Scrutiny by government departments

45.15In accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 39, a printed copy of every private bill must be deposited on or before 4 December with various government departments specified in a list maintained in accordance with Standing Order 1A under the authority of the Chairman of Ways and Means. The other departments, with which bills relating to various subjects must be deposited, are also set out in this list; while Standing Orders 60 and 180 prescribe similar deposits which must be made at later stages, and Standing Order 158 requires notice to be given to the Attorney-General of a bill which deals with charities and educational institutions. These provisions enable the various departments to obtain early knowledge of the contents of private bills and to decide whether, in respect of any bill, a report to the House on matters under the jurisdiction of their respective Ministers is called for. Reports are deemed to have been presented to the House if copies are deposited with the Private Bill Office (Standing Order 144). They may deal with either or both the preamble and general policy relating to the bill and questions of administrative detail arising on the clauses.1 They may also include recommendations that clauses should be inserted in the bill to secure the protection of Crown or public interests. (See para 43.4 for reports on human rights compatibility statements, and paras 45.19, 45.22 for the procedure on reports from government departments.)

Government departments may sometimes indicate their views on a clause even where they have no recommendation to make in respect of it, and may sometimes specify, where appropriate, the number of precedents for a clause.2


  1. For cases where the propriety of reports dealing with questions of policy has been disputed, see Minutes of Evidence, Group B, Coventry Corporation Bill, 22 July 1942, p 36; Minutes of Evidence, Group A, East Grinstead Gas and Water Bill, 29 May 1945, pp 11–12.
  2. Reports of Committees on Private Bills (1959–60) p 133. Parliamentary agents sometimes supply a ‘precedent bill’, indicating existing legislative precedents for the drafting of the clauses of the bill for which they are the promoters.