Standing orders relating to committees on bills, whether opposed or unopposed

45.19All questions before committees are decided by a majority of votes; and, whenever the votes are equal, the Chair has a second or casting vote.1

The names of the Members attending each committee are entered by the committee clerk in the minutes of proceedings; and when a division takes place the Clerk takes down the names of the Members, and on which side they have voted. The minutes of proceedings are laid upon the Table of the House with the report of the committee2 and are published on the Parliament website.

Unless the House so orders, a committee is precluded from examining compliance with Standing Orders 4–68, which are directed to be proved before the Examiners.3

All reports made by a Minister of the Crown on a private bill (see para 45.15 ) stand referred to the committee on the bill. A committee must not begin to consider a private bill relating to a charity or an educational institution until a report on the bill by the Attorney-General has been presented to the House.4

Ministers' reports should as a rule be made available to all interested parties not fewer than 14 days before the committee of the first House sits on the bill. When, by agreement of the parties, the committee sits fewer than 14 days after the second reading of a bill, the report should be issued as soon as possible after second reading.5

Officials of government departments attend committees considering private bills on which their Ministers have made reports. Committees on private bills are debarred by Standing Order 136 from receiving, without express authority from the House,6 any evidence except that adduced by the parties entitled to be heard (see below); so that departmental officials have no absolute entitlement to speak to the practice and policy of their department. If, however, a ministerial report contains a recommendation, the committee is authorised by Standing Order 144, if it thinks fit, to hear a person nominated by the Minister (who need not necessarily be an official of the department concerned) in explanation of the report. It is, in fact, normal practice for committees to hear officials or, on occasion, Ministers (see para 45.22 ), if they wish to add anything to their reports.7


  1. 1. SO 135.
  2. 2. SO 138, 145.
  3. 3. SO 139.
  4. 4. Where this standing order was found not to have been complied with, the proceedings of the committee have subsequently been validated by order of the House, Hastings Borough Council Bill, CJ (1987–88) 286; Birmingham City Council Bill, ibid (1987–88) 734.
  5. 5. Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, 1954–55, HL 14, 58-I (1954–55), HC 139-I (1954–55); HC Deb (1955–56) 557, c 1150.
  6. 6. In 1909, a mandatory instruction was given to the Select Committee on the Great Northern, Great Central and Great Eastern Railways Bill to hear the Board of Trade and any other government department by counsel and witnesses, CJ (1909) 103.
  7. 7. SO 144, 158.