Private Members' bills Contents


1.The process in the House of Commons for considering and deciding upon the merits of legislation proposed by any Member other than a Minister is in danger of appearing broken and discredited. Many now believe that, on the whole, the way the process is operated does more harm to the reputation of the House than good, and that it is not now suitable for the purpose for which it was intended.1

2.The Procedure Committee in the last Parliament produced two reports on private Members’ bills (hereafter “PMBs”) in the 2013–14 Session.2 In its legacy report of March 2015 that Committee asserted that there was “a clear desire across the House for change” in the handling of PMBs on sitting Fridays:

We hope that our successors in the new Parliament will build on the considerable amount of work which we have done towards securing meaningful reform to ensure that desire for change is satisfied.3

In the light of continuing dissatisfaction, both within the House and among the general public, about the adequacy of procedures for the passage of legislation originating from backbenchers, we have taken up our predecessors’ invitation further to examine procedure on PMBs. In this report we set out firm proposals for reforms designed to improve the operation of private Members’ bill procedures, and thus to increase their effectiveness in testing the merits of backbench proposals.

3.We published our formal call for evidence on 7 January 2016. In the light of our predecessors’ recommendations, we undertook to examine the following issues:

4.We took oral evidence from print and broadcast journalists (Isabel Hardman of The Spectator, Mark D’Arcy of BBC News and Michael White of The Guardian), Members who had sponsored, and opposed, bills in the present Session, members of the Committee in the last Parliament who had participated in our predecessors’ inquiry, the Clerk of the House and the Clerk of Private Members’ Bills, the Director of the Hansard Society, and the Leader and Shadow Leader of the House. We received 17 written memoranda and had access to the oral and written evidence reported to the House by our predecessors. We are very grateful to all those who gave oral evidence or submitted written evidence.

1 See, for example, evidence submitted by members of the public (PMB 01, 02, 03, 05, 08 and 14) and survey evidence submitted by 38 Degrees (PMB 19). See also the Westminster Hall debate on the motion ‘That this House has considered the procedure for debating and voting on Private Members’ Bills’ of 13 April 2016: HC Deb, 13 April 2016, cols 85–110WH.

2 Procedure Committee, Second Report of Session 2013–14, Private Members’ bills, HC 188, and Fifth Report of Session 2013–14, Private Members’ bills: Government response and revised proposals, HC 1171.

3 Procedure Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2014–15, Matters for the Procedure Committee in the 2015 Parliament, HC 1121, paras 11-14

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

15 April 2016