Improving the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny: Various items - Procedure Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Select committee amendments

1.  We recommend that select committees be permitted to table amendments to bills on the Floor and to motions in the House in the name of the Chair on behalf of his or her select committee. Amendments tabled in this way should be agreed formally without division at a quorate meeting of the committee or by a quorum of Commons members at a joint committee meeting, with notice having been given to all members of that committee that the use of this procedure was to be proposed. Whilst recognising and supporting the established conventions governing the selection of amendments for debate and decision, we hope that the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means might look favourably on a select committee seeking a separate decision on its amendments where business is programmed. (Paragraph 21)

Explanatory statements on amendments to bills

2.  We recommend that during this Parliament Members be permitted to table explanatory statements to amendments to all bills in public bill committee (except the Finance Bill), in Committee of the whole House or on Report, and that such statements be printed on the amendment paper. We strongly encourage Opposition frontbenchers and all backbenchers to table such statements with their amendments and we recommend that staff of the House take active measures to publicise the facility whenever a Member tables an amendment. We accept that the Government may have other means to communicate this type of information but we expect the Government also to use this facility to communicate the intention behind amendments because it is accessible to all Members and to the public. Where a bill is taken in a Committee of the whole House, we consider that explanatory statements will certainly be the best option. We further recommend that the Government provide explanatory statements on all amendments proposed on Report, outlining the reasons for bringing forward those amendments at that stage. (Paragraph 31)

3.  We recommend that the House adopt the following guidelines for the tabling of explanatory statements in this Parliament:

1. Any Member tabling an amendment to a bill in a Public Bill Committee, in Committee of the whole House or on Report, including private Member's bills, may at the time of tabling accompany that amendment with an explanatory statement of around 50 words.

2. The explanatory statement must describe the intended effect of the amendment but may not be phrased as an argument for its adoption or against the existing text of, or any other proposed amendment to, the bill.

3. An explanatory statement is not required where the amendment is self-explanatory, except that an explanatory statement should be provided for all Government amendments on Report stage giving the reasons for tabling in each case.

4. Questions as to the implementation of these rules shall be decided by the Chair of the Public Bill Committee, the Chairman of Ways and Means in the case of bills in Committee of the whole House or the Speaker in the case of bills on Report.

5. Explanatory statements will be printed in italics immediately following the amendment to which they relate. Where several amendments are tabled which are introductory to, consequential upon or closely linked to another amendment, the explanatory statement should state that fact and shall only be printed with the first amendment in the sequence. (Paragraph 32)

Written parliamentary questions

4.  We propose no alterations to the ability of a Member to table WPQs in the Table Office in person or by post. We recommend, however, that for an experimental period of three months the deadline for submitting written parliamentary questions electronically be set at 6.30 pm every sitting day from Monday to Thursday and 2.30 pm on sitting Fridays and that a daily quota of five e-tabled written questions (named day or ordinary written) be imposed on Members. At the end of the trial period, we undertake to assess the impact of the changes on Members and others involved or interested in the parliamentary questions process and to recommend either its continuation or abandonment. (Paragraph 50)

5.  We recommend that the quota restriction be lifted on the first sitting day following a recess of a week or more. (Paragraph 51)

6.  We recommend that the Leader of the House ensure that the sessional statistics on WPQs for the current session are provided to this Committee within three months of the end of the Queen's Speech at the start of the subsequent session. (Paragraph 55)

7.  We recommend that the Government instruct all departments that the answers to written parliamentary questions be sent by email to the Member concerned at the same time as the answer is delivered to the House. (Paragraph 56)

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 9 March 2011