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Evidence on procedural reform, 1965

The following Memorandum was submitted to the Select Committee on Procedure and printed in its 4th Report of Session 1964-65, HC 303, as Appendix 2 to the Minutes of Evidence (p. 131-42). See also the related oral evidence.

I. PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

The Study of Parliament Group is a private group of university teachers and officers of both Houses of Parliament who have been meeting since the summer of 1964 under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Fellowes, former Clerk of the House of Commons. It exists to further serious study of the working of Parliament.

The first topic we have studied as a group has been the reform of some aspects of Parliamentary procedure.

As a result of discussion by the group as a whole, the Chairman and the following academic members submit this evidence to the Select Committee (the general character of the evidence has been agreed to by the group as a whole without particular members being committed to every detail):

Professor Max Beloff, Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration, All Souls College, Oxford.
Professor Peter Bromhead, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol.
Dr. D. N. Chester, Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford.
Dr. Bernard Crick, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, London School of Economics.
Dr. Bernard Donoughue, Lecturer in Politics. London School of Economics.
Professor J. A. G. Griffith, Professor of English Law, University of London.
Professor A. H. Hanson, Professor of Politics, University of Leeds.
Mr. Norman Hunt, Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.
Mr. Nevil Johnson, Lecturer in Politics, University of Nottingham.
Professor W. J. M. Mackenzie, Professor of Government, University of Manchester.
Mr. Geoffrey Marshall, Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford.
Mr. R. V. Rhodes James, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
Dr. P. G. Richards, Reader in Politics, University of Southampton.
Professor W. A. Robson, Professor Emeritus of Public Administration, University of London.
Professor H. Wiseman, Professor of Government, University of Exeter.

This submission concentrates on two aspects only of the many factors which affect the efficient conduct of the business of the House and it points to some of the consequences that would follow for the research and information services available to the House. We submit proposals and argument relating to, first, procedure on public bills and then, secondly, to the procedure relating to the scrutiny and investigation of policy and administration.

We consider that there is a strong case for streamlining the passage of legislation, but only if the consequence is to give the House more time, facilities and procedural devices with which to obtain the information that Members require and to study, scrutinise and criticise both the workings of the whole machinery of government and the factual assumptions on which policy decisions are made.

The greatness and the unique character of British institutions lie in the fact that it has been possible and has for long been thought desirable to have both strong Government and effective criticism of it within the House. But as the machinery of central Government is strengthened, so steps should be taken to strengthen the critical efficacy of the House of Commons and its ability to reach the public ear.

We do not see the need for great changes in the basic character of the procedures of Parliament. But we do see the need to make practical proposals to relate together systematically a fair number of changes of detail which have seemed for a long time, both to people inside and outside the House, no more than the commonsense of the matter of maintaining the repute and power of Parliament.

The procedures of the House of Commons need to be modified in recognition of the fact that effective "Parliamentary control" has for a long time meant not mainly the threat of overthrowing the Government in the House but also the process of influencing the Government and informing the electorate.

So the kind of proposals we are making do not seek to change the accepted balance between the Executive and Parliament, but rather to enable Parliament to perform its traditional role more efficiently and effectively.

II. PROCEDURE ON PUBLIC BILLS

General

1. Most legislative proposals are integral parts of the policy of the Government which is for the time being in power. Most British Governments are in power not as the direct result of any action by the House of Commons but because the electorate has returned to that House a majority of Members pledged to support a government of a particular character. Although Parliament is commonly called "the Legislature" it has to be recognised that legislative initiative lies mainly with the Executive and that in such cases the function of Parliament is limited to examining and criticising those proposals, requiring the Government to justify them, and accepting them with or without modification or rejecting them.

2. The second reading debate provides the only opportunity for the House to consider the bill as a whole and the wider implications of the problems with which it is concerned, and although the decision of the House at this stage on a Government bill is normally a foregone conclusion, the debate enables the Government, the official Opposition and back-bench Members (whether acting independently or on behalf of interested bodies) to state publicly the main arguments. The second reading debate is an important stage in the progress of legislation; it is the only occasion on which not only the bill but the whole problem it seeks to deal with can be discussed. All other stages are restricted to the actual proposals contained in the bill or alternative specific proposals put forward by Government, Opposition or back-benchers.

3. In detailed discussion in committee the contribution of Parliament can properly be a little more positive and precise. Decisions even on points of detail are in practice almost always in accordance with the Government's recommendation, but it is essential that there should be ample opportunity for Parliament to give very thorough consideration to everything that is in each bill.

4. This implies that any Member who wishes to propose an amendment should have an opportunity to do so, subject to safeguards against duplication and obstruction; that he should be enabled to propose his amendment in such conditions that other Members may comment on it, and that the Minister should be obliged, in advising acceptance (with or without modification) or rejection of the proposal, to give a thorough explanation of the reasons for which he gives that advice. But it does not imply that the whole of the House of Commons should be engaged in the discussion at every stage, or that every Member should have an opportunity to vote on every point of detail.

5. Bills are at present extremely detailed--much more so than in some other countries. This means, first, that matters which are really detailed administrative points are subject to full parliamentary discussion, occupying a committee's time and possibly that of the whole House on report; and secondly, that when a bill has been passed any amendment even on a point of detail requires new legislation with all the lengthy procedure that that involves. It also means that Members spend much time and effort on the legislative processes, while opportunities to bring to bear their special knowledge of how legislation is working out in practice may be unduly limited.

The Content of Bills

6. We suggest that the amount of detail included in bills should be reduced. Sections containing considerable detail, for example much of the matter at present included in the schedules to bills, should be excluded from the text of legislation and left for treatment in statutory instruments. The extent of Ministers' powers to make statutory instruments should continue, as at present, to be defined in the parent legislation. Memoranda (for information only) should be attached to bills indicating the scope and form of the delegated legislation that is envisaged.

The Role of the House in Legislation (including Delegated Legislation)

7. (a) We propose that this should be confined to:

    (i) approving the principles of any legislative proposal (second reading); this frequently involves major policy questions and should (apart from purely Scottish and Welsh bills) remain on the floor of the House.

    (ii) approving, or recommitting in certain respects, the report of the committee on the bill. A draft S.O. is attached to show how this procedure is intended to work (see Appendix One).

    (iii) deciding whether or not to pass the final version of the bill (third reading).

    (iv) taking a final decision on whether to agree to Lords amendments.

(b) We propose that there should be increased opportunities and improved procedures for considering both the merits of statutory instruments and their application. In order to achieve this objective there should be a new select committee set up to consider the merits, as a means of achieving the purposes of the Act, of all statutory instruments needing an affirmative resolution, and such of those requiring a negative resolution as may be referred to the committee by the House. And this should be done without amendment or debate if a motion to that effect be put on the order paper in the names of 40 members. Other "prayers" could still be taken on the floor of the House as at present. In order to ensure that all interests concerned could readily be represented the membership of this committee would necessarily be fairly large, but Members could be added or discharged in respect of particular instruments. The committee should have power to appoint sub-committees, with the powers and procedures of select committees, to take evidence and report to the main committee on particular instruments. The debates of the main committee and the reports of its sub-committees (together with any minutes of evidence) should be published. The decisions of the committee would be reported to the House but on the question on the agreement of the House to the report of the committee only one speech in favour, and, if desired, one speech against should be permitted. The quasi-legal work of the present Statutory Instruments Committee should continue unchanged.

Committee Procedure

8. (a) We propose that every public bill except Finance Bills and Consolidated Fund Bills should (with rare exceptions) be sent after second reading to a select or standing committee. There should be some flexibility regarding the type and the size of committee to which any particular bill should be sent. Most bills would go to committees which would proceed in the same way as the existing standing committees, but the membership might be as low as 15. Less controversial bills, especially those involving detailed or technical matters, or bills on which evidence from outside witnesses--either civil servants, independent experts or representatives of affected interests--would appear valuable, should be committed initially to select committees more frequently than in recent years. Consideration of such bills by select committees can lead to more relevant information being obtained and published (and hence to better informed debates), better drafting, and closer agreement between the parties on what needs to be done. The work of the select committees on the Army and Air Force Acts, the Naval Discipline Act and the House of Commons Disqualification Bill, 1957, provide good examples of the value of this type of legislative scrutiny. The decision on the type and size of committee appropriate for each particular bill could be taken either by a business committee, such as others have proposed, or by the present procedure. It is to be expected that Government and Opposition front benches would be represented on any business committee.

(b) As the membership of a standing committee might be small, it should be provided that any Member not being a member of that committee should be allowed to attend a meeting of the committee with the right to speak to any amendment of which he had given notice and which was in order and had been selected by the Chair. Such a Member, not being a member of the committee, would not be allowed to vote in any division in the committee.

(c) In setting up a committee a number of substitutes should be named who could, when so requested, take the place of any member of the committee who had satisfied the Chairman of his unavoidable absence, or, in any event, of a Minister.

The Consideration Stage

9. We propose that, after publication of a bill as amended in committee, what is at present the report stage should be taken by the committee to which the bill was originally committed except in the case of bills originally committed to a select committee. These should be committed for consideration to a standing committee, like all other bills. Some members, at least, of the select committee should also be appointed to the standing committee. If at this time some members of the original committee should no longer be available, they could be replaced. Members of the House not being members of the committee could then be allowed to move amendments as at the committee stage, and Ministers would have the same facilities as at the committee stage.

Lords Amendments

10.(a)(i) On receipt of the Lords amendments the normal procedure should be to refer them to the committee which considered the bill at the consideration stage, with the same provision for change of membership and for the attendance of other members to move amendments.

(ii) This reference would be undebatable unless a motion to agree to all the Lords amendments is moved as an amendment to the motion to commit them. Such an amendment would be subject to debate and to a decision of the House. If negatived the Lords amendments would stand committed to the committee.

(b) In a case where the Lords amendments have been committed to a committee, the committee would in due course make its report and a motion to agree to the report of the committee would be moved in the House. This should be debatable, and instructions should be permitted to require the committee to reconsider any particular Lords amendments.

Financial Resolutions

11. When a financial resolution is required for a bill, it should be referred to the committee on the bill, and when reported the question on the report should be decided without amendment or debate.

Private Members Bills

12. We attach importance to the value of Private Members legislation, and therefore propose that more of Private Members time should be devoted to Private Members bills. We also believe that bills that are approved by the House on second reading should be afforded full opportunities at the committee stage. To this end we propose that in general outline the procedure on Private Members bills should be as described above, but otherwise should remain as it is at present, though with the following modifications.

(a) Except in the first session of any Parliament, the ballot for Private Members bills should be held before the end of the preceding session (normally in July) in order to give Members more time to prepare their measures.

(b) Four half days (in addition to ten Fridays) should be devoted to Private Members bills. In other words, the four half days in addition to Fridays, which have recently been allowed as Private Members time, should be used for bills rather than motions. The Speaker would continue to exercise discretion on whether to accept a closure motion; nevertheless a half day's debate should be considered adequate for any measure that does not arouse widespread controversy.

(c) In order to limit congestion and opportunities for obstruction at the committee stage, the first six Private Members Fridays of a Session should be devoted to Private Members bills, together with the first two extra half days to be provided for Private Members business.

(d) Extra committees for Private Members bills should be formed when required.

Finance Bills

13. Committee and report stages of the Finance Bill should continue to be taken on the floor of the House.

14. During the period in which the Finance Bill is being considered by the House and in committee, those clauses which are agreed to be clauses raising technical taxation problems should be referred by the House to a select committee (with sub-committees if necessary) for study. This taxation committee should report on as many clauses as possible in time for their recommendations to be incorporated, if thought fit, in amendments to the bill at the report stage. Clauses requiring more consideration than time permitted before the report stage on the bill and other continuing administration problems in the field of taxation should be examined by the select committee during the course of the year. These clauses, however, would only be referred to the select committee for examination, not committed. They would hence remain before the House, and all aspects of them, but especially the policy aspects, could be debated as at present. The advantages of this procedure would be four-fold. Time spent on debate in committee and on report on technical matters of interest only to a very limited number of Members would be considerably reduced; more relevant information, and the views of outside experts, could be obtained and published (so leading to more informed public discussion and debate); better drafting of technical proposals might be ensured; and a corpus of Members, knowledgeable on taxation administration, would be built up.

15. Amendments should again be permitted to reduce the rates of purchase tax on individual items. Although the powers of the Chair to select amendments might have to be employed to prevent abuse, this relaxation would provide the valuable right of ensuring that the taxation problems of a particular industry could be discussed--as they cannot conveniently be at present.

III. SCRUTINY AND INVESTIGATION OF POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION

General

16. Parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive is fundamental to the whole question of parliamentary reform. For though it is the business of the Government to govern, it is also their business to give a running account of their stewardship to the House of Commons which was elected to support them, and to submit their action or inaction in any particular instance to the judgment of that House. When the business of government consisted almost entirely of managing the foreign affairs of the nation and raising money for purposes mainly connected with the policy adopted towards other nations, the House of Commons could in the course of many lengthy debates spread over a considerable length of time get from Ministers the information necessary to enable members to arrive at a decision. But this procedure is still in use under conditions in which in the space of six hours or less the House is expected to review the whole field of a foreign policy infinitely more complicated than that on which their predecessors spent weeks of debate. It is surely obvious that to enable the House to arrive at a correct judgment on the working of administration and on the Government's conduct of affairs, some process of inquiry is needed. Our proposals would entail more work "upstairs" but such work would not replace debate upon the floor of the House, it would but prepare the ground for it. The House would always retain the legal power of decision in its own hands but Members would enter upon debates knowing more of the facts.

Morning Sittings and Other Arrangements for Debate

17. We draw attention to the fact that extra time would be available for debate by the House as a whole as a result of our proposals for Public Legislation for the removal of the committee and report stage of bills from the floor of the House and for delegated legislation (see Appendix Two).

18. We recommend that more use be made of the mornings for the work of the House but only for, in addition to committee work as at present (which would in any case be expanded under our proposals):

(a) ad hoc committees to debate non-controversial motions or matters of interest to limited numbers of Members (for example, the problems of particular industries or regions). The procedure would be the same as that employed by the Scottish Grand Committee in debating Scottish matters referred to them.

(b) debates on the Reports of Royal Commissions, of other important inquiries and of select committees.

19. If it is suggested that sufficient time or Members would not be available for the extra work that would follow from our proposals for the increased work of committees, we point out that:

(a) it is reasonable to suppose following the Lawrence Report that more members will be available for the service of the House in the mornings;

(b) use could be made of Standing Order No. 10.

Financial Control and Scrutiny

20. There are, it is considered, four stages of control of expenditure: total, balance between services, total of individual services, and balance and economy within individual services. These should be matched by four processes of Parliamentary scrutiny or debate.

(a) We doubt whether, at present, adequate opportunities exist for specifically debating the total of Government expenditure. Particularly we believe that much more attention should be paid by Parliament to the balance, within an agreed total, of expenditure on major services. As argued by the Plowden Committee on Control of Public Expenditure, this matter lies at the heart of the problem of control of expenditure. To this end we recommend that:

    (i) the Government should publish before Christmas a Public Investment White Paper and a Public Expenditure White Paper, giving details of five year "forward looks" in respect of Government expenditure.

    (ii) early in the session a Select Committee on Expenditure should be appointed to which the White Paper would be referred, to explore the economic, factual and policy assumptions on which the forecast estimates had been prepared; to draw attention to variations in the Estimates; and to examine their economic implications in terms of availability of physical resources etc. The aim of this committee should not be to comment themselves on the priorities of various services, but to produce informative material on the basis of which the priorities and balance of expenditure could be better debated by the House. The terms of reference of the Committee might be "to examine the assumptions on which the Command Papers presented to this House on Public Investment and on Public Expenditure have been prepared; to examine the economic and administrative implications of the policies implied in those Command Papers; and to report on the variations in the Estimates of Expenditure presented to this House."

    (iii) before the Budget Debate, and, ideally in part on consideration of the Vote on Account, a major two day debate should take place on both the total and overall balance of Government expenditure. The two White Papers and the Report of the Committee on Expenditure would provide the basic documents for this debate.

(b) To improve scrutiny of totals of expenditure on individual services, we recommend that:

    (i) two Supply Days should be taken on Fridays when consideration should be given to two votes, or sets of votes, put down at the request of Private Members chosen by ballot. The debate on the first vote should lapse, if not previously withdrawn, at 2 p.m.

    (ii) reviews should also be carried out by the proposed Expenditure Committee of continuing services; these would provide material for debate in Committee of Supply.

    (iii) the number of Supply Days should be increased to thirty, including two on Fridays. This would be made possible by the decreased need for time to be spent on legislation on the floor of the House.

    (iv) reports of the Public Accounts, Estimates, and Expenditure Committees should be debated on six days, three of which would be Supply Days.

    (v) Supplementary Estimates should be debated on at least one Supply Day.

(c) Valuable as is the work of the Estimates Committee in its scrutiny of balance and economy within individual services (and its value can be assessed by a comparison with the work of the inter-war Estimates Committee) we think that the time has come to increase the membership of the Estimates Committee so that its sub-committees can review the expenditure of the main departments every year and that membership of these sub-committees should be subject to as little change as possible. The Committee would continue on occasion to consider, as at present, problems common to several departments.

Specialist Committees

21. The Estimates Committee already has terms of reference wide enough to embrace all aspects of the efficient conduct of administration, as evidenced by examples of its Reports during the Session 1963-64. These included in addition to Supplementary Estimates and Variation in Estimates, topics such as Transport Aircraft, Form of the Estimates of the Defence Department, Treasury Control of Establishments, the Forestry Commission, Services Colleges, Military Expenditure Overseas and the Department of Technical Co-operation. Special Reports relating to Departmental Observations included those on the Home Office, the Administration of the Local Employment Act, 1960, and the Ordnance Survey.

In order to extend the scope of this work we recommend:

(a) that the Estimates Committee should be enlarged to make possible the use of more sub-committees, which would specialise in particular areas so as to cover the whole field of Government vote-borne operations and report on the conduct of administration and on matters necessary for the understanding of policy questions.

(b) Specialist Committees are needed to scrutinise the actions of government in their own fields, to collect, discuss, and report evidence relevant to proceedings in Parliament, whether legislative or other. The main weakness in Parliament's present methods of scrutinising administration, and indeed of debating policy matters, is the limited ability to obtain the background facts and understanding essential for any detailed criticism of administration or any informed discussion of policy. Specialist committees, working on lines similar to those of the Estimates Committee or Nationalised Industries Committee (itself a fairly recently established specialist committee) could go a long way to remedy this. They would be mainly concerned with administration and would normally seek to avoid matters of policy which are controversial between the major political parties. They could carry out valuable inquiries into matters of direct concern to many ordinary citizens, such as hospital administration, prison rules, training of teachers and agricultural research. Their reports would be fully argued and their evidence would be detailed, but we do not envisage that the deliberations of such committees would be reported or that they should debate publicly.

(c) Specialist Committees of Advice and Scrutiny should eventually cover the whole field of administration.

(d) five such committees might be considered as an initial experiment:

(e) as new specialist committees are set up, however, the Estimates Committee should devolve its relevant functions to them in their respective spheres.

(f) the proposed specialist committees might eventually at least form the nucleus for the standing committees. We note other suggestions for committees to examine proposals for legislation before bills are drafted. Our specialist committees could perform such a function if desired.

(g) as regards delegated legislation there would again be overlapping membership with the proposed new committee on the merits of statutory instruments. In addition specialist committees would pay particular regard to how these instruments were operating in practice.

(h) the procedures and powers of specialist committees should be those of ordinary select committees. A suggested "order of reference" is: "To examine the assumptions on which policy decisions have been made and to report on the implementation of policy in the field of ...".

(i) notwithstanding the above proposals for specialist committees, we are of the opinion that the House should make more use of the select committee procedure for ad hoc reports and investigation into matters of current concern, as was the practice in the last century.

(j) Ministers should not be members of specialist committees but could, of course, appear as witnesses before them.

Questions

22.--(a) We recommend that Questions addressed to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales might be answered in the Scottish and Welsh Grand Committees.

(b) Question time should last until 3.45 p.m. Questions to the Prime Minister should be taken at 3.30 p.m.

23. We recommend that the rules regarding the form and contents of Questions should be reviewed by the present Select Committee to ensure that they are in accordance with modern conditions.

Emergency Adjournment Debates under S.O. No. 9

24. Attention has frequently been drawn to the increased difficulty of obtaining an S.O. No. 9 adjournment. Previous evidence and recommendations (especially those of the 1958-9 Procedure Committee) on this matter should be re-examined with particular regard to the rules regarding urgency and the rule regarding the ordinary administration of the law.

Private Members' Motions

25. The time available on Fridays should be divided into two: the question on the first motion lapsing, if not already put, at 2 p.m.

Terms of reference of Royal Commissions etc.

26. The Government should as a normal practice present the proposed terms of reference of Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry with independent chairmen to the House and, as in the case of international treaties, should provide time for their debate, if so desired, before such commissions or committees are formally appointed.

Parliamentary Commissioner

27. If a Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) should be appointed:

(a) his relationship to a select committee should be much the same as that of the Comptroller and Auditor General to the Public Accounts Committee, and he should be an officer of the House.

(b) he should receive complaints from any source, including, but not solely from, Members.

(c) he should deal with the majority of complaints himself, without specific sanction being required from the committee.

(d) he should, however, make frequent reports to the committee

    (i) summarising the complaints he has recorded and the action taken;

    (ii) drawing the attention of the committee to cases of particular interest or seriousness, and to any significant pattern of complaints meriting more public examination.

(e) the committee, advised by their Clerk and the Commissioner, should call evidence, examine and report to the House on such complaints as it thought fit, being complaints which the Commissioner had examined.

Conclusion

28. Parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive is fundamental to the whole question of parliamentary reform. The main task of the Government is to govern; the main tasks of Parliament are to sustain the Government and to criticise its policies and actions. We underline the general basis of our approach by the firm assertion that Parliamentary control means influence, not direct power, advice, not command, criticism, not obstruction, scrutiny, not initiative, and publicity, not secrecy. We believe that strong government needs critical opposition; it can benefit from such criticism and stand up to it. Political control, thus conceived, does not directly hinder governments; sometimes it can even help them to anticipate trouble. But to be effective, such control necessitates informed contributions to deliberation by Members and a fairer balance between Government and Private Member. It follows, we believe, that there must be a greater degree of specialisation by Members and the committees through which, increasingly, they should work, and that such techniques should be used to obtain more of the relevant facts upon which any intelligent criticism must be based.

29. The changes we have suggested do not, in our view, infringe in any way the principle of ministerial responsibility; they would certainly not involve the oft-cited "weaknesses and defects" of the French and American systems which operate in entirely different constitutional and political conditions. In so far as our proposals envisage more work being taken upstairs in committee, we believe that they would not replace debate on the floor of the House, but rather give such debate authoritative depth; they would not infringe but rather make more real rights of Members of the House of Commons.

IV. RESEARCH AND INFORMATION FACILITIES

30. We had hoped to submit argument and proposals covering facilities for research and information which should be available to Members. We understand that such a submission would be beyond the terms of reference of the present committee. But we wish to make these points: first, that changes in and expansion of the services provided by the Library could be of equal importance to any procedural changes in the basic task of creating or restoring adequate supervision by Parliament of the activities of Government; and second, that the present difficulties in this respect are unlikely to be resolved on any lasting basis unless the House is willing sometime to look at the problem as a whole, that is to consider how procedure, research and information, facilities and accommodation form part of an integrated system so that changes in one thing, voluntary or involuntary, must lead to changes in the others.

31. The essential aspect of any comprehensive proposals for enabling the House to perform its crucial role of scrutiny and investigation of policy and administration is the provision of adequate research and information facilities for both committees and individual Members. Only a properly developed Library and an expanded Research Department within it could provide access to the information that Members require to supplement their knowledge gained through the proceedings of the House itself and its committees and to enable them to perform, in as well informed a manner as possible, their Parliamentary responsibilities. Despite the excellent services at present provided by the Library, we believe that improved research services, both in volume and nature, could and should be afforded. The need for this would be all the greater if even a small part of the general drift of our other proposals were acceptable to the committee. If more legislation is put in committee, if more use is made of sub-committees of the Estimates Committee, a greater demand on all the services of the House will arise.

32. We have in fact studied and prepared a report on the problem of the provision of research and information services, which we hope to submit to any committee that may be established to look at this problem. We also reiterate the hope that on some occasion the House will be willing to consider these problems as a whole.

APPENDIX 1: Draft Standing Order for Proceedings on Report

1. Subject to the provisions of the proviso to paragraph 2 of this order, when a bill has been reported from a committee without amendment, it shall be put down for third reading upon such day as the Member in charge shall appoint.

2. When a Bill has been reported from a committee with amendments, the bill, as amended, shall be deemed to have been recommitted to that committee for consideration as amended and to have been ordered to be printed, and an Entry to that effect shall be made in the Journals of this House.

Provided that if a bill is reported from a select committee with or without amendment it shall be committed to a standing committee for consideration.

3. When a bill has been reported from a committee as agreed to (with or without amendment) on consideration of the bill as amended in committee, the bill so reported shall stand for approval on such day as the Member in charge shall appoint, and, if reported with amendment, shall be ordered to be printed.

4. On the order being read for the approval of the bill as amended in committee and on consideration the question thereon shall be proposed forthwith from the Chair.

To that question amendments may be moved (subject to paragraph 1 of S.O. No. 33 "Selection of Amendments" and to the provisos to this section) in the form "Provided that clause (number to be specified) be recommitted to the committee.";

Provided however that no such amendment may be moved unless notice of one or more contingent motions are on the paper in the form of instructions to the committee directing them to consider the exact terms of the amendment required to be made.

Provided also that an amendment may be moved by a Minister of the Crown in the form "subject to amendment of clause (number to be specified) as follows: (details of amendment to be specified)".

5. lf an amendment to the original question is made to recommit a clause or clauses to the committee the question on each contingent motion in the form of an instruction shall be put separately to the House after one short speech by the mover of and, if so desired by any Member, one short speech against the motion may have been made. In addition to the powers conferred upon him by S.O. No. 22 (Irrelevance or repetition) Mr. Speaker shall have power to direct any Member who speaks for more than 10 minutes on any motion for an instruction to discontinue his speech and shall thereupon call a Member rising to oppose the motion or put the question thereupon to the House, as the case may be.

6. When the question "That the bill as amended in committee and on consideration be approved" has been agreed to without amendment, or as amended under the provisions of the second proviso to paragraph 4 of this order, the bill shall stand for third reading upon such day as the Member in charge shall appoint. If amended under the provisions of the second proviso to paragraph 4 of this order and set down for third reading upon a future day the bill, as amended, shall be ordered to be printed.

7. When a bill as amended in committee and on consideration is reported from the committee upon recommittal with one or more amendments, the bill shall stand for approval upon such day as the Member in charge of the bill shall appoint, and shall be ordered to be printed.

8. On the order for approval of a bill referred to in the last preceding paragraph being read, the proceedings thereupon shall be as set out in paragraph 4 of this order, save that no amendment may be moved to the question for approval and that that question shall be put after the Member making the motion and a Member opposing it have spoken. If the question is decided in the affirmative, the bill shall stand for third reading upon such day as the Member in charge shall appoint.

APPENDIX 2: Statistics of Saving of Time in House

1. We have recommended that certain stages of public bills should be taken in committees upstairs, rather than on the floor of the House (paragraphs 8-11). Table I shows how much time was spent on the floor of the House, in the last Parliament, on these stages of bills.

Table I: Time spent in House on stages of Government Public Bills (excluding Finance Bills and Consolidated Fund Bills) other than Second and Third Readings

Committee of whole House Recommittal and report Lords amendments Financial Resolutions Total Equivalent sitting days
Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m.
1959-60
1960-61
1961-62
1962-63
1963-64
72
117
88
72
78
20
33
12
14
15
72
105
82
105
100
10
26
10
28
22
7
12
10
15
9
-
2
3
4
6
5
9
4
-
5
4
9
4
-
4
156
243
184
192
192
34
70
29
46
47
20.3
28.8
25.8
24.3
24.1
Sessional Average 85 19 93 19 11 3 5 4 194 45 24.8

2. We have also recommended that most delegated legislation should be considered in committees (paragraph 7(b)). Table II shows how much time was spent on the floor of the House in the last Parliament on this type of business.

Table II: Time Spent in House on Delegated Legislation

Session Affirmative Resolutions Negative Resolutions Total Equivalent sitting days
Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Total hours Hours after 10 p.m.
1959-60
1960-61
1961-62
1962-63
1963-64
28
37
52
27
36
15
9
37
18
19
29
26
13
15
24
20
20
12
12
8
57
57
65
42
60
35
29
49
30
27
3.7
4.7
2.7
2.0
5.5
Sessional average 36 20 21 14 57 34 3.8

3. Table III indicates the total saving of the House's time that would result from our proposals on public bills and delegated legislation.

Table III: Summary of time spent on business analysed in Tables I and II

(i.e. on those matters of business which we recommend removing from the Floor of the House)

Session Total hours Hours after 10 p.m. Equivalent sitting days
1959-60
1960-61
1961-62
1962-63
1963-64
213
300
249
234
252
69
99
78
76
73
24.0
33.5
28.5
26.3
29.6
Sessional Average 251 79 28.6

(Notes on the Tables:

(a) Only time spent on Government bills has been counted.

(b) Items of business taking less than 10 minutes have not been counted.

(c) All items were counted to the nearest 15 minutes but totals have been "rounded" to the nearest hour.

(d) "Equivalent sitting days" have been calculated by counting the number of hours of sitting up till 10 p.m. and dividing by 6, being the number of hours of an average full day's debate (allowing hour for Ministerial statements etc. after Questions).)

4. Against the savings suggested by the above tables must be set the extra time that the House would be required to spend on the approval stage of bills, on the reports of committees on Lords Amendments and statutory instruments, and on the occasional prayer not taken in committee (see paragraphs 7(b), 10 and Appendix One); but none of these should occupy much time. Subject to this small reduction, a total of approximately 250 hours time in the House would have been saved in the last Parliament by our proposals (other things being equal). The benefit of this saving would be two-fold. First, we have calculated that about 80 hours of late sitting (i.e. after 10 p.m.) would be avoided per session (an average of about 40 minutes per evening); secondly, about 28 extra days would be available on the floor for other business in Government time.

5. Against the savings suggested by the above analysis should be set the extra days that we have suggested should be allowed for particular purposes, namely:

    4 extra days in Committee of Supply (paragraph 20(b)(iii)).

    4 extra days out of Government time to be devoted to debates on expenditure (paragraph 20(a)(iii) and on reports of financial committees (paragraph 20(b)(iv))

    Making a total of 8 days.

6. The balance of 20 days would be available for general debates on Government or Opposition motions (including debates on reports from committees); and for second and third readings of further Government bills, if so desired. On other days S.O. No. 10 could be used.

© 1965, Study of Parliament Group


Prepared by Simon Patrick, 1 August 2001