Introduction to proceedings in the House of Commons on private bills

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45.1Notices in relation to private bills given by the parliamentary agents for the promoters must be given in the Private Bill Office at specified times. In accordance with Standing Order 209, notices and deposits must be given or made between 11 am and 5 pm (or, on a Friday, between 9.30 am and 3 pm) on any day on which the House sits, or between 11 am and 1 pm on any day on which the House does not sit, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.1 After any day on which the House has adjourned beyond the following day, no notice may be given for the first day on which it is next to sit.2 If any stage of a bill is proceeded with when the notice has not been duly given, or the proper interval allowed, or if notice is taken of any other informality, the proceeding will be null and void, and the stage must be repeated.3

All notices are open to inspection in the Private Bill Office, and they are also printed with the House's Business Papers and published on the Parliament website. The private business to be taken on a particular day appears in the appropriate place in the Order Paper for that day (see paras 7.3, 7.5, 19.919.11 ).

Private business is taken immediately after prayers. In order to be taken at the time of private business, motions must relate to a private bill before the House, or strictly to private business in some other form. Motions for the amendment of the standing orders relating to private business, and matters indirectly connected with the private business of the House, are also taken at the time of private business.4

Under Standing Orders 174 and No 20 (Public), no opposed business may be proceeded with during the time of private business, but must be deferred until such time as the Chairman of Ways and Means may appoint.5 Business not reached by the end of the time for private business stands over to the next sitting, or in the case of business which has been opposed, to the next sitting other than a Friday.6 Opposed business includes any proceedings on a private bill which have been deferred where notice of an amendment stands upon the notice paper in the form of a notice of motion7 on second reading, consideration or third reading of a bill; but no such notice of motion may stand upon the notice paper for more than seven days without being renewed by the Member concerned.

The procedure on objection being taken to an item of private business has already been described (see para 19.11 ). Under Standing Order 174(5) and Standing Order No 20(5) (Public), when opposed private business has been set down for debate by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, that direction includes the setting down of any motion directly or otherwise contingent on it, such as instructions moved after second reading, to committees on the bills.

When taken at the time of private business, the various stages of private bills and amendments desired by the promoters, etc are moved formally in the House by the Chairman of Ways and Means or one of the Deputy Chairmen. However, when a bill has been set down by the Chairman at the time for opposed private business, once the order of the day has been taken up by the Chairman, its second reading or any later stage is moved by a Member who has agreed to act on the promoters' behalf.

Registers of all the proceedings from the deposit of the petition to the passing of the bill are published on the Parliament website.

Under Standing Order 188, except in cases of urgent and pressing necessity, no motion may be made to dispense with any sessional or standing order of the House relating to private business, without due notice, and every notice of motion to dispense with any standing order prepared by an agent requires the sanction of the Chairman of Ways and Means. However, standing orders are frequently suspended, if good cause is shown, to permit bills—more especially bills brought from the other House at a late period of the session—to proceed without the usual intervals and notices.8


  1. 1. When the time for delivering notices or making deposits expires on a Saturday, Sunday, bank holiday, Christmas Day or Good Friday, it is extended to the next day that is not in any of those categories (SO 209(2)).
  2. 2. SO 209(1).
  3. 3. CJ (1878) 61; ibid (1884) 57; ibid (1945–46) 360.
  4. 4. See, for example, Parl Deb (1895) 33, cc 116–18; CJ (1935–36) 367; ibid (1948–49) 18; ibid (1953–54) 333; ibid (1974–75) 622, etc. See also HC Deb (1979–80) 978, cc 1074–75 and 1268.
  5. 5. They may appoint no day. See HC Deb (1961–62) 664, c 2 and ibid (1976–77) 936, c 278.
  6. 6. No opposed private business may be taken on a Friday (SO 174(4)).
  7. 7. Other than a motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means (Standing Order 174(3)).
  8. 8. See eg SO 170 (interval between first and second readings), CJ (1950) 133; SO 198 (notice of second reading), ibid (1946–47) 320; SO 86, 179, 180 (consideration), ibid (1944–45) 168; ibid (1955–56) 263; SO 205 (notice of third reading), ibid (1987–88) 148; ibid (1990–91) 479, 606; ibid (1991–92) 281, although SO 204A, which came into effect at the start of Session 1991–92, allows third reading to be taken immediately after the end of debate on consideration.