House of CommonsShort guide to procedure and practice

Amendments to bills

(See also Public bills; Standing committees on bills.)

Tabling: Amendments may be tabled either in the Public Bill Office or the Table Office; on the day a bill receives a Second Reading they may be tabled only at the Table in the Chamber. Amendments may be tabled by Members in person, by persons acting on their authority or by post (not faxed). Unless handed in by a Member in person they must bear the signature of a Member, but (i) a Member may sign on behalf of another, and (ii) Members may introduce to the Clerks in the Public Bill Office a person who will table amendments for them. Relevant interests must be declared, even if only adding a name to an existing amendment.

In amendments 'to leave out from A to B', A and B are the words immediately before and after the proposed deletion rather than the first and last words deleted; e.g. at the start of this paragraph, 'leave out from 'In'' means that 'amendments' would be the first word deleted.

Amendments tabled are printed overnight. A 'marshalled list' is later produced, containing all amendments tabled to date, arranged in the order in which they relate to the bill.

Notice: Amendments appearing for the first time (i.e. tabled the day before) are 'starred' and, since adequate notice should be given, are rarely selected by the Chair. Thus, for a Thursday sitting, amendments should be tabled not later than the rising of the House on Tuesday.

Moving: Any Member may move an amendment on the Order Paper or amendment paper, whether or not his or her name has been put to it.

Rules: Common reasons for an amendment being out of order are:

  • it is outside the scope of the bill (determined by the bill's long title and by its existing content) or the relevant clause;

  • it involves finance not covered by a financial resolution agreed by the House (which only a Minister can move);

  • it would amount to negativing the bill or clause (i.e. it is a wrecking amendment);

  • it is unintelligible, ungrammatical, vague, offered to the wrong place in the bill, trifling or 'tendered in a spirit of mockery'.

Selection: Even for amendments which are in order, the committee chairman (or Speaker at Report stage) has power of selection, and will not normally select amendments inconsistent with decisions already reached or on subjects already debated. Amendments to leave out clauses or schedules are not selected in committee, since a question is automatically put on whether each clause and schedule should remain part of the bill. This does not apply at Report stage, where there is not automatically a question on each clause and schedule. Selection is considerably more stringent at Report stage than in committee. (See also Standing committees on bills for grouping of amendments.)

Contact: Public Bill Office, 3251, 6758.


© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 14 February 2001