Private Members’ Bills
Private Members Bills is one of the main methods of passing legislation is in the form of bills introduced by the Government. There are, however, a number of procedures whereby backbench or private Members may initiate bills and ultimately pass legislation. They can create a real and lasting change but are incredibly hard to achieve. A Private Member's bill may be considered successful even if it does not become an act. Bills are sometimes withdrawn or allowed to lapse if, for instance, the Government gives an assurance that it will institute an enquiry into the subject, or if it undertakes to introduce legislation on some future occasion to the satisfaction of the bill's sponsor. Sometimes the publicity aroused over a bill to be is often considered useful even if the bill is not successful.
There are four types of these private Members’ bills. Over the last twenty years, more than half of the private Members’ bills that received Royal Assent were introduced through the "ballot”. The other types of bill are ten minute rule bills, presentation bills and Private Members’ bills brought from the Lords.
The Ballot (Standing Order No.14)
The time set aside by the House for consideration of private Members' legislation is limited by Standing Order (SO) No. 13. Therefore, there is always enormous pressure on the time available for debating bills introduced by backbench Members. Priority in the use of this time is established by a ballot held shortly after the beginning of each session. The 20 Members who are successful in this ballot stand at the front of the private Members' legislative queue, in the order in which they are drawn.
Therefore, they enjoy a crucial advantage over all other private Members who may wish to introduce bills of their own and, given the Government’s control of the parliamentary timetable, these bills would probably not make progress otherwise. Private
Members who have gained a place in the ballot put their bills down for discussion on particular days, nowadays exclusively Fridays. These bills are denoted by "B" in the House of Commons Weekly Information Bulletin together with a note of their position in the ballot and provisional date for second reading or subsequent stages.
The ballot is drawn on the second Thursday the House sits in each session. The bills of the Members successful in the ballot are formally presented in the House on the fifth sitting Wednesday.
About 400 Members normally enter the ballot, but a large proportion has no particular subject for a bill in mind. If they are drawn high in the ballot, they will be besieged by pressure groups, (like us!) other organisations and their own colleagues, who will suggest subjects and offer draft bills.
The Ten Minute Rule (Standing Order No. 23)
These Bills are a useful way of raising the profile of an issue.
Bills introduced under Standing Order No. 23, otherwise known as the Ten Minute Rule, are not always serious attempts at legislation. The process is used much more as a means of making a point on the need to change the law on a particular subject. Motions under this rule may also provide the opportunity for a Member to test parliamentary opinion on a subject upon which they or other Members may seek to legislate in later sessions. The Ten Minute Rule allows a brief speech in favour of the bill by the Member introducing it. It also allows a speech by a Member opposing the Motion.
Ordinary Presentation (Standing Order No. 57)
Yet another method is Standing Order No. 5. This effectively permits any Member of Parliament to introduce a bill of their choosing after having given due notice. The Bill is presented formally, which means that the Member introducing it does not make a speech when doing so. This type of bill cannot be presented until after the ballot bills have been presented and put down for second reading, so they are not likely to be high up the list on Private Members’ Bill Fridays. It is therefore unlikely that they will be debated.