House of Commons Library

Carry-over of public bills

Published Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The carry-over of public bills from one session to the next was suggested by the Modernisation Committee as a way of reducing the fluctuations in legislative activity caused by Parliamentary sessions. After briefly summarising the Modernisation Committee’s views, this House of Commons Library briefing paper describes the different approaches to allowing bills to be carried forward in this way in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The note also reports the use of carry-over motions and provides examples of the form of words used in carry-over motions.

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The carry-over of public bills from one session to the next was suggested by the Modernisation Committee as a way of reducing the fluctuations in legislative activity caused by Parliamentary sessions. After briefly summarising the Modernisation Committee’s views, this briefing paper describes the different approaches to allowing bills to be carried forward in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

On 29 October 2002, the House of Commons introduced carry-over on an experimental basis until the end of the 2001 Parliament. In the House of Lords, an ad hoc procedure, following recommendations from the House of Lords Procedure Committee, was agreed on 24 July 2002. 

On 26 October 2004, the House of Commons agreed to make slightly amended arrangements for carry-over permanent. The permanent Standing Order was effective from the beginning of the 2004-05 Session of Parliament.

The briefing paper includes details of the bills that have been carried over. Before the permanent Standing Order became effective, six bills were carried over.  Since the Standing Order became permanent, further bills have been carried over: nine in the 2005 Parliament; 11 in the 2010 Parliament; and two in the first session of the 2015 Parliament.  Three carry-over motions were agreed to in the 2016-17 Session, before the general election was announced.  However, it is not possible for public bills to be carried-over from one Parliament to another so these decisions will not have effect in the 2017 Parliament.

Under the Standing Order, proceedings lapse on bills that have not received Royal Assent within twelve months of their original introduction. However, the Standing Order does allow the period to be extended: these provisions have been used seven times.

In December 2011, the Standing Order was amended and a new Standing Order was made to allow bills introduced under Ways and Means resolutions to be carried over. This followed moving from spring to spring parliamentary sessions, in the wake of the passage of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.  The Finance (No 4) Bill 2010-12 was the first such bill to be the subject of a carry-over motion under the new Standing Order.

This briefing paper also provides examples of the form of words used in carry-over motions.

Commons Briefing papers SN03236

Author: Richard Kelly

Topics: Legislative process, Parliament, Parliamentary procedure

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