Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Public Bill Office, House of Commons


  Attached are two Tables on the operation of Programme Orders on Bills in Session 2001-02 to date. The Public Bill Office has found that the Orders have been capable of being operated consistently so that it has been possible to advise the Chair and Members how proceedings would work out in practice. But it should be noted that particular circumstances apply to each Bill and to each programme.

  Table B shows that Sessional Order B has been regularly disapplied. This has had the effect that proceedings on Report have taken place without consideration by the Programming Committee of the allocation of time to such proceedings.

  Below are some notes which apply to the data contained in the Tables.

  1.  The Tables do not differentiate between Bills in relation to their length nor their importance. For example, large Bills may have many technical clauses in them or in the case of some Bills make parallel provisions for different parts of the United Kingdom—thereby reducing the number of debates on issues of principle or political interest to be covered.

  2.  Table A does not seek to assess the relative importance of groups of amendments. For example, the table cannot show where groups at the end of a selection list for a Bill may be less important than those in the early part of the list, as a result of which the Committee (or the House on Report) may be content to devote most of the time available to the initial debates. Some groups of amendments not debated may be simply of a drafting nature or respond to Government undertakings which the House (or Committee) would have passed over in any event.

  3.  The Tables do not directly show where a programme has operated largely by co-operation even where the introduction of a programme order was opposed (eg on the Proceeds of Crime Bill, see Official Report 26 February 2002, c583) or where there was no such co-operation (eg on the Education Bill).

  4.  When Table A shows that a knife has fallen, this does not indicate whether this occurred after a full or very brief or truncated debate.

  5.  In Standing Committee, some groups of Amendments, which otherwise would have been disposed of rapidly, have not been reached before an approaching knife when a Committee has had to suspend for a division in the House.

Douglas Millar

Clerk of Legislation

11 April 2002

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