The Modernisation Committee recommended in 2006 that the Procedure Committee draw up a set of rules governing the tabling and publishing of explanatory statements to amendments in standing committee. The aim was to assist Members in preparing for debate in committee by providing a brief explanation of the intended effect of a proposed amendment. There were several pilots in the last Parliament which were evaluated by our predecessor Committee in 2010.
A further pilot has been carried out in the 2012-13 session, in which Members have been permitted to table explanatory statements to two bills. We have evaluated the pilot in line with the criteria agreed between ourselves and the Leader of the House in advance of the pilot. We have also considered a proposal from the Leader of the House that explanatory statements be voluntary at committee stage but mandatory at report stage.
We are concerned that a mandatory requirement for explanatory statements would restrict opposition and backbench Members from tabling amendments and would therefore be damaging to the House's ability to scrutinise legislation. The resource burden on Members, particularly those from the Official Opposition, who table a significant proportion of non-government amendments but do not have the resources available to Government to assist with drafting explanatory statements, would be too great for such a proposal to be tenable.
Instead, we recommend that Members be permitted, on a voluntary basis, to table explanatory statements on amendments to all bills at both Committee and Report stage from the start of the 2013-14 Session. We encourage all Members to provide explanatory statements to amendments wherever possible. The time has come to conclude the experimental approach and allow the culture of explanatory statements to embed itself, in a permissive environment where space is provided to backbench Members, the Government and the Opposition to ensure that explanatory statements become an accepted norm of the legislative process.