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Private Bills in United Kingdom

Private Bills Meaning, as used in the UK Parliament

Private Bills are usually promoted by organisations for example local authorities or private companies to give themselves powers beyond, or in conflict with, the general law. Private Bills only change the law as it applies to specific individuals or organisations rather than the general public. Groups or individuals potentially affected by these changes can petition Parliament against the proposed Bill and present their objections to committees of Members of the Parliament and Lords.

History of Private Bill

Private bills trace their origins to the medieval English Parliaments, and their peculiar procedure is explained by that history. In the early history of Parliament, special laws for the benefit of private parties and judicial decrees for the redress of private wrongs were founded on petitions and were not easily distinguishable in principle or in form. When petitions sought remedies which the common law afforded, the parties were referred to the ordinary tribunals. But when an individual or group was unable to obtain relief from the common law courts, the King was petitioned. The manner of receiving and trying petitions was judicial rather than legislative. As noted in May, T.E., A Treatise Upon the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints Inc., 1971 (reprint of 1st ed., 1844), pp. 301‑2:

“Receivers and triers of petitions were appointed, and proclamation was made, inviting all people to resort to the receivers. These were ordinarily the clerks of the chancery, and afterwards the masters in chancery (and still later some of the judges), who, sitting in some public place accessible to the people, received their complaints, and transmitted them to the auditors or triers. The triers were committees of prelates, peers, and judges, who had power to call to their aid the lord chancellor, the lord treasurer, and the serjeants‑at‑law. By them the petitions were examined; and in some cases the petitioners were left to their remedy before the ordinary courts; in others, their petitions were transmitted to the judges on circuit; and if the common law offered no redress, their case was submitted to the High Court of Parliament.… In the reign of Henry IV, petitions began to be addressed, in considerable numbers, to the House of Commons.

The courts of equity had, in the meantime, relieved Parliament of much of its remedial jurisdiction; and the petitions were now more in the nature of petitions for private bills, than for equitable remedies for private wrongs. Of this character were many of the earliest petitions; and the orders of Parliament upon them can only be regarded as special statutes, of private or local application. As the limits of judicature and legislation became defined, the petitions applied more distinctly for legislative remedies, and were preferred to Parliament through the commons; but the functions of Parliament, in passing private bills, have always retained the mixed judicial and legislative character of ancient times.”

Source: (Canada) House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009


See Also

  • Parliament


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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Private Bills
  • Author: David Jane
  • Description: Private Bills Meaning, as used in the UK Parliament Private Bills are usually promoted by organisations for example local [...]

This entry was last updated: July 8, 2017


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