The Select Committee on Modernisation of the House
of Commons has agreed to the following Report:
PROGRAMMING OF LEGISLATION
1. Following our Second Report of last Session,
the experimental Sessional Orders relating to programming took
effect from the beginning of the current Session. They will thus
automatically expire at the end of the Session. The House must
then determine whether to continue with arrangements for programming
legislation, and, if so, whether modifications to the present
system would be made.
2. In these circumstances we have thought it right
to review the current arrangements, to set out both the benefits
and the main areas of concern expressed, and to suggest possible
3. Despite all party agreement on the value of programming
early in the Parliament and strong attempts to reach agreement
in preparing our Second Report of last Session, it was not possible
to reach agreement across the House or with all backbenchers on
the current Sessional Orders. In practice, every programme motion
in this Session has faced opposition, irrespective of content.
4. We accept that the Government will propose a date
by which each bill should be reported from the standing committee.
In the interests of transparency that date should be made known
to the House during the debate on second reading by a motion to
be taken forthwith.
5. We also accept that any programming of the bill
can best be undertaken by those Members appointed to serve on
the Standing Committee, and particularly by their appointed Programming
Sub-committee. The Programming Sub-committee should enable amendments
and all parts of the bill to be debated by the date the bill is
due to be reported from the standing committee. If during the
committee stage the Programming Sub-committee believed the out
date announced by the Government was impracticable, for reasons
which were not apparent at second reading, it should be able to
recommend an out date which was later than the one which had been
announced. If the Government wished to change the out date it
would be able to table an amendable motion to specify a new date
which could be debated for up to 45 minutes.
6. At the conclusion of the committee stage the Programming
Sub-committee should give guidance on the time required and its
allocation to cover the issues which were likely to be raised
at the report stage and the amount of time needed for report and
third reading. We believe the Programming Sub-committee's advice
should normally be accepted by the House and the Government, but
if that is not the case the Government should be able to table
an amendable motion which could be debated for up to 45 minutes.
7. We believe that if these procedural approaches
are supported by all we will have improved the legislative "terms
of trade" to the benefit of everyone:
- the Government will get greater certainty for
its legislative timetable;
- the Opposition parties and backbenchers will
get greater opportunities to debate and vote on the issues of
most concern to them; and
- the House will scrutinise legislation better
and may well be able to improve it.
8. If these arrangements are put into effect in the
new Parliament they should be reviewed within the first Session.
12 Second Report from the Select Committee on Modernisation
of the House of Commons, Session 1999-2000, 'Programming of Legislation
and Timing of Votes', HC 589. Back