The Procedure Committee is considered the procedures for private Members’ bills. The Committee welcomed comments on the following questions and proposals.
- What is the private Members’ bill procedure for? Should it continue to be used as a vehicle for getting a debate, or should it be used only for serious legislative propositions?
- Is it right that backbenchers should be able to bring forward their own legislative propositions and see them become law, or is the instigation of legislation properly the sole preserve of the duly elected Government of the day?
- Does the private Members’ bill process enable Bills to stand or fall on their merits? Is it rigorous enough to afford bills sufficient scrutiny before they become law?
- How far do the current procedures for private Members’ bills strike the right balance between ensuring that proposals for legislation are adequately debated, and enabling the will of the House as to whether a bill should proceed to prevail? What changes might improve that balance?
- Is the ballot the right way of determining which Members’ bills get priority for debating time? What is the role of ten minute rule motions and presentation bills? Should these procedures remain in their current form, or could they be improved?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving consideration of private Members’ bills, wholly or partly, from Fridays to other times in the week, for example a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening, or holding some debates on private Members’ bills in Westminster Hall?
Witnesses may also wish to comment on the merits of the following proposals which have been suggested as means of improving the existing procedures for private Members’ bills:
o A requirement for public consultation on a private Members’ bill before it is introduced, or priority for debating time given to bills which have undergone such consultation
o An automatic three-hour guillotine on second reading of a private Members’ bill
o Qualitative, rather than merely procedural, means of deciding which private Members’ bills get debating time, e.g. by using the Backbench Business Committee or a similar committee established for the purpose
o Timetabling of private Members’ bills (similarly to programming of Government bills)
o Allowing more than one public bill committee to be established to consider private Members’ bills (without requiring Government approval)
o A restriction on the number of bills any one private Member can have on the Order Paper at any one time
o Time limits on speeches on private Members’ bills
o Deferred voting on private Members’ bills
The Committee invited written submissions and the closing date was Thursday 10 January 2013.