Privilege amendment

37.14The expedient of a ‘privilege amendment’ (see also para 29.67 ) is adopted when a bill containing provisions which deal with charges is proceeded with first in the Lords. In the past this expedient could be employed only in cases where the financial provisions were a subsidiary portion of a bill, and was not considered justifiable where such provision was the main purpose of a bill, whether it involved a charge upon public funds or merely upon local revenues. Since Standing Order No 80 was made in 1972, however, the Commons may proceed with a Lords bill, except a Bill of Aids and Supplies (see para 37.16 ), which would have as its main object the imposition or alteration of a charge upon the people or upon public funds so long as it contains a formula stating that no such charge is imposed or altered, and provided that it is taken charge of in the Commons by a Minister of the Crown.1

The method of incorporating such a formula to avoid formal infringement of the Commons' privileges is for the Lords to insert a ‘privilege amendment’ on the third reading of a bill in the form of a subsection added to the final clause of the bill. This subsection reads as follows: ‘Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or application of any money raised by any such charge’. This device, which in effect negates the financial consequences of the provisions of the bill to which it relates, is designed to show that the ability of the Lords to legislate on such matters is not absolute but is subject to the tolerance of the House of Commons. The words of the privilege amendment are distinguished by bold type in the bill when it is printed for the Commons. Any provisions in the bill which (but for the privilege amendment) would have the effect of creating, imposing or increasing a charge must then be authorised by a Money or Ways and Means resolution; and the privilege subsection is subsequently removed by an amendment in committee.

When Lords bills have been brought to the Commons without the privilege amendment incorporated in the text of the bill, messages have been sent asking the Commons to return the bill.2 Likewise, when the Commons returned a Lords bill without having removed the privilege amendment, they sent a message asking the Lords to return the bill.3

It should be noted that Standing Order No 80 refers not just to bills the main object of which is to impose a new charge by way of expenditure or taxation but also to bills the main object of which is to alter such a charge. Thus, if a bill brought from the Lords with a privilege amendment would, but for that amendment, have for its main object the reduction of a charge, that bill can be taken up only by a Minister of the Crown and not by a private Member.

Footnotes

  1. 1. For example, Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill [Lords] CJ (1985–86) 133; Farm Land and Rural Development Bill [Lords], ibid (1987–88) 253; State Pension Credit Bill [Lords], ibid (2001–02) 363; Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [Lords], ibid (2006–07) 150.
  2. 2. See LJ (1945–46) 196, 198; ibid (1999–2000) 278. For an instance in the case of a private bill, see ibid (1974) 97.
  3. 3. Space Industry Bill [Lords] 2017–19; Votes and Proceedings, 22 February 2018 and House of Lords Minutes of Proceedings, 22 February 2018.