Departures from usual procedure on private bills

43.14The standing orders which regulate the deposit of private bills have already been described (see paras 43.143.2 ). Certain departures from these rules are, however, authorised in some instances, notably to allow proceedings on bills to continue in subsequent sessions (see para 45.37 ).

If parties who have not deposited a petition for the bill before 27 November desire to promote a private bill during the current session, they may apply to the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons and the Senior Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords for leave to deposit a petition for a bill. The application must explain both the circumstances in which the parties have been prevented from complying with the orders of the House as to the deposit of the petition for the bill at the proper time and the desirability in the public interest of the provisions,1 and indicate the reasons of urgency which make it undesirable for them to delay the deposit of a petition until the following session.2 If they approve the application,3 the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Senior Deputy Speaker authorise the promoters to deposit the petition for the bill, and indicate the House in which the bill will originate. Thereafter, the petition for the bill is formally endorsed by the Chairman of Ways and Means or Senior Deputy Speaker4 and duly deposited in the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons or the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments as the case may be. The bill then proceeds in the usual manner. The endorsement of the Chairman of Ways and Means or Senior Deputy Speaker does not, however, excuse the petitioners from the results of their failure to comply with the requirements of the standing orders governing the time for depositing petitions for bills; nor does it in any way prejudge the case before the Examiner or the Standing Orders Committee.

The Chairman of Ways and Means and the Senior Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords have indicated their reluctance to endorse a petition for a bill which contained provisions additional to those of an urgent nature. Such petitions should accordingly be confined to matters of urgency and should not be made the occasion for the introduction of a ‘general purposes’ bill.5


  1. 1. In 1955, the Chairman refused the application of the Huddersfield Corporation for a late bill on the ground that the provisions sought had already been rejected by a committee on another private bill.
  2. 2. In 1947, the National Union of Journalists was refused permission for a late bill on the ground of lack of urgency. A similar decision was taken in the case of the proposed University of Buckingham Bill in 1987. See also Cumberland County Council and Middlesex County Council applications, fn 5 below.
  3. 3. Supplementary information is sometimes called for, eg the application for a late bill by the Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company in 1958.
  4. 4. Standing Order 2A (HC); Standing Order 97 (HL).
  5. 5. For example, in the Cumberland County Council (Water, etc) Bill 1947 (which subsequently became the North Cumberland Water Board Act 1947) ‘general purposes’ provisions, not of an urgent nature, were not allowed to proceed. In 1949, also, leave was granted in respect of only one of several provisions for which application was made by Middlesex County Council to introduce a late bill.