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A hybrid bill has characteristics of both a public bill and a private bill, that is, although it is of general application, the content of such a bill would significantly affect the interests of certain individuals or organisations. Speaker Hylton-Foster described a hybrid bill as “a public bill which affects a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interests of other persons or bodies of the same category or class”.[1] In layman’s terms, a hybrid bill gives Parliamentary authority for a scheme.  If required, a hybrid bill can grant deemed planning permission for any scheme it provides for.

Bills which propose to undertake works of national importance, but in a local area, have usually been hybrid. Hybrid bills may be introduced by the Government or by a backbencher.  They are not particularly common, 13 hybrid bills have been introduced since 1984.  However, as the High-Speed Rail project proceeds more are expected.  Recent examples include the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill, on 17 July 2017; the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, on 25 November 2013; and the Crossrail Bill in 2005. 

The procedures followed in Parliament in considering hybrid bills incorporate aspects of both public bill and private bill procedures. Promoters of hybrid bills do not need to prove the need for their bill (promoters of private bills do).  Between a hybrid bill’s introduction and Second Reading, time is provided for members of the public to comment on the environmental statement published with the Bill.  Following Second Reading, hybrid bills are committed to a select committee to allow those affected by the Bill to petition against aspects of the Bill to which they object.  After the select committee has reported, a hybrid bill is considered in Public Bill Committee, on Report and debated at Third Reading, like a public bill.  The same stages, including petitioning, are then repeated in the House of Lords.

Erskine May’s description of hybrid bill procedure can be found on pages 652-658 of Parliamentary Practice (24th edition, 2011).

Review of hybrid bill procedure

When it reported in February 2016, the House of Commons High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) (‘HS2 Phase 1’) Bill Select Committee considered the way in which hybrid bills are scrutinised. It identified some advantages of the hybrid bill process but also acknowledged several criticisms and recommended some changes.  It urged the House and ministers “to consider such changes in good time before the next hybrid bill is introduced”.

In May 2016, while the HS2 Phase 1 Bill was being considered by the House of Lords, the Chairman of Ways and Means (Commons) and the Chairman of Committees (now the Senior Deputy Speaker) (Lords), as the Members with responsibility for the oversight of private business, launched a review of hybrid bill procedure. They set out the scope of the review:

The review will 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 its legislation through Parliament.

Initially submissions were requested by 30 June 2016 but a further opportunity was given to make submissions to December 2016.

The review sought to address concerns raised by petitioners that the petitioning process was onerous and unnecessarily bureaucratic. As part of the first phase of the review’s implementation, ahead of petitioning for Phase 2a, the House has agreed to changes to the Private Business Standing Orders to allow electronic petitioning and for a petitioner to allow anyone to represent them without that person having to provide a certificate of respectability and sign the Private Bill Office’s Roll B register. The Standing Order changes also give Members of Parliament the right to petition, as well as providing an explicit mechanism for setting the petitioning period and dealing with late petitions.

The review is ongoing and further reforms are expected in the coming year.

Further information

There are separate briefing papers for each of the three phases of HS2, these can be found on the Railways Briefings Page of the Parliament website.

Separate House of Commons Background Papers review public bill procedure and private bill procedure:

[1]     HC Deb 10 December 1962 c45

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