Consideration of public bills by select committees
38.88In recent years, public bills have been committed to a select committee only rarely.1 In a select committee to which a public bill has been formally committed, when the evidence, if any, has been concluded, the clauses of the bill are considered. The rules which govern the admissibility of amendments in a Committee of the whole House apply equally to proceedings in a select committee (see para 28.102 ff), but the Chair has not the power of selecting which amendments or new clauses shall be proposed, or of putting forthwith the question ‘That the clause (as amended) stand part of the bill’.
In dealing with clauses or amendments which involve charges on public funds, a select committee is subject to precisely the same restrictions as any other committee on a bill (see para 28.104 ).2 A select committee may, if so empowered or directed by an instruction, consolidate two or more bills into one bill,3 or divide a bill into two or more bills,4 or extend the operation of a bill which is, by its title, limited to a part only of the United Kingdom to another part, or to the whole of the Kingdom.5 When two or more bills of the same subject-matter have been committed to a select committee, the committee has adopted one bill as a basis for its proceedings, and reported the other bill or bills without amendment, with a special report explaining the course it has followed.6
If, in addition to reporting the bill with or without amendments, the committee desires to inform the House of any matters relating to the bill, it makes a special report.7
If a committee is unable to complete its inquiry, or to complete the consideration of the bill, it makes a special report to that effect, and reports the bill without amendment.8 A committee has reported a Private Member's Bill without amendment, at the same time making a special report of conclusions and recommendations for inclusion in forthcoming legislation by the Government.9 A select committee to which a bill has been committed has no power to put an end to the bill,10 though a committee has negatived all the clauses and the preamble of a bill, and made a special report to that effect to the House.11 Where a committee has been of the opinion that a bill should not be further proceeded with, it has made a special report to that effect, and reported the bill, without amendment, to the House.12 A report from a select committee that it is not expedient to proceed further with a bill has been acquiesced in by the House, the bill being ordered to lie upon the Table.13
Referral of a bill to a committee is also rare,14 though it is a process which may be used to assist with resolution of a political problem in the passage of a bill. In such a case, the House would not expect to resume consideration of the bill until after the relevant committee had reported, but it would not be precluded from doing so since the committee's consideration of the bill would not constitute a formal stage in the bill's passage through the House.
More frequent is consideration of a bill, or parts of a bill, during its passage, by an existing committee.15 The Joint Committee on Human Rights scrutinises government bills' compliance with the UK's human rights obligations and has sometimes recommended amendments which it considers should be made to a bill.16
- 1. In recent times, discounting hybrid bills, only the routine quinquennial Armed Forces Bills have been so committed (for example, Armed Forces Bill (2015–16), Votes and Proceedings, 15 October 2015).
- 2. See also CJ (1843) 487; HC Deb (1925) 186, c 1759 ff.
- 3. CJ (1906) 374.
- 4. CJ (1868–69) 192.
- 5. CJ (1870) 113; ibid (1882) 17. See also para 28.71.
- 6. CJ (1892) 277; ibid (1893–94) 396.
- 7. For example, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, HC 154-I (2000–01); Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, HC 779 (2010–15).
- 8. CJ (1895) 312, 317; Fourth Special Report of the Select Committee on the Abortion Bill, HC 692-II (1974–75) p viii; CJ (2000–01) 352; see also Petit Juries (Ireland) Bill Committee, Proceedings, HC 390 (1867–68) pp 3, 4.
- 9. HC 333 (1972–73) p iv (Anti-Discrimination (No 2) Bill).
- 10. Parl Deb (1864) 176, c 99.
- 11. CJ (1867–68) 305.
- 12. CJ (1919) 413; ibid (1929–30) 424.
- 13. See HC 105 (1927) pp iii, xi; HC 266 (1871) pp iv, ix, x.
- 14. See eg Railways Bill CJ (1998–99) 455.
- 15. For examples of committees commenting on current legislation, see Transport Committee, Fourth Report, HC 344 (1980–81); Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee, Tenth Report, HC 751-I (2002–03); Home Affairs Committee, Fifth Report, HC 639 (2002–03); Environment, Food and Regional Affairs Committee, HC 555 (2008–09); Home Affairs Committee, Fifth Report, HC 425 (2008–09).
- 16. Second Report, HC 185 (2009–10) paras 43–45. At the request of the Joint Committee and the Liaison Committee, the Procedure Committee considered whether select committees should be able to table amendments to bills and motions in their own names rather than in the names of individual members of the committee, and whether amendments so tabled should be accorded some degree of priority, see Fifth Report, HC 1104 (2008–09).