COMMONS

Private Members’ bills: Procedure Committee recommends guaranteed vote on second reading

The Procedure Committee has put forward new proposals for private Members' bills
31 March 2014

The House should agree a convention that there should be a vote on second reading of a private Member’s bill at the end of a full day’s debate, the House of Commons Procedure Committee recommends in a report published today (Private Members’ bills: Government response and revised proposals, HC 1171).

The report restates the Committee’s concern that current procedures make it too easy for a small number of MPs to prevent a bill from progressing without giving the House of Commons as a whole the chance to come to a decision on it. The solution, the Committee says, is for the House to agree that there should be a convention that the question on second reading of a private Member’s bill should be put at the end of a full day’s debate, in the same way that the House expects the question to be put on second reading of a Government bill. Once that convention is in place, the Chair will be able, where necessary, to impose speech limits to prevent filibustering.

The report builds on the Committee’s original report on private Members’ bills, published last September (Private Members’ bills, HC 188), following receipt of the Government’s response. It sets out a new package of recommendations for reform of the private Member’s bill process. The recommendations include a pilot of pages on the Parliamentary website where draft private Members’ bills can be made available online for scrutiny and comment; measures to make the Order Paper clearer about the status of private Members’ bills, and to reduce the risk of a single Member monopolising the limited opportunities for debate; and a change of name from “private Members’ bills” to “backbench bills”.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chair Charles Walker MP said:

“Since publication of our proposals for reform of the private Member’s bill process last September, we have had very constructive discussions with the Government on what suggestions for change should be put to the House. We believe that the package we put forward in this Report is the right one. It represents an important step towards our aims of increasing transparency and avoiding the potential for manipulation of the system, particularly by filibustering. We hope the House will now be given the opportunity to decide upon these recommendations in time for them to be implemented from the start of the next session.”

The full list of the Committee’s recommendations is as follows:

  • The House should agree that there should be a convention that the question on second reading of a private Member’s bill should be put to the House at the end of a full day’s debate, in the same way that the House expects the question to be put on second reading of a Government bill. This would enable the Chair to apply speech limits, where necessary, to prevent filibustering.
  • Bills which have not been published should be clearly identified in the Future Business section of the Order Paper.
  • Pages should be provided on the Parliamentary website where draft private Members’ bills can be made available online for scrutiny and comment. This should be done on a pilot basis in the 2014–15 session, to be reviewed by us towards the end of this Parliament.
  • A bill need not be brought in immediately after leave is granted under the ten minute rule.
  • The risk of a single Member monopolising the limited opportunities for debate of private Members’ bills should be reduced by providing that a private Member may present no more than one bill on any one day.
  • The deadline for publishing a private Member’s bill should be brought forward to the Wednesday of the week prior to the day of second reading.
  • Private Members’ bills should be called “backbench bills”.

 The Report can be downloaded for free from the Committee’s website, www.parliament.uk/proccom, or it can be bought from the parliamentary bookshop (http://www.shop.parliament.uk/) and The Stationery Office (http://www.tsoshop.co.uk/bookstore.asp).


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