Private Members’ Bills are bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not government ministers. They provide backbenchers with an opportunity to address public concerns and to set a policy agenda that is not determined by the executive. But the procedures, often a source of controversy, are different to those that apply for government bills.
- What are Private Members’ Bills (PMBs)?
- What is a Ballot Bill and how does the PMB ballot in the House of Commons work?
- What is a Ten Minute Rule Bill?
- What is a Presentation Bill?
- How is time allocated for consideration of Private Members’ Bills in the House of Commons?
- What is the legislative procedure for Private Members’ Bills in the House of Commons?
- How do Private Members’ Bills work in the House of Lords?
- What are the problems with Private Members’ Bills?
- How many Private Members’ Bills become law each parliamentary session?
Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) are public bills introduced by MPs and Peers who are not government ministers.
There are three types of Private Members’ Bill, distinguished in terms of when and how they are introduced, and how they secure time to be debated:
- a Ballot Bill;
- a Ten Minute Rule Bill; and
- a Presentation Bill.
The PMB process in the House of Commons and House of Lords has ome common features, but there are also some important differences.
The PMB system began in its current form in the late 1940s and enshrined the notion that some parliamentary time should be made available for legislation by individual MPs and Peers, thus providing backbenchers with some freedom to respond to public concern or to set a policy agenda that is not determined primarily by the executive.
Thirteen Friday sittings (approximately 65 hours) are set aside in the House of Commons each year for consideration of PMBs. Priority for the use of the first seven sitting Fridays is given to Ballot Bills. These thus have the best chance of becoming law, or of at least being debated in the Chamber. These are the best known form of Private Members’ Bill.
In contrast, there is no fixed time for consideration of PMBs in the House of Lords and once all the Ballot Bills have been introduced, a PMB can be introduced by a Peer on any sitting day.
The primary purpose of a PMB cannot be to create a new tax or increase government spending; these are permitted only as secondary effects. And a PMB cannot be used to duplicate a decision that has already been made by the House of Commons earlier in the session.
As with government bills, a PMB must be compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights may investigate if it has concerns. If a PMB involves a matter that is devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then the relevant devolved legislature(s) may need to pass a legislative consent motion. And if a PMB might affect the interests of Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales then their consent may also be needed.
Like government bills, PMBs must pass through both Houses of Parliament if they are to become law. A PMB that is introduced in the House of Commons and survives all its Commons stages there must therefore be adopted by a backbench Peer who is willing to steer it through the House of Lords. Conversely, PMBs can also originate in the House of Lords but must be adopted by a backbench MP if they are to progress through the House of Commons.
In the House of Commons, a Private Members’ Bill ballot is held at the start of each new parliamentary session in which all backbench MPs are eligible to participate. MPs who wish to enter the ballot do so by signing their name against a number in the PMB Ballot Book which is placed in the ‘No’ Lobby at the side of the Chamber in the days before the ballot takes place.
MPs do not need to provide any details of their proposed bill at this stage: they do not need a title for the bill, and they do not need to specify the subject area or what they are seeking to achieve.
The Private Members’ Bill ballot is usually drawn on the second Thursday of each session (there have been exceptions: for example, in both the 2010-12 and 2015-16 sessions the ballot was moved to the third Thursday of the session). The date and time of the ballot is usually highlighted in advance in the Future Business Paper, and the details will be confirmed on the Order Paper for the requisite day. The ballot is public and is usually live-streamed on Parliamentlive TV. It may also be broadcast live on BBC Parliament.
The principal Deputy Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, presides over the ballot, aided by the Clerk Assistant. Balls with numbers corresponding to the Members’ names in the Ballot Book are placed in a bowl (sometimes names on slips of paper are placed in a parliamentary box instead). The names of 20 MPs are drawn in reverse order and announced immediately.
The 20 MPs whose names are drawn in the ballot have the opportunity to introduce a PMB of their choice during the session. Those drawn highest in the ballot have the best chance of getting their bill onto the statute book.
The Public Bill Office in the House of Commons provides drafting support to all 20 MPs. A sum of £200 - fixed in 1971 and never revised - is also made available to those MPs who occupy the top 10 places in the ballot. The money is provided to assist with drafting costs but in practice is rarely drawn upon. To ensure the quality of legislation, the government also provides drafting resources through the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for bills which are deemed likely to pass.
Some MPs, rather than generating their own legislative proposals, may instead choose to adopt a government ‘handout’ bill. These bills generally make technical changes or discrete additions to existing laws. They are bills that the government may have been unable to find time for in its own legislative programme, or which for political reasons it does not wish to steer through Parliament itself. Such legislation is handed to an MP (or Peer) by ministers to take through as a PMB. As handout bills have government support, they have a higher-than-average chance of becoming law.
All 20 MPs must formally present their bills on a subsequent Wednesday which is allocated for presentation of PMBs; this is usually the fifth Wednesday of the session. At presentation (or 1st Reading) stage, the 20 MPs require only the short and long-title of the bill.
Each of the 20 MPs must choose one of the allocated PMB Friday sittings for the 2nd Reading of their bill. MPs can postpone their allocated 2nd Reading day, but they may not bring their 2nd Reading forward to an earlier day.
Ten Minute Rule Bills are essentially policy aims put into legislative language in order to secure a 10-minute speaking slot during ‘primetime’ in the House of Commons Chamber after Question Time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (but not on Budget day).
Under Standing Order No.23, MPs may move a motion to bring in a Ten Minute Rule Bill (TMRB) by giving notice to the Public Bill Office between five and 15 sitting days beforehand. However, under Standing Order No. 14(11), notice of a motion for a TMRB cannot be made until after the fifth Wednesday of the session, in order to protect the priority given to Ballot Bills on PMB sitting Fridays (the fifth Wednesday being the day usually set aside for 1st Reading - introduction - of Ballot Bills).
Only one TMRB can be presented each day. The opportunities are allocated by the Whips with slots divided up between the parties according to their share of representation in the House.
The MP moving a TMRB is permitted 10 minutes to make his or her case, after which a Member opposed to the bill has a similar amount of time to state his or her objections. Interventions are not permitted.
If no MP indicates to the Speaker that they wish to oppose the bill then it is introduced without a vote.
If an MP does oppose the bill, then, following the two speeches, the Speaker will put the Question (whether the MP should have leave to bring in the bill). If no MP objects, then the bill is introduced without a vote. But if an MP objects (by saying ‘No’) then a vote will be required. In the event of a vote, the MP promoting the TMRB must provide the names of two tellers (MPs who count the votes) for the ‘Aye’ lobby.
If the House supports the bill then the MP promoting it must go to the bar of the House with a ‘dummy bill’ (provided by the Public Bill Office), bow towards the Speaker’s chair, walk five paces and bow again, before bowing a third and final time before the ceremonial Mace. He or she must then present the ‘dummy bill’ to the Clerk at the Table.
The Clerk will read the short title of the bill and the Speaker will ask the MP ‘2nd Reading what day?’ The MP will give the day (s)he has chosen and the TRMB will then be added to the queue of other PMBs listed for debate on that day.
The bill need not be printed - if an MP is primarily interested in achieving publicity for the issue through their speech in the Chamber then they are unlikely to go to the trouble. However, if the bill is not printed before 2nd Reading then it cannot progress.
Realistically, there is rarely time for TMRBs to be considered beyond their introductory stage. Few TRMBs become law, but they are a useful mechanism to enable MPs to generate debate about an issue and to test the opinion of the House on a subject.
Any MP is permitted under Standing Order No. 57 to introduce a bill of his or her choice, having given prior notice to the Public Bill Office. Presentation Bills are formally ‘presented’ during a Friday sitting only, and only after all the Ballot Bills on the Order Paper have been presented.
The MP presenting the bill does not give a speech and there is no debate on the proposals. There is no requirement for Presentation Bills to be printed - and they often are not - but they will not progress beyond 2nd Reading unless they are printed.
Presentation Bills can be used to address discrete, non-controversial policy issues and to resolve anomalies in the law. They can also be a useful means to keep an issue before the House that has perhaps been introduced previously under a different PMB procedure. However, with no speech or debate attached to them, they are less useful to Members than Ballot Bills or TMRBs.
Presentation Bills rarely become law, although recent exceptions have been the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 (formerly the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.5) Bill) sponsored by Yvette Cooper MP and Lord Rooker; and the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 (formerly the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill) sponsored by Hilary Benn MP and again by Lord Rooker in the House of Lords. Both Bills were secured after MPs controversially seized control of the Order Paper from the government as part of a legislative strategy to avoid (or delay) a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union in the absence of the parliamentary support needed to ratify the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
Thirteen Friday sittings are set aside in the House of Commons each session for consideration of PMBs, signifying a commitment to provide some freedom from the normal constraint that ‘Government business shall have precedence at every sitting’ (Standing Order No.14(8)).
Unless the House decides otherwise, these are the only Friday sittings held each session (in the 2010-12 and 2017-19 sessions a few additional sitting Fridays were provided given the extended length of the sessions). Cumulatively, this amounts to 65 hours of parliamentary time for consideration of PMBs each session, each Friday sitting being five hours in length (9.30am-2.30pm).
This time can be encroached upon by petitions, Urgent Questions, Points of Order to the Speaker, and government statements. The government can make additional time available other than on Fridays to facilitate discussion of a PMB if it wishes, but it is rare for it to do so.
The first seven Fridays: 2nd Reading debates
After a bill is introduced at 1st Reading, the Speaker will ask the MP ‘2nd Reading what day?’ The MP must name an available Friday sitting day. The first seven of the 13 sitting Fridays are set aside for 2nd Reading of Ballot Bills: those MPs who secured the top seven places in the ballot thus have the first choice of dates. MPs outside the top seven are likely to be listed second or third on the Order Paper on the Friday that is chosen, and their bills will therefore have less chance of being debated.
The 8th to 13th Fridays: the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ and the order of precedence
The remaining 8th to 13th sitting Fridays are dedicated to consideration of those PMBs that have made most progress.
The 13th and final sitting Friday allotted for PMBs - colloquially known as the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ on account of its attrition rate - is largely taken up with Lords amendments.
At this point, a complex order of precedence dictates which bills can make use of the remaining time. This order of precedence includes consideration of Lords amendments, 3rd Readings, new Report stages, adjourned Report stages, adjourned Committee proceedings, bills appointed to Committees of the Whole House, and 2nd Readings.
A backbencher can also lay down a PMB for consideration on any non-sitting Friday. In the event that sitting days are extended (as happened in the longer-than-usual 2010-12 session) then the PMBs on the Order Paper for these new sitting days have priority.
PMBs in the House of Commons go through the same legislative stages as government bills. However, the procedures that apply to Private Members’ Bills at each stage are different in a number of respects to those that apply for government bills.
A bill presented to the House for 1st Reading must have a short title (the name) and a long title (a description of what the bill covers and seeks to do). Political slogans are not permitted in short or long titles and only well-known abbreviations are allowed (such as ‘NHS’). If the bill encompasses a number of minor matters then the phrase ‘and for connected purposes’ is permitted in the long title. A full legislative text is only required if the bill secures a 2nd Reading. The provisions set out in the text must stay within the scope of the short and long titles.
When a Ballot or Presentation Bill is introduced, a list of up to 11 supporters (who must not be ministers) can be supplied. A supporters’ list is not necessary but can be a good indicator of cross-party interest and can usefully highlight the support of prominent and influential Members for a bill. (Additional names cannot be added to a motion for a Ten Minute Rule Bill.)
Unlike government bills, PMBs are not timetabled (that is, subject to a programme motion).
As a consequence, only the first PMB on the Order Paper each Friday is certain to be debated. If the debate ends before 2.30pm then the second bill and possibly subsequent bills may be reached in the remaining sitting time. But after 2.30pm only those PMBs that are unopposed make progress.
A motion “that the House do sit in private”
At the start of a PMB Friday sitting an MP may move the motion “that the House do sit in private”. The quorum is 40, including the Speaker or Deputy Speaker and tellers. If fewer than 40 MPs vote, then the bill will be deferred to the next PMB sitting day. In practice, this means the bill is unlikely to progress any further. But if 40 MPs support the motion then the debate on the first PMB listed on the Order Paper commences.
The reason for moving the motion at the start of the sitting is to prevent another MP (who may be opposed to the first PMB or to another bill listed further down the Order Paper) from moving the motion later in the sitting when there may be fewer than 40 MPs in the Chamber. If another MP were successful in forcing a division involving fewer than 40 MPs then it would stop the bill from being debated further. This is a procedural hazard on Fridays when most MPs are in their constituencies rather than at Westminster.
Time-wasting tactics to ‘talk-out’ a bill
The lack of a programme motion and time limits on speeches mean a handful of MPs can time-waste and filibuster a PMB. Just one or two MPs can talk out a bill and ensure that debate is not reached on bills lower down the Order Paper.
Although the Speaker has the power under Standing Order No. 47 to place time limits on speeches, the culture of PMB proceedings is such he does not do so. If debate is still ongoing at 2.30pm, and there has been no interruption, then the debate ceases and the bill is scheduled to resume at a later Friday sitting.
“The opposite rules to ‘Just a Minute’ apply: the more hesitation, deviation and repetition they can work into their speeches without being pulled up by the Speaker, the better.”
The rules militate against proper debate of PMBs because any interventions by MPs in support of a bill help to run down the clock. Every minute an intervention takes up is another minute the bill’s opponents do not have to fill with their own filibustering tactics.
In recent sessions two bills talked out by Christopher Chope MP - the Upskirting Bill (15 June 2018) and the Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill (8 February 2019) - were subsequently adopted as government bills to get them on to the statute book as soon as possible.
Forcing a division (on either the quorum or a closure motion) can also be used as a time-wasting tactic. The Speaker will try to adjudicate a vote on the basis of the shouts of ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ when the question is put, but if the shouting is vociferous then a division will be called and more time will be eaten up. Divisions in which only a few dozen MPs may be participating can take as much as 15-20 minutes each, as opponents of the PMB try to delay matters as long as possible. It is not uncommon for the Speaker to have to call on the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay.
A closure motion
The only way to bring debate to an end and avoid the 2nd Reading of a PMB being rescheduled (often months later) is through a closure motion. If opponents of the bill are speaking as the moment of interruption at 2.30pm nears then supporters of the bill must move “that the Question be now put”.
The timing of a closure motion is crucial as the Speaker will not allow such a motion to be put at 2nd Reading (or on an amendment at Report stage) if he deems that there has been insufficient debate. However, closure motions can usually be requested successfully within the final hour of the sitting.
To win a closure motion and successfully bring debate to a close, at least 100 MPs must vote in favour of the motion. On a Friday, when many MPs are not at Westminster, this can be a difficult procedural hurdle to overcome.
If a closure motion is lost then debate resumes and the clock continues to run down on the bill. If the closure motion is successful then the Speaker will call a vote on the 2nd Reading if one is needed. The MP moving the PMB must provide the names of two tellers (who count the votes) for the ‘Aye’ lobby. If successful, the bill progresses on to its Committee Stage. If debate has not been brought to an end by 2.30pm then it is adjourned, and the continued 2nd Reading of the bill has to be rescheduled.
What happens to PMBs listed on the Order Paper which have not been debated by 2:30pm?
After the moment of interruption is reached, the Clerk will read out the titles of the other bills listed on the Order Paper which have not been debated and the Speaker will propose the Question on 2nd Reading if each MP bringing forward a PMB indicates that they still wish to move their bill.
If an MP objects then the Speaker will invite the MP (‘Objection taken: 2nd Reading what day?’) to nominate another sitting Friday for consideration of his or her bill.
Often, it is the government that objects to a bill and without government support a PMB will have no realistic chance of making progress.
But if no MP objects to the bill then it will pass 2nd Reading without debate and progress to Committee Stage. This is unusual but not unknown.
Only in exceptional circumstances might the committee stage be taken by a Committee of the Whole House.
If a PMB progresses beyond 2nd Reading it will generally be committed to a Public Bill Committee (PBC).
Money Resolutions and Ways and Means Resolutions
If a PMB has tax or spending implications (although these must not be the main purpose of a PMB) then the bill will require a money resolution (to permit the expenditure) or a ways and means resolution (to introduce a tax or charge) before it can be considered in committee. Only the government can bring forward such motions.
If the government declines to bring a motion forward then this thwarts the progress of a bill. The Public Bill Committee to consider the PMB can meet but it can not consider the clauses of the bill. It is permitted only to debate the bill on a motion to adjourn the meeting, which means debating the principles and the process but not the detail.
CASE STUDY: The Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill 2017-19 Labour MP Afzal Khan brought forward this bill having secured third place in the PMB ballot. The bill proposed to establish a new Boundary Review to consider the allocation of 650 parliamentary constituencies, rather than the 600 constituencies to which the government had committed. The bill was supported at 2nd Reading by 229 votes to 44. The chair of the Public Bill Committee, up to 15 MPs and one minister, plus the Clerk(s) and Hansard reporter(s) then spent a total of six hours attending 32 committee sittings. But on each occasion the Members were unable to debate the detail of the bill because the government refused to grant it a money resolution. The bill was stranded and fell at the end of the session.
Public Bill Committee (PBC)
The Member sponsoring the PMB must provide the Selection Committee with the names of members willing to serve on the PBC. The Selection Committee will then formally nominate those members.
However, Standing Order No. 84A(5) permits the Selection Committee to nominate only one PBC to consider a PMB at any one time. As a result, if a number of PMBs pass through 2nd Reading stage, they can face bottlenecks as they wait in the queue for the PBC to become available. Only the government can table a motion to support the nomination of a second PBC to sit simultaneously to consider another PMB. (In the rare circumstance that the MP responsible for the first PMB was to tell the Selection Committee that they no longer wished to proceed with the committee stage for their bill, then a second PBC can be nominated; if subsequently desired, consideration of the first PMB cannot then commence until the proceedings of the second PBC have finished.)
Unlike the procedure for government bills, there is no provision for the taking of external evidence about a PMB from experts or members of the public at Committee Stage.
There is also no end date for a PBC: the time required for committee consideration of a PMB will be dependent on the nature of the bill and the level of interest in it.
It is at Report stage that PMBs frequently finally fall. As at 2nd Reading, opposing Members may again attempt to talk out the bill. Opponents can also table amendments designed to inhibit the purpose of the bill and take up time in debate. As at 2nd Reading, supporting MPs may therefore need to move a closure motion one or more times during the debate, in order to keep the bill on track.
MPs can try to move amendments which were previously rejected or withdrawn at Committee Stage. Amendments to restore the original text of the bill by removing any changes made in Committee are also permitted.
If a bill has been considered by Committee of the Whole House then report stage is skipped.
As with government bills, 3rd Reading is usually a formality. No amendments to the bill are permitted: it is a final chance for MPs to pass or reject the bill in its entirety. 3rd Reading is often taken immediately after Report Stage and will involve only a short debate.
If the bill began its parliamentary passage in the House of Commons it will now go to the House of Lords for consideration.
Ping-pong: consideration of Lords amendments
Once a PMB has passed through the Commons it must be taken up by a Peer and pass through all stages in the House of Lords. Although the Lords may make amendments of detail and clarification, it is extremely rare for a Commons PMB to be defeated in the Lords.
At the start of each new parliamentary session, on the day following the State Opening of Parliament, a PMB ballot is held in the House of Lords. This ballot determines the order in which PMBs will receive their 1st Reading in the House of Lords, and on what days.
A Peer who wishes to enter the PMB ballot must submit the full text of their bill to the Public Bill Office (this is in contrast to MPs, who do not even need to provide a title for a bill when they enter the Commons PMB ballot). The bill must be submitted by the time the House rises after State Opening, on the evening before the ballot.
The legislative time secured by the Peer must be used only for the bill they have submitted in the ballot; they cannot change their mind and seek to introduce another bill, nor can they transfer their slot to another Member. A Peer can submit only one bill in the ballot, and duplicate or substantially similar bills submitted by more than one member are not permitted. If a Peer fails to introduce his or her PMB in his or her allocated slot then the bill cannot be introduced at a later date until all other Lords Ballot Bills have been introduced.
Once all the Ballot Bills have been introduced, a Peer can introduce a PMB on any sitting day. However, there is no fixed time in the House of Lords for consideration of PMBs.
“There is no concept of government or private members’ ‘time’ in the Lords, nor any specific time when government or private members’ bills are taken.”
In practice, a PMB at a stage when no amendments or debate are anticipated may be taken after questions on any sitting day of the week. Otherwise PMBs are generally considered on sitting Fridays.
The availability of time is dependent on the weight of other business. Peers are advised to introduce PMBs at the beginning of the parliamentary session to improve their chances of securing debating time.
Generally, and unlike in the Commons, PMBs are not talked out in the House of Lords.
PMBs in the Lords proceed in the same way as government bills and, if passed, are sent to the Commons where they must be taken up by an MP. They are then treated as any other PMB and must pass all the Commons stages. If any amendments are made, the bill must go back to the Lords.
The legislative process in the Lords for PMBs is relatively straightforward compared to that in the Commons. However, Lords bills often fail to secure time to be considered in the Commons as they arrive late in the session and find themselves placed behind PMBs initiated in the Commons.
In procedural terms there are only two difference between a bill introduced in the Lords by a government minister and one introduced by backbenchers: PMBs cannot be carried over from one session to another, and a statement on human rights compatibility is not required.
Explanatory Notes are sometimes produced by the sponsoring Member (sometimes with the help of the relevant government department) to faciliate understanding of the provisions of a PMB but they are not required. Any Explanatory Notes that are produced must be checked by the Public Bill Office in the House of Lords prior to publication.
1st Reading (introduction)
The Peer presenting the PMB (or their representative if the sponsoring Member is unable to be present) rises at the start of public business, usually after oral questions, on the day allocated to them through the ballot, and seeks the House’s permission to introduce the bill. This stage is usually a formality and the bill’s introduction is agreed without debate or objection.
The sponsoring Peer is then responsible for negotiating with the Government Whips Office to secure a 2nd Reading date for the PMB as well as dates for any further stages.
At this stage Peers consider the general principles of the bill. The sponsoring Member opens the debate, the Minister responds and the sponsoring Member has a brief right of reply.
The bill may be opposed if a Peer has given notice on the Order Paper of:
- an amendment that “this House declines to give the bill a second reading”;
- the above amendment augmented by a reason that the bill is being opposed (a ‘reasoned amendment’)
- an amendment which would not seek to prevent the bill’s progress but would invite the House to set out a particular point of view or highlight a concern about the provisions.
In practice, it is unusual for the House to divide on a PMB at 2nd Reading. If a vote does take place then the sponsoring Member must nominate two tellers within three minutes of the division being called. (They will also have to do this for any divisions at subsequent stages).
Committee Stage, Report Stage and 3rd Reading
As with 2nd Reading the dates for each of these stages are fixed by agreement between the sponsoring Member and the Government Whips Office.
If a bill passes 2nd Reading, a motion will be moved in the name of the sponsoring Peer to commit it to either a Committee of the Whole House or a Grand Committee.
Amendments may be moved at Committee stage, at Report stage, and, unlike in the Commons, amendments are also permitted at 3rd Reading in the Lords.
If there are lots of amendments then the Government Whips Office will help the sponsoring Member to prepare groupings for debate. However, a member who has tabled an amendment must also agree to the grouping.
A Lords PMB adopted in the House of Commons
Once a Lords PMB navigates 3rd Reading it is sent to the House of Commons where it must be adopted by an MP. In the Commons a Lords PMB is treated as any other PMB and must pass all its Commons stages.
If any amendments are made, the bill must go back to the Lords for further consideration. Only when any amendments are agreed by both Houses can the bill be granted Royal Assent.
Uncontroversial proposals that have been scrutinised and achieved consensus in the Lords may have some chance of being carried through ‘on the nod’ in the Commons.
Despite the many changes introduced to the legislative process in recent decades, few significant changes have been made to the PMB process. Yet PMB sittings can often be a source of controversy. PMBs can generate considerable interest among campaign groups, specialist media and the general public. Yet the procedures surrounding PMBs are difficult to understand, and the reasons for a bill’s failure are often difficult for MPs to explain to their constituents and even harder to justify.
A number of obstacles in the PMB system inhibit its effectiveness:
- Friday sitting times cause difficulties in relation to the attendance of Members (this is particularly important given the number of MPs required to secure a quorum or a closure motion);
- the procedures, particularly the lack of programming and the lack of time limits on speeches, facilitate filibustering rather than effective debate and scrutiny;
- the existence of low yet complex procedural and voting thresholds enable even limited opposition to thwart popular bills. The rules governing debate in effect give just one MP a veto on the legislation as they can talk out the bill or table just a few amendments to run down the clock.
The table below shows the number of Private Members’ Bills, by type, that secured Royal Assent in each session in the last decade. The number that follows in brackets is the number of PMBs that were introduced by type. NOTE: that the 2010-12 and 2017-19 sessions were at least twice as long as the other sessions.
|Session||Ballot Bills||Ten Minute Rule Bills||Presentation Bills||Lords PMBs||Total||% received Royal Assent|
|2017-19||9 (20)||1 (144)||4 (147)||1 (75)||15 (386)||3.8%|
|2016-17||5 (20)||1 (50)||2 (42)||0 (60)||8 (172)||4.6%|
|2015-16||4 (20)||2 (56)||0 (37)||0 (49)||6 (162)||3.7%|
|2014-15||7 (20)||1 (48)||0 (64)||2 (39)||10 (171)||5.8%|
|2013-14||4 (20)||0 (60)||1 (66)||0 (34)||5 (180)||2.7%|
|2012-13||10 (20)||0 (63)||0 (27)||0 (33)||10 (143)||6.9%|
|2010-12||6 (20)||0 (131)||0 (87)||1 (31)||7 (269)||2.6%|