Constitutional Reform Bill: Commons Committee sixth day

10 February 2010

The House of Commons held the sixth and final day of the Committee stage of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. Report and third reading will be held in due course

Amendment: Referendum on voting systems

The main discussion on this occasion was on a Goverment amendment calling for a referendum to be held in the UK asking voters if they want to use the alternative vote in Parliamentary elections, rather than the current first-past-the-post system. The amendment was passed by 365 votes to 187.

Amendment: Counting votes at general elections

Another amendment was passed which requires returning officers to start counting votes in parliamentary elections within 4 hours of the polls closing, except in exceptional circumstances.

The cross-party motion was launched amid reports that as many as one in four councils are reported to be considering abandoning the traditional Thursday night count in favour of one on Friday. New postal voting rules and higher staff costs are among reasons thought to be behind those considering delays.

Summary of the Bill

This is a wide-ranging Bill covering a number of different policy areas. The content of the Bill as introduced varies in some significant ways from its draft version.

New chapters have been added to the Bill and the clauses on the Attorney General which were in the draft Bill have not been included.

The Bill:

  • establishes a statutory basis for management of the civil service
  • introduces a new parliamentary process for the ratification of treaties
  • provides for the end of by-elections for hereditary peers
  • makes provisions to allow for the suspension, resignation and expulsion of Members of the Lords introduces new rules on protests around Parliament
  • introduces new rules on time limits for human rights actions against devolved administrations
  • makes various provisions relating to judicial office holders, including the removal of the Prime Minister’s role in the process of appointing Supreme Court judges
  • establishes a new corporate structure for the National Audit Office and a limit to the term of appointment to the office of Comptroller and Auditor General
  • introduces measures designed to increase the transparency of financial reporting to Parliament

Committee of the whole House

When a Bill passes its second reading and is considered in detail, this usually takes place in a Public Bill Committee held outside the Chamber. These Committees - which are made up of between 16 and 20 MPs - reflect the political makeup of the House, so the government always has a majority.

But occasionally a Bill will be considered by a Committee of the whole House and this discussion takes place in the Commons Chamber itself, where all MPs can take part.

Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House, but the procedure is normally reserved for finance Bills and other important or controversial legislation.

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