A programme order sets out the detailed timetable for a bill. Bills do not have to have programme order.
Before it is agreed, a programme order is called a programme motion. Programme motions are usually put to the House for agreement immediately after second reading, in which case they are not debated. But they can also be introduced later in the bill’s progress, in which case they can usually be debated for up to 45 minutes.
A programme order (or later supplementary programme orders) can set out:
- whether the bill’s committee stage will take place in a Public Bill Committee or a Committee of the whole House
- the deadline for a Public Bill Committee to finish its work or the number of days allocated for a Committee of the whole House the time allocated for report stage and third reading
A programme order might also cover the sequence in which the clauses of the bill are considered at committee stage and report stage.
Programme orders have largely replaced allocation of time or 'guillotine' motions, which were used to limit the amount of time that MPs could spend debating a particular stage of a bill.