Private Members' bills
Private Members' bills are public bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers. As with other public bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. A minority of Private Members' bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly.
Introducing Private Members' bills
Like other public bills, Private Members' bills can be introduced in either House and must go through the same set stages. However, as less time is allocated to these bills, it is less likely that they will proceed through all the stages.
To introduce a bill in the House of Commons a Member needs to provide its short title (by which it is known) and its long title (which describes briefly what it does). Complete texts are not necessary and some Private Members' bills are never published in full.
There are three ways of introducing Private Members' bills in the House of Commons: the Ballot, the Ten Minute Rule and Presentation.
Ballot bills have the best chance of becoming law, as they get priority for the limited amount of debating time available. The names of Members applying for a bill are drawn in a ballot held on the second sitting Thursday of a parliamentary session. Normally, the first seven ballot bills are most likely to get a day's debate.
The first reading (formal presentation - no debate) of ballot bills takes place on the fifth sitting Wednesday of a parliamentary session.
The ballot draw for the 2021-22 parliamentary session took place on Thursday 20 May 2021 and is available to watch online on Parliament live.
Ten Minute Rule
Ten Minute Rule bills are often an opportunity for Members to voice an opinion on a subject or aspect of existing legislation, rather than a serious attempt to get a bill passed.
Members make speeches of no more than ten minutes outlining their position, which another Member may oppose in a similar short statement. It is a good opportunity to raise the profile of an issue and to see whether it has support among other Members.
Any Member may introduce a bill in this way as long as he or she has previously given notice of their intention to do so. Members formally introduce the title of the bill but do not speak in support of it - they rarely become law.
Private Members' Bills in the Lords
Private Members' bills in the Lords are usually introduced through a ballot held two days after State Opening of a new session of a parliament. In order to enter the ballot, members must submit the short and long title of their bill to the Legislation Office. 25 bills are selected from the ballot. The ballot orders the way in which these 25 bills receive their First Reading in the House but all subsequent legislative debates are scheduled by the Government's Whips Office. Bills not selected in the ballot may be introduced once all ballot bills have been introduced, but members need to re-submit their bill to the Legislation Office. One sitting Friday a month is ordinarily allocated to debating Private Members' bills.
If a Private Members' bill introduced in the Lords goes through all the required stages as any other public bill, and if an MP supports the bill, it continues in the Commons. Lords Private Members' bills are treated like other Private Members' bills, but do not have priority over bills introduced in the Commons. They are therefore unlikely to have much, if any, time devoted to them.
On the other hand, Private Member's bills which have completed all their stages in the Commons are more likely to have the necessary time devoted to them in the Lords to make them law.
Time for consideration of Private Members' bills in the Commons
Private Members' bills have precedence over government business on thirteen Fridays in each session under standing order 14 (8).
On the first seven Fridays allotted to Private Members' bills, precedence is given to ballot bills.
Additional time can be given to Private Members' bills if the Leader of the House assigns additional sitting Friday's. Public Bill Committees may also consider Private Members' bill on other days.
MPs can put their Private Members' bills down for any day – which tends to happen towards the end of the session when their are no sitting Friday's remaining. However, these are unlikely to be considered on such days.
For information on Friday sittings when Private Members' bills can be debated see:
If a Private Members' bill requires any spending, a money resolution must be agreed by the House of Commons before it (or the provisions giving rise to spending within it) can be considered in committee.