THIS SUMMARY IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE BASIC INFORMATION TO MEMBERS AND THEIR STAFF ON HOW TO AMEND BILLS AT COMMITTEE AND REPORT STAGES. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO COVER ALL ASPECTS OF THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS.
A bill is the text of a legislative initiative submitted to Parliament to be approved and possibly amended before becoming law. A bill may amend a current law or enact a new one. Bills contain:
Titles, clauses and most schedules are amendable. The clause, line and page numbers are always referred to in an amendment so that everyone can determine its exact location in the text of the bill.
In the days before printing was common, bills were quite literally read three times so that Members had a clear idea of what they were voting on. Bills still have three readings but two more stages have been added. These readings and stages occur in the following order:
The committee decides how and when it will study each bill that it receives. Usually, the committee hears first from the sponsor of the bill or from departmental officials, who explain the provisions of the bill, and then from interested groups and individuals. The committee also decides when to begin clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
If the Member has a proposal for an amendment, he or she should access the legislative drafting services offered by lawyers in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. Based on written instructions given to them by Members, the parliamentary counsel will draft amendments on a confidential basis, in both official languages and in accordance with established legislative drafting standards. The amendments, once drafted, will be sent to the Member, who can then decide whether he or she wishes to move them. It is advisable to contact the parliamentary counsel as early as possible in the process so that the draft amendments may be prepared and considered within the applicable time constraints.
Please note that, once drafted, each amendment is assigned a unique reference number by the confidential software system used by the House Administration. This system is also used to track the progress of the amendments moved at committee. If it is necessary to change an amendment, the parliamentary counsel should be contacted and a new amendment with a new reference number should be obtained in order to avoid any confusion.
The drafting of amendments requires the legal expertise offered by parliamentary counsel. An amendment may be properly drafted in a legal sense but, because parliamentary procedure is not a field of law, it may be inadmissible under the procedural rules and practices of the House of Commons. Members are encouraged to obtain the advice of the legislative clerks on the procedural admissibility of their proposed amendments. On occasion, a slight rewording can rescue an otherwise inadmissible amendment. Like the legislative drafting service, procedural advice is confidential.
Notice is not required to propose an amendment at committee stage unless the committee itself adopts a rule to that effect. However, in order to have an orderly and thorough examination of the bill, Chairs often request that members submit their amendments to the clerk of the committee in advance of the clause-by-clause study of the bill. The amendments do not need to be signed. The legislative clerk arranges the amendments in a package in the order in which they appear in the bill. When there is sufficient time, and if the committee agrees, the package can be circulated to the committee in advance of the clause-by-clause meeting. This way, all the members of the committee can see what changes their colleagues wish to make to the bill.
The Chair will call Clause 1 unless it is the short title, in which case it will be considered after all the other clauses. The rest of the clauses will be considered one by one in the order they appear in the bill. (Note: Some clauses may be “stood”, which means that the committee has decided to postpone consideration of these clauses until later in the process.)
A Member may ask questions about provisions in the clause or may debate any part of a clause, even if he or she has no amendments to propose.
Any Member wishing to move an amendment should keep the following rules in mind:
The amendment will be debated and voted on by the committee. The committee then will vote on the clause (whether amended or not). The committee next proceeds to the following clause and any amendments proposed to it, until all the clauses, schedules and the title of the bill have been considered.
While it is possible to propose an amendment in either official language, it is advisable to have the amendment drafted in both official languages by a parliamentary counsel in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel.
A subamendment is an amendment proposed to an amendment. The committee can have only one subamendment before it at a time, and that subamendment cannot be amended. When a subamendment is moved to an amendment, it is voted on first. Then, another subamendment may be moved or the committee may consider the main amendment and vote on it.
To be admissible, amendments should conform to the rules and practices of the House in order to preserve the integrity of the bill. The committee Chair rules on the admissibility of amendments and is advised by the legislative clerk.
The following are the most common rules of admissibility:
Once the committee has concluded its clause-by-clause consideration of a bill, it reports the bill to the House with or without amendment. The report contains only the actual text of the adopted amendments, as well as a mention of any clauses which were defeated.
If the number or nature of amendments made by the committee necessitates it, the committee generally orders that a bill be reprinted as a working copy for use at report stage.
After a bill is adopted in committee and reported to the House, the next stage is report stage, which takes place in the House.
Report stage is not a detailed line-by-line examination of a bill, but a review of the bill as reported from the committee. Since there is no clause-by-clause consideration of a bill, the only subjects for debate are the amendments proposed at report stage. These are called “report stage motions”. If none are proposed or selected, there is no report stage debate. The House votes on the bill as reported and may then proceed immediately to third reading.
If a Member has a proposal for an amendment, he or she should access the legislative drafting services offered by lawyers in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. Based on written instructions given to them by Members, the parliamentary counsel will draft amendments on a confidential basis, in both official languages and in accordance with established legislative drafting standards. Once drafted, the report stage motions (amendments) will be sent to the Member, who can then decide whether he or she wishes to proceed with them.
Since report stage can begin as soon as two sitting days following the presentation of the committee report to the House, it is important for Members to act quickly. It is advisable to contact the parliamentary counsel as early as possible in the process so that the draft amendments may be prepared and considered within the prescribed time constraints.
Notice is required for report stage motions. The motions, signed by the Member, must be submitted to the Journals Branch for publication on the Notice Paper, no later than 6 p.m Mondays to Thursdays and by 2 p.m. on Fridays, for inclusion the following sitting day. Notice must be given no later than the sitting day before the bill is first considered at report stage. For a bill referred to committee before second reading, notice must be submitted two sitting days before the bill is first considered at report stage. Once the report stage debate has begun, no further motions can be submitted.
All report stage motions are reviewed to determine whether they are procedurally admissible. Motions found to be inadmissible are returned to the sponsoring Member with an explanation and are not published in the Notice Paper.
The rules of admissibility at report stage are identical to those applied at committee stage (see “Admissibility rules” under Committee stage), with the following two exceptions:
Even though they may be properly drafted in a legal sense and meet the criteria for admissibility, not all report stage motions published on the Notice Paper go forward for debate in the House. The Standing Orders give the Speaker the authority to select those which will be debated. This is done to avoid a repetition of committee stage, and to ensure that report stage retains its purpose, which is to enable the House to examine the committee’s work on a bill. Thus, the Speaker does not normally select motions which:
Motions may be selected if they
At the beginning of each report stage debate, the Speaker delivers a ruling regarding the motions published on the Notice Paper. The ruling lists which motions have been selected, how they are grouped for debate and what the voting pattern is (e.g.: a vote on one motion may apply to another).
The groups are based on the subject matter of the motions and their location in the bill. A single debate takes place on each group. The voting pattern for each group is available at the Clerk’s Table.
A Member who has given notice of report stage motions must be present in the House to move them. A seconder is also required. Members may speak once for a maximum of ten minutes to each group of motions. Amendments to report stage motions may be proposed from the floor without notice.
When debate on a group of motions ends, Members are called to vote. If a recorded vote is demanded, it is typically deferred until the debate on all groups is finished.
Once all the report stage motions have been voted on, according to the voting pattern, the House votes on a motion of concurrence in the bill at report stage.
The report stage of a bill that was sent to committee before second reading is an integral part of the second reading stage of the bill. At the conclusion of report stage, a single motion for concurrence at report stage and second reading is put to the House.
Parliamentary counsel with legislative drafting expertise draft all the Private Members’ public bills and amendments for committee and report stages in both official languages and in accordance with accepted legislative drafting standards.
They may be contacted at 613-947-6311.
Legislative clerks review all the committee and report stage amendments for procedural admissibility and provide advice to Members and the Chairs of committees. They organize the amendments into packages for committee stage, attend the clause-by-clause meetings and prepare draft rulings for the Speaker at report stage.
The Journals Branch is responsible for the preparation of the Notice Paper. For information on the deadlines and processes to submit report stage motions, contact the Journals Branch at613-992-2038 or