Web links: Chapter 12
Parliament’s website allows you to search for lists of private members’ bills which have been introduced through the ballot, ten minute rule and presentation procedures each session. Note: you need to look for public bills and then select the type of bill you’d like to see in the drop-down menu. For example, the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill would be found in the 2015-16 session, by selecting all of the ‘ballot bills’. All of the information (version of the bill, debates on the bill and amendments to the bill) can be found listed on each bill page. It should therefore be easy to locate the second reading debate of the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill, which took place on 11 September 2015 as well as the House of Commons Library briefing paper on the bill. The Commons library also has a handy note of all ballot bills in the House of Commons since 1997.
This takes place at the start of each parliamentary session. The names of MPs are drawn by a clerk in reverse, from 20th to 1st place.
Examples of Private Members’ Bill procedure
It’s often difficult to find private members’ bills being introduced or voted on in the Commons as they are not always listed in the Hansard index. You can watch MPs introducing/presenting their ballot bills and selecting a date for second reading here. A ten minute rule bill was introduced by Labour MP John Spellar on 10 January 2018. Watch his speech on the bill and the procedure for presenting and selecting a second reading debate right at the end of his speech.
For examples of private members’ bills being ‘talked out’ by MPs in the House of Commons chamber, have a look at this clip of the minister’s response to SNP MP John Nicolson’s PMB (the ‘Turing’’ Bill) on 21st October 2016 and the reaction of the MP himself when asked to select a day to continue the debate. Alternatively, watch complaints from MPs about government minister Alistair Burt’s admission that he will talk out Nick Thomas Symond’s PMB on Off Patent Drugs on 6th November 2015 and the minister’s response.
MPs on their own PMBs
In June 2015, Chris Heaton-Harris introduced the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, having been drawn second in the private members’ bill ballot. It subsequently passed all of its legislative stages and received royal assent in March 2016. He writes about his bill and its passage here.
Reforming PMB procedures
The House of Commons Procedure Committee has held several inquiries into private members’ bill procedures. One interesting session is with Conservative MP Philip Davies who explains to the committee why he filibusters private members’ bills and the strategies he uses during the debate of PMBs on Fridays. Subsequently, he discusses some of the tactics he uses to defeat bills.
In April 2016, the Committee published a report on PMB procedures where it recommended changes including the prioritisation of some private members’ bills and a guaranteed vote on bills at the second reading debate.