COMMONS

How the Backbench Business Committee works

The Backbench Business Committee is the first business committee of any kind to be established by the House and gives an opportunity to backbench Members to bring forward debates of their choice.

The House of Commons Backbench Business Committee has a limited allocation of time outside Government control in which it can schedule subjects for debate suggested by backbench Members of Parliament.

The Committee can consider any subject for debate. This includes subjects raised in national or local campaigns, reports by select committees and other groups and issues suggested by constituents, including by people who have signed an e-petition or a traditional paper petition (there is no restriction on the number of signatures required).

Requesting a debate

To request a debate, an MP must contact the Backbench Business Committee and fill in an application form by 12 pm on the Friday preceding the Tuesday meeting at which they intend to make a bid to the Committee.

MPs who wish to suggest a debate may attend one of the Committee's weekly public meetings to make the case for a debate on their subject. These meetings are conducted in public and can be watched on Parliament TV.

Selecting topics

The Backbench Business Committee has limited time to schedule for debates and it is not possible to allocate debates on all the subjects which are suggested.

The Committee selects topics for debates on their merits and considers criteria including;

  • topicality and timing
  • why holding a debate is important
  • the number of MPs who are likely to take part
  • whether a debate has already been held or is likely to be arranged through other routes

Timings

The Government decides which days of the week will be given to the Backbench Business Committee for its debates and the amount of time available varies each month.

Once the Backbench Business Committee has selected a subject for debate, it will allocate it to one of the available days and publish details on its website and in the House of Commons Order Paper.

In weeks where there is no time is available for Backbench Business, the Committee will postpone taking a decision until more time becomes available.

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