Proceedings in committee: general

45.20The proceedings of committees upon private bills are partly regulated by the usage of Parliament, partly by standing orders, and partly by statute.

Standing Order 136 provides that a committee is not empowered, without express authority from the House, to hear evidence other than that which may be tendered by the parties entitled to be heard.1 Standing Order 134 specifies the parties entitled to be heard before the committee on an unopposed bill and Standing Order 127 the parties entitled to be heard before the committee on an opposed bill. Furthermore, committees on private bills do not possess the power to send for persons, papers and records.

Committees on private bills do not normally have power to adjourn from place to place. However, committees on opposed private bills,2 select committees on hybrid bills3 and joint committees on special procedure orders4 and Scottish provisional order confirmation bills5 have frequently been given power by the House to visit the sites of works proposed in the bills or orders concerned. The committee on the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill [Lords], having been granted the necessary authority by the House, heard part of its evidence in Cardiff.6 In addition, committees on two substituted bills have been given power to adjourn from place to place and one of these committees used this power both to visit Shetland and to hold all its meetings to hear evidence in Edinburgh.7

House of Lords Standing Order 130 provides a procedure whereby the Senior Deputy Speaker may determine differences between the parties concerned with undertakings or arrangements accepted by committees on private bills (see para 46.32 ). There is no equivalent procedure in the Commons.


  1. 1. In 1960, a committee sought leave of the House to hear other evidence by means of an instruction but the matter was not pressed. See Private Business (1959–60) pp 209, 215.
  2. 2. For example, Committees on Greater Nottingham Light Rapid Transit Bill, CJ (1992–93) 137; Croydon Tramlink Bill, ibid (1993–94) 171; and Crossrail Bill, ibid (1993–94) 315.
  3. 3. For example, Select Committees on Channel Tunnel Bill, CJ (1985–86) 398; Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Bill, ibid (1986–87) 222; Severn Bridges Bill, ibid (1990–91) 98; and Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill, ibid (1994–95) 99.
  4. 4. For example, Joint Committee on Exeter-Launceston-Bodmin Trunk Road (Okehampton By-pass) Compulsory Purchase Orders, CJ (1984–85) 339; and City of Stoke-on-Trent Tunstall Northern By-pass Local Government Act Compulsory Purchase Order, ibid (1999–2000) 31.
  5. 5. For example, Joint Committee on Lothian Region (Edinburgh Western Relief Road) Order Confirmation Bill, CJ (1985–86) 170.
  6. 6. Committee on the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill [Lords], CJ (1989–90) 171.
  7. 7. Committee on the Zetland County Council Bill, CJ (1972–73) 295. The Committee on the Orkney County Council Bill did not use the power to adjourn from place to place, ibid (1974) 70.