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Consultation launched on Hybrid Bill procedure and practice

29 April 2021

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A public consultation has been launched on Hybrid Bill procedure and practice.

Hybrid bills combine elements of public and private bills. This means they apply generally but also have a particular effect on specific groups, people or places. The High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill is an example. Hybrid bills can be used to secure parliamentary approval for major infrastructure projects, as an alternative to seeking consent under the planning process.

This is the second stage of a review of Hybrid Bill procedure. The first stage began in 2016 and was completed in 2017. The overall scope of the review is to consider and make recommendations about possible changes to the procedure and practice of both Houses in relation to hybrid bills so as to make the hybrid bill process simpler and less time-consuming for all those involved, without unfairly curtailing the right of those who are directly and specially affected by such bills to make their case effectively, or the right of the Government to ensure the passage of their legislation through Parliament”.

Under current arrangements, Private Bill Standing Orders (PrBSOs) are applied to hybrid bills. But the fit is imperfect. The final aim of the review was to produce an entirely re-drafted set of standing orders specific to hybrid bill procedure — a consequence of which would be a set of standing orders specific to private bills. Because of the size of the task, from the outset, a two-stage process to reform was adopted:

  • First, revision of the hybrid bill petitioning procedure, by way of amendment of the current PrBSOs, to remove some of the clearest problems at the earliest opportunity.
  • Second, a more fundamental re-drafting of the standing orders relating to hybrid and private bills.

Changes so far  

Amendments to the PrBSOs following the first stage of this review include: 

  • abolish the requirement for petitions against a bill to include a signature;
  • allow the electronic submission of petitions;
  • enable a minimum petitioning period to be set for hybrid bills;
  • clarify the procedure for dealing with late petitions;
  • enable a select committee appointed to consider petitions against a private or hybrid bill to group petitions and also, in appropriate cases, to consider petitions by way of written submission only; and
  • give Members of Parliament “whose constituencies are directly affected by the works proposed by a bill” the express right to have their petitions considered. 

They were agreed by the two Houses (in the Lords on 18 December 2017 and in the Commons on 7 November 2017), and were in place in time for petitioning in relation to the High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill.

How you can get involved 

The questions for this new consultation are below, and the deadline for responses is Friday 23 July.

Following the consultation, the Chairman of Ways and Means in the Commons and the Senior Deputy Speaker in the Lords will consider them and decide on what to propose to the two Houses.

We welcome responses from anyone concerned with Hybrid Bill procedure, but in particular we invite responses from Members of both Houses, parliamentary agents, petitioners and those who have been involved with recent hybrid legislation.

The review is bicameralIt is being administered by the House of Lords, so responses should be sent by email to hlprivatebills@parliament.uk, or by post to Private Bill Office, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW. Please note that responses will not be covered by parliamentary privilege. The Chairman of Ways and Means and the Senior Deputy Speaker may wish to publish responses in whole or in part.

Consultation questions

General questions

1.

What should Parliament do to ensure that those who are directly and specially affected by a hybrid bill (that is, potential petitioners) know how to use the petitioning process effectively?

2.

Is there an imbalance in the roles and resources of the promoters and the petitioners that creates problems of unfairness and, if so, is there anything that Parliament should do to remedy it?

3.

Are there procedures and practices used in other systems for determining planning applications, such as planning inquiries for major construction projects, which could usefully be applied to the hybrid bill procedure when dealing with works bills?

4.

Are there procedural, or any other, changes that could be made to promote negotiation between the promoters and petitioners (or potential petitioners) so that agreement might be reached at an earlier stage and in advance of committee hearings?

Specific procedural questions

5.

Should parties to hybrid bill proceedings (whether promoters, petitioners, witnesses, or Members of the hybrid bill select committee) be able to appear at and participate in meetings remotely?

6. Should the £20 petitioner’s fee be retained? What are the arguments for and against its retention? If it is retained, what should govern the level of the fee?
7.

What further guidance might assist potential petitioners in understanding the concept of “right to be heard”?

8.

Should promoters be able to propose Additional Provision in either House? What would be the consequences of allowing Additional Provision in the second House?

9.

Where promoters make undertakings to a hybrid bill select committee, or give assurances, how can Parliament most effectively ensure that they fulfil those obligations?

Finally

10.

Are there any other changes to hybrid bill procedure and practice that are needed, or would be desirable, in order to promote the overall purpose of the review? 

 

Image: Parliamentary Copyright/Jessica Taylor