were necessary for bills the main purpose of which was the authorisation of expenditure (superseded by the introduction of SO No 50 in 1938); (ii) that Supply and Ways and Means resolutions should receive prior consideration in Committee of the whole House (a practice ended with the abolition of the Committee of Supply and of the Committee of Ways and Means which took effect in 1967); and (iii) that there should be intervals between the stages of Consolidated Fund and Appropriation Bills (removed by the introduction of SO No 56 in 1982).
  3. CJ (1956–57) 201. See also para 33.17.
  4. CJ (1978–79) 271.
  5. CJ (1991–92) 304. See also ibid (2009–10) 417.
  6. CJ (2004–05) 313–15; HC Deb (2004–05) 432, c 1431 ff.
  7. Votes and Proceedings, 24 April 2017 and 25 April 2017.