Publications / Briefings

Back to Business: Private Members' Bill ballot

3 Jul 2024
MPs queue to present their ballot bills to the House of Commons, 6 December 2023. ©UK Parliament/Andy Bailey
MPs queue to present their ballot bills to the House of Commons, 6 December 2023. ©UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) are bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not Government Ministers. When will the PMB ballot take place? When will MPs have to present their bills if they are successful in the ballot? Why might there be an extended window of opportunity for lobby groups to encourage MPs to adopt their legislative proposal this year? When can Peers introduce PMBs in the House of Lords?

Thirteen Friday sittings (approximately 65 hours) are set aside in the House of Commons each Session for the consideration of Private Members’ Bills (PMBs). Priority for the use of the first seven sitting Fridays is given to PMBs introduced by the PMB ballot. Ballot Bills therefore have the best chance of becoming law, or at least being debated on the Floor of the House.

The PMB ballot is usually drawn on the second Thursday of each Session, although there have been exceptions.[1] In the 2010-12 Session, for example, the ballot was moved to the third Thursday of the Session. The PMB Ballot is therefore likely to fall either on 25 July or 1 August.

MPs do not need to have drafted a Bill or even chosen the title before entering the ballot.

The names of the 20 Members whose names are drawn in the ballot are announced immediately.

On a subsequent Wednesday (Standing Orders specify the fifth Wednesday of the Session, but this was amended to the sixth Wednesday in 2010), all 20 MPs successful in the ballot formally present their bills.

At this First Reading stage they require only the short and long title – which sets out, in a short summary, what provisions a bill will contain - of the PMB.

Between being selected in the ballot and the presentation of their bill, the MPs who are selected are often subject to intense lobbying efforts by organisations with proposals for legislation. The timing of the election means that the PMB ballot and the presentation of the bills are likely to fall either side of the Summer recess, leaving an even longer period for this lobbying to take place.

After presenting their bill, each MP will then choose one of the allotted PMB Friday sittings for their Second Reading. MPs can postpone their allocated Second Reading day but may not bring their Second Reading forward to an earlier day. MPs choose their Second Reading days in the order in which they were selected in the ballot. The procedures that apply to PMBs (which differ to those of Government bills) mean a PMB is much more likely to succeed if it is debated first. MPs higher up the list will therefore pick days chosen by the fewest MPs so that their bill can be considered as early as possible in the day.

For PMBs introduced by Peers in the House of Lords, a ballot is conducted two working days after the King’s Speech to determine the order in which PMBs handed in on that day receive their First Reading.[2]

Peers must submit a long and short title to the Legislation Office by 4pm on the day after the State Opening, but not a full text. Twenty-five bills are drawn from the ballot, two of which are then introduced each sitting day in the order in which they were drawn. If a Member turns down their First Reading 'slot', all Peers below them on the ballot list move up one place in the queue for First Readings.

Peers are still able to introduce a bill at any stage of the Session, but such bills will receive their First Readings after those entered in the ballot.

[1] Standing Order No.14(10), House of Commons Standing Orders for Public Business, as at 23 October 2023

[2] Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, Chapter 8, Private Members’ Bills, as at 26 February 2024

©UK Parliament/Maria Unger

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