Standing orders relating to committees on opposed bills

45.17No committee on an opposed private bill can proceed to business until the required declaration (see para 45.10 ) has been signed by each of the members.1

The committee may not proceed if more than one of the members is absent, unless by special leave of the House; and no member of a committee on an opposed private bill may absent themselves, except in case of illness, or by leave of the House. Suspension from the service of the House does not exempt a Member from serving on a committee on a private bill2 to which they have previously been appointed.3

If the Chair is absent, the next member on the list of members, who is present, acts as Chair.

If at any time more than one of the members is absent, the Chair suspends the proceedings, and if, after one hour, more than one member is still absent, the committee is adjourned to the next sitting day, when it meets at the hour at which it sat on the day of the adjournment. If, after a committee has been formed, a quorum of members cannot attend, the Chair reports the circumstances to the House, which may make such orders as are necessary to enable proceedings to continue.4

The parties respectively promoting and opposing a bill are required to indicate to the Private Bill Office in advance of the first sitting of the committee their intention to appear before it and the names of any agent or counsel representing them.5

If no parties appear on the petitions against an opposed bill, or, having appeared, withdraw their opposition before the evidence of the promoters is begun, the committee is required to refer the bill back, with a statement of the facts, to the Selection Committee, which treats it as an unopposed bill.6

Standing Order 126 provides that all petitions presented against a bill, or complaining of amendments in the filled-up bill or of any proposed additional provision, subject to their compliance with the standing orders and the rules of the House, stand referred to the committee on the bill; and copies of all such petitions are to be laid before each member of the committee. Under Standing Order 172 copies of any petition against or otherwise relating to a bill must, on application and payment by any interested party, be supplied to them by the agent for the petition (see para 44.1 ).


  1. SO 120.
  2. It has been ruled, however, that a suspended Member should not continue to serve on a select committee on a hybrid bill during the period of their suspension (Speaker's private ruling, 18 April 1995).
  3. SO 121, 122. and SO No 44(5) (Public).
  4. CJ (1890) 402; ibid (1897) 143. See also Parl Deb (1899) 67, c 27; CJ (1964–65) 348, 351; ibid (1985–86) 175; ibid (1989–90) 165.
  5. For cases of hybrid bills in respect of which this requirement was modified by order of the House, see CJ (1985–86) 398; ibid (1994–95) 99.
  6. See Minutes of Evidence of Committee on Mersey Tunnels Bill, 4 February 2003. In 1985, the petitioners against the Harrogate Stray Bill, in consideration of amendments submitted to the filled-up bill by the promoters, decided not to pursue their objections but did not withdraw their petitions. The lack of opposition was communicated to the committee only after it had convened, and it therefore continued to sit to hear the bill proved, as in unopposed proceedings, and to consider the petitioners' application for costs, Minutes of Evidence of Committee on Harrogate Stray Bill, 23 April 1985.