On 21 January 2020, the House of Lords considered the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill at third reading. Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Green Party) moved the following amendment to the motion “that this bill do now pass”:
to leave out from “that” to the end and insert “this House declines to allow the bill to pass because the bill (1) grants blanket prior legal immunity for otherwise criminal conduct without sufficient safeguards or oversight, (2) provides no system of prior judicial authorisation, (3) does not recover profits obtained under a Criminal Conduct Authorisation which could include proceeds from the sale of drugs, weapons, human trafficking and slavery, (4) fails to provide compensation to victims of crimes authorised under the bill, and (5) represents a significant expansion of undercover policing despite, and without regard to, the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry.”
Following the debate, the House divided and the amendment was defeated by 440 votes to 29.
Paragraph 8.151 of the Companion to the Standing Orders provides full details of the ‘passing’ procedure, in particular how members can oppose the motion or put down amendments to it:
The motion “that this bill do now pass” is moved immediately after third reading has been agreed to or, if amendments have been tabled, as soon as the last amendment has been disposed of. The motion is usually moved formally. It may be opposed, and reasoned or delaying amendments, of which notice must be given, may be moved to it, but in other circumstances there is normally no substantive debate. Any remarks should be brief and should not seek to reopen debates at previous stages of the bill.
This article sets out some further examples of where such amendments have been tabled and/or moved. It does not constitute procedural advice for members. Members seeking such advice should contact the Legislation Office directly.
Previous amendments to the motion on government bills
In 1978, a non-fatal reasoned amendment was tabled to the motion on the Scotland Bill. Listed below are examples, in reverse chronological order since 1978, when an amendment was tabled to the motion “that this bill do now pass”. The list may not be exhaustive.
High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill, 14 December 2020: Lord Adonis (Labour) moved the following amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, to insert at the end “and this House takes note of the further steps required to complete HS2 in line with the commitments given by successive governments since 2010, including the necessity for early legislation to complete the promised HS2 lines from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds”. Outcome: Following debate, the amendment was withdrawn and not moved to a division.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, 16 May 2018: Lord Adonis (Labour) moved the following amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, to insert at the end “and, in the light of the vital importance of the issues raised to the future of the United Kingdom, this House urges the Leader of the House to make representations to government colleagues to ensure amendments made by the House of Lords to the Bill are considered as soon as possible”. Outcome: Following debate, the amendment was withdrawn and not moved to a division.
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, 7 March 2017: Lord Newby, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, moved an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, to instead insert “this House declines to allow the bill to pass, because the bill does not provide a mechanism for the people of the United Kingdom to have a vote, prior to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, on the terms of the new relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union”. Outcome: The House divided with the amendment being defeated by 340 votes to 95.
High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Bill, 31 January 2017: Lord Framlingham (Conservative) moved, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, leave out “now” and insert “not”. Outcome: The House divided with the amendment being defeated by 385 votes to 25.
Health and Social Care Bill, 19 March 2012: Baroness Thornton (Labour) moved, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, to leave out from “that” to the end and insert “this House declines to allow the bill to pass, because the bill does not command the support of patients who depend on the National Health Service, the professionals who are expected to make it work, or the public; will not deliver the promised objectives of genuinely empowering clinicians in the commissioning process and putting patients at the heart of the system; will increase bureaucracy and fragment commissioning; will allow foundation trusts to raise up to half their income from private patients; and, despite amendment, still creates an economic regulator and regime which will lead to the fragmentation and marketisation of the National Health Service and threaten its ethos and purpose”. Outcome: The House divided with the amendment being defeated by 269 votes to 174.
Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Bill, 16 February 1987: Lord Henderson of Brompton (Crossbench) tabled, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, to add the words “but this House regrets that while the long title is expressed to make temporary provision, clause 6 contains provisions for the act to be continued after 31 March 1990 for a further year indefinitely”. Outcome: Lord Henderson did not move the amendment.
Transport Bill, 28 March 1983: Lord Underhill (Labour) moved, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, at the end insert “but this House deplores the insistence of Her Majesty’s Government that this bill should pass unamended through all stages irrespective of the merits of amendments proposed”. Outcome: The House divided with the amendment being defeated by 89 votes to 51.
British Nationality Bill, 20 October 1981: Lord Elwyn-Jones (Labour) moved, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, at the end insert “but this House deplores that, if enacted, the bill will result in injustice, greatly increase the number of stateless men, women and children, create new uncertainties and feelings of insecurity and exacerbate racial tension”. Outcome: The House divided with the amendment being defeated by 149 votes to 92.
Scotland Bill, 29 June 1978: Lord Wilson of Langside (Crossbench) moved, as an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, at the end insert “in order to avoid the constitutional conflict which rejection of the bill might cause, but that this House alerts the people in Scotland to its contradictions and deficiencies, and to the financial, fiscal and constitutional problems which remain unresolved; advises them that it is likely to lead to the diminishing of the numbers and powers of Scotland’s Members of Parliament at Westminster; and warns them most earnestly of the grave danger in which the bill places the unity of the United Kingdom”. Outcome: The House divided, with the amendment being defeated by 55 votes to 53.
Examples where the House divided on the motion “This bill do now pass” (no amendment)
The House divided on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill on 20 July 1993 (motion agreed to, 141 votes to 29) and on the Local Government Bill on 18 March 1986 (motion agreed to, 147 votes to 10). Both were government bills.
In terms of private member’s bills, the House divided on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No 2) Bill [HL] on 3 April 1984 (motion was disagreed to, 68 votes to 49) and the Marriage (Enabling) Bill [HL] on 14 May 1981 (motion was disagreed to, 124 votes to 91).
Cover image copyright House of Lords 2019 / Photography by Roger Harris (from Flickr).
Originally published on 16 December 2020. Updated on 25 January 2021.