5 Other changes |
Motion for the House to sit in
81. Standing Order No. 163 provides that, if at any
sitting of the House, or in a committee of the whole House, any
Member moves 'That the House sit in private', the Speaker or the
chair shall forthwith put the question. In conjunction with Standing
Order No. 41 (Quorum), this procedure has in the past been used
to test whether a quorum is present for consideration of a private
Member's bill. If fewer than forty Members
take part in a division on a motion 'That the House sit in private',
proceedings on the bill being debated at the time stand over,
and the House moves on to the next business. Effectively, the
procedure has been used as another means of defeating a private
Member's bill by ensuring that debate on it cannot be concluded.
82. In recent times, it has become the practice routinely
to move 'That the House sit in private' before the orders of the
day have been entered upon (i.e. before any bill is being debated).
In these circumstances, an inquorate division has no practical
consequences. Since the motion cannot be moved more than once
at any sitting, moving it at the very beginning of business in
this way prevents it from being moved at any other time and therefore
protects the whole business of the day from being subject to what
is in essence a quorum call. (An inquorate division during proceedings
on the bill itselffor example, that an amendment be madewould
of course have the same consequence of proceedings on the bill
83. The consequence of the routine moving of the
motion 'That the House sit in private' before the orders of the
day on Fridays have been entered upon has been to render it a
dead letter. It is now simply a waste of time, and adds to the
lack of clarity about procedures on private Members' Fridays.
We recommend that a motion 'That the House sit in private'
no longer be permitted to be moved on a private Member's Friday.
We note that Standing Order No. 163 provides that the Speaker
or the chair may order the withdrawal of those other than Members
or Officers from any part of the House whenever he thinks fit,
so the provision is not necessary for the purpose of enabling
the House to sit in private.
Public bill committees on private
84. Standing Order No. 84A(5) provides that the Committee
of Selection may not nominate a public bill committee in respect
of a private Member's bill while proceedings in another public
bill committee on a private Member's bill are still active, unless
notice of a motion in support of that nomination has been tabled
by a Minister of the Crown. Such a motion only needs to be tabled:
it does not actually need to be passed by the House. We can see
no remaining justification for the Government to exercise control
over the private Member's bill process in this way, especially
given that we understand that it is the Government's policy to
table such a motion if requested in any case. We recommend
that the requirement be abolished for a motion to be tabled by
the Government before a public bill committee in respect of a
private Member's bill may be nominated while proceedings in another
public bill committee on a private Member's bill are still active.
Any problems with timetabling or resources for committees on private
Members' bills should be sorted out by the House authorities.
Name of private Members' bills
85. The name "private Members' bills" is
the cause of some degree of confusion, since the term "private
Member" is no longer well-known. "Backbencher"
is now a more familiar and widely-used term. It is also easy for
the uninitiated (and sometimes even the experienced) to confuse
"private Members' bills" and "private bills".
We recommend that, in the Standing Orders and elsewhere where
reference is made to them, the term "private Members' bills"
be replaced with "backbench bills".
68 That is, at least thirty-five Members voting, plus
the four tellers and the occupant of the Chair. Back
Q 226 Back
Q 11, Q 238 Back