Consideration in Detail - Amending Bills

After a bill has been read a second time, a Member may request that a bill be considered in detail; or the Member in charge of the bill may move a motion for the consideration in detail pro forma or request the Speaker to set down consideration of the bill in detail as an order of the day for a later time.

Amendments to bills may only be made during the consideration in detail stage.

During the consideration in detail stage the House goes through the bill clause by clause and if necessary word by word with a view to making the bill more acceptable to a majority of Members.

Consideration of Bill in Detail
The consideration in detail stage generally occurs when a Member (or Minister) indicates their intention to move amendments. However, if debate for the purpose of further clarification or specific comment, is required on the bill under consideration, the consideration in detail stage is the appropriate forum.

When a bill is considered in detail an opportunity is provided for Members to move amendments to a bill, as the bill is dealt with clause by clause and schedule by schedule (or in groups of clauses and schedules by leave). It also may allow for a question and answer session in respect of the specifics of the legislation, as Members may speak more than once.

Speaking Times (Standing Order 85)
  • Ministers and Member leading for Opposition - 15 minutes for an unlimited number of occasions.
  • Any other Member - Three occasions to any one question not exceeding 5 minutes each.
  • Extensions of time are not permitted during the consideration in detail stage.

The Call
All Members should audibly seek the call by standing in their place and clearly calling "Mr Speaker".

Modes of Address
Speaker -

Deputy Speaker -
when in the Chair "Mr or Madam Speaker".

when in the Chair in "Mr or Madam Deputy Speaker".
Assistant Speaker -when in the Chair "Mr or Madam Assistant Speaker".
Temporary Speakers -when in the Chair "Mr or Madam Acting Speaker".

Motions and Amendments
There is no "reply" during the consideration in detail stage, thus when a Minister speaks or when the mover of an amendment speaks a second time, the debate is not closed. However all other rules of debate and matters of order apply.

Submission of Amendments
All amendments should be submitted in writing, preferably, typed. The Clerks at the Table are available to advise Members on the proper form of amendments. To assist with the orderly operation of the consideration in detail stage proposed amendments must be submitted at the earliest possible opportunity.

Members should-
    1. address the Chair and not other Members directly.
    2. use moderate language to express opinions.
    3. be strictly relevant to the specific matter (the clause/schedule) under consideration and not make "agreement in principle speeches"; and
    4. avoid tedious repetition of ideas and arguments.

Form of Putting Questions From the Chair
Questions are generally proposed in a form that permits supporters of the Government to vote in the affirmative and so stay on the right hand or Government side of the Chair. e.g. -
    • clauses and schedules - "That the clause/or schedule, as read, stand part of the Bill."
    • Government amendments - "That the amendment be agreed to"
    • Opposition amendments
        (a) where words are to be left out/or left out and new words inserted, the question put is "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the bill." To support the amendment the vote would be with the "NOES" and then "AYES" (if words are then to be inserted).
        (b) where words are to be inserted/or added the question put is "That the words proposed to be inserted or added, be so inserted/or added". To support the amendment the vote would be with the "AYES".
The practice has arisen that the question - "That the amendment be agreed to" is usually proposed more often than not to avoid any possible confusion as to the effect of voting one way or the other.

There are three general principles governing the moving of amendments to bills.

(1) Amendments must be relevant to the subject matter of the bill (SO 210). For example an amendment which is contradictory to a principle already agreed to by the House or related to an amendment already negatived is inadmissible.

(2) The House is bound by its decision on the second reading of the bill. It may not therefore, amend a bill in a manner which is destructive of or reverses its principle.

(3) The objects of a bill are stated in its long title which should cover the matters contained in the bill, as introduced. Amendments are not necessarily limited by the title of the bill, as the House may make amendments relevant to the subject matter of the bill and the title extended accordingly (SO 211).

The following are some examples of the types of amendments which would be inadmissible -

Amendments which -
    (i) Directly or indirectly conflict with the principle of the Bill as determined at the second reading stage.
    (ii) Contradict a principle already agreed to by the House or relate to an amendment already negatived by the House.
    (iii) Would render the provision of a bill inconsistent.
    (iv) Introduce a new principle.
    (v) Would render a bill unintelligible.
    (vi) Are moved in a spirit of mockery.
    (vii) Would make a clause inoperative.
    (viii) Propose to omit a whole clause. This is achieved by voting against the clause.
    (ix) Would, in a bill providing for a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue (the "Crown") involve an additional charge; or, in a bill not already providing for expenditure, create one.

There are very specific rules set out in the Standing Orders, which govern the order in which amendments may be considered and the questions which are put by the Chair to dispose of the amendments. (see above)

In order to allay any confusion, new clauses or schedules are considered in the numerical order in which they are proposed to be inserted in the bill (Standing Order 209 sets out the order of consideration).

When two amendments clash (i.e. are offered in the same part of the bill), the Chair may put a question to the test (i.e. a "test vote") by proposing only those words of the first amendment down to the point where the second amendment would begin.

Where there are several amendments offered at the same place in a clause, an amendment to omit words in order to insert other words takes precedence of an amendment to omit words. If the conflicting amendments are the same, amendments proposed by the Minister or Member in charge of the bill take precedence of others. The order in which amendments are handed in to the Clerks is also considered if Members' amendments conflict.

In the case of conflicting amendments to insert words, the amendment first proposed would be considered first and if the insertion was agreed to, the question on the second insertion is not proposed by the Chair because it is inconsistent with the decision already made.

An amendment may be proposed to a proposed amendment (SO 164). However, no further amendment may be considered until the proposed amendment to the amendment is dealt with.

In some cases there may be a series of related amendments which the House agrees can be dealt with "in globo". In this event, it is possible, with the leave of the House, for the Chair to put one question "That the amendments as circulated be agreed to".

After being considered in detail, a bill may be reconsidered to permit reconsideration of any clause or clauses etc, or the whole bill. This is brought about by the moving of an amendment to the question for the third reading of the bill.

Once a bill has been considered in detail, a motion is moved "That this bill be now read a third time" and when agreed to a Message is sent to the Council forwarding the bill for concurrence. If the Council makes amendments to the bill it is returned to the Assembly for consideration of those amendments. Council amendments are dealt with by the House during the consideration in detail stage.

Chapter 13 of the Standing Orders deal generally with amendments and Standing Orders 203 to 218 deal with consideration of bills in detail.

First Published: July, 1991
Updated: March, 2013