Entitlement to have petition heard: particular issues

44.6In accordance with the general principle that, to entitle them to be heard by the committee, petitioners should prove that their property or interests are directly and specially affected by a bill, petitioners whose property was not taken but who contended that they would be adversely affected by the close proximity of a railway, have on several occasions been refused a hearing.1

In some exceptional cases, however, of special danger, disturbance, or injury, petitioners so affected have been allowed a hearing,2 and owners and occupiers of houses who complained that their property, although untouched, would be injured or shaken by a proposed line, have been heard and have obtained protective clauses.3 The owners of property in proximity to a proposed railway, claiming to be heard on the ground of injury from vibration, have in some cases been granted a hearing,4 and in others been refused.5

The right to be heard of bodies representing trades, businesses and interests in a locality is dealt with by Standing Order 95, which confers on the Court of Referees a discretion of granting a right to be heard to such bodies if they allege that the trade, business or interest will be injuriously affected by provisions contained in the bill in question.6 The standing order further provides that bodies representing amenity, educational, travel or recreational interests may be granted a right to be heard if they allege that the interest they represent will be adversely affected to a material extent.7

Under Standing Order 92, petitioners have generally been admitted to be heard against a bill on the grounds of competition. The Court of Referees, in the exercise of its discretion under this standing order, allows or refuses the right to be heard according to its opinion of the extent and directness of the competition in respect of which the petitioners claim to be heard.8 In cases where it was proposed only to improve an existing competition, the right to be heard has not been allowed,9 but where the nature of the competition is changed (eg by becoming aided by public funds),10 or where a tunnel is proposed to take the place of a ferry,11 the right to be heard has been allowed. By an extension of this principle, where the nature of the competition, eg concessionary fares on public service vehicles, may not adversely affect a petitioner in the district covered by the bill, but may create precedents to their ultimate disadvantage, the right to be heard has been allowed.12

Of the six standing orders (Standing Orders 96–101) which deal with the right to be heard of county, municipal and other public authorities, two (Standing Orders 97 and 98) grant a hearing as of right, the others are of a discretionary nature. Standing Order 97 confers the right on the council of any district or London borough alleging that their city, district or borough may be injuriously affected by the provisions of any bill relating to its lighting or water supply or the raising of capital or the borrowing of money for any such purpose.13 Standing Order 98 confers the right on the council of any county (or, in Wales, county borough) alleging that any part of its administrative area may be injuriously affected by the provisions of any bill relating to the water supply of any area, whether within or without the county, or proposing to authorise the construction or reconstruction of a tramway along any road within the county to the maintenance or repair of which the county council contributes.14

But Standing Order 96 is the principal standing order which confers on the Court of Referees a general power of granting the right to be heard to any local authority15 of any area, the whole or any part of which is alleged in the petition to be injuriously affected.16 The same order authorises the right to be heard to any inhabitants of the area of a local authority, and it is this part of the standing order which has been a frequent source of dispute before the court.17

Of the other standing orders dealing with the right to be heard of public authorities, Standing Order 99 relates to water authorities, and Standing Order 100 to land drainage authorities. Standing Order 101 permits the right to be heard for conservators having the control, regulation or management of any forest, common or open space alleged to be injuriously affected by the bill against which the petition is presented.

Standing Order 93 provides that any shareholder who has dissented at a Wharncliffe meeting is entitled to be heard on their petition,18 but that if they have not so dissented they are entitled to be heard only if their interest, or the interest of the class of shareholders of which they are a member, is different from that of the general body of shareholders. For an explanation of a Wharncliffe meeting, see para 45.3.

Closely akin to the position of shareholders is that of petitioners who—in the capacity in which they petition—may be held to be represented by a local authority or other body. Electors, for example, have not been allowed to be heard, as such, against a bill promoted by a corporation,19 or other local authority,20 to which they pay a charge. It should be noted, however, that this does not necessarily apply to cases where the bill is promoted by another local authority of which the petitioners are not electors but which may affect them as local taxpayers or residents.

The right to be heard has not been granted to a petitioner who claimed to be heard as the prospective parliamentary candidate or local councillor for a constituency or ward within the area affected by a bill21 or for local branches of political parties.22

Since November 2017, Standing Order 91B has permitted Members of Parliament whose constituencies are directly affected by the works proposed by a bill to have their petition considered by the committee on the bill. The right to be heard was extended following the promoter's challenging of the right to be heard of Members during the Lords petitioning phase against the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill 2013–17. Four Members exercised this right in respect of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill 2017–19.23


  1. 1. S 26–28, App 101, 102, 117; 1 C & S, App 45; 1 C & R 80; 2 ibid 38, 124, 249; 3 ibid 86; R & M 208; 2 S & A 123–24, 157; S & B 2; [1983–91] LSR 10.
  2. 2. 1 C & S 40–44; 2 C & R 2, 14, 75.
  3. 3. 2 C & S 189; 1 C & R 46; R & S 44–45; 2 S & A 90.
  4. 4. 2 S & A 100, 126, 128; [1983–91] LSR 65.
  5. 5. 2 S & A 65, 192; [1983–91] LSR 75, 101.
  6. 6. [1936–60] LSR 9, 18; [1960–83] LSR 10. For a decision of a select committee on a hybrid bill, see the Special Report from the Select Committee on the Charlwood and Horley Bill, HC 55 (1973–74).
  7. 7. Para (2) of the standing order, relating to amenity and other interests, was added on 1 April 1968. For decisions of the Court of Referees, see [1960–83] LSR 15; [1983–91] LSR 6; ibid 36. For decisions of the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Chairman of Ways and Means under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945, see Redcar-Marske-Saltburn Compulsory Purchase Order 1979, CJ (1980–81) 480; Exeter-Launceston-Bodmin Trunk Road (Okehampton By-pass) Compulsory Purchase Orders 1984, [1983–91] LSR 167, CJ (1984–85) 26. For a decision of a select committee on a hybrid bill, see the Special Report from the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill, HC 195 (1974).
  8. 8. For examples, see Erskine May (21st edn, 1989), p 850, fnn 3 and 4.
  9. 9. 2 C & R 133; 3 ibid 225, 378; R & M 118, 197; R & S 242; 2 S & A 150.
  10. 10. Proceedings of the committee on the Sunderland Corporation Bill 1935, where the committee, acting under SO 97 (now 90), allowed the right to be heard to petitioners against an additional provision. The petition being against an additional provision and not against the bill, the question was determined not by the Court of Referees, but by the committee on the bill. See also Minutes of Evidence of Lords Committee on Coventry Corporation Bill, 19 March 1958.
  11. 11. 1 B 44.
  12. 12. 1 B 21; Minutes of Evidence of Lords Committee on Coventry Corporation Bill, 19 March 1958.
  13. 13. For the interpretation of this Standing Order, see R & S 125–27; 2 S & A 106. The question whether the words ‘relating to’ are to be construed as meaning ‘affecting’ was discussed in 2 S & B 15, 42. The word ‘alleging’ implies allegation of facts, 2 S & B 102.
  14. 14. Locus standi allowed: 2 S & A 47; 1 S & B 44; [1936–60] LSR 4 (against waterworks bill); 2 S & A 63; 2 S & B 35, 100 (against tramways bills); locus standi disallowed: 2 S & A 46 and 53. Locus standi limited: 1 S & A 85–90; 2 ibid 164–65.
  15. 15. For definition of ‘local authority’ see Standing Order 1. That definition is wide enough to cover all the authorities to which two Standing Orders, 136 and 138 (consolidated during the revision of 1945 into Standing Order 96), applied, and has made obsolete numerous decisions of the Court of Referees as to the scope of those orders.
  16. 16. Loss of prospective benefit, arising out of the choice of one site for a railway terminal rather than another, has been held not to constitute injurious affection, [1983–91] LSR 20–23. On this point, see also 1 C & R 2.
  17. 17. See, for example [1936–60] LSR 14. For a list of such cases, see Erskine May (22nd edn, 1997), p 887, fn 6.
  18. 18. See, for example Private Business (1969–70) 205 (National Trust Bill [Lords]).
  19. 19. [1983–91] LSR 18.
  20. 20. 2 C & S 97, 265; 1 C & R 196; 2 ibid 9; 1 S & A 129; 2 ibid 41; decision of the Court of Referees, 20 March 2002 (Mersey Tunnels Bill), [1991–2006] LSR 59.
  21. 21. [1960–83] LSR 22, [1983–91] LSR 10.
  22. 22. [1983–91] LSR 49–55.
  23. 23. Private Business Notice Paper, 23 March 2018.