Procedure Committee announces terms of reference for its inquiry into Private Members' bills

29 November 2012

The Procedure Committee is currently considering the procedures for private Members’ bills. The Committee would welcome 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 invites written submissions which should arrive no later than Thursday 10 January 2013.

E-mail submissions are preferred and should be in Word format (not PDF) and sent to Postal submissions should be sent to the Clerk, Procedure Committee, Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Further information can be obtained from the Clerk at this address or by telephone on 0207 219 3318.

Committees make public much of the evidence they receive during inquiries. If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk on 0207 219 3318 to discuss this.

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