Private Members’ Bill Ballot

At 9am today the Chairman of Ways and Means – the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will draw out the  numbers of twenty MP’s who will be given priority in having time to debate a Bill of their choice. For the past two days all MP’s except Government Ministers have been able to enter this name into the Private Member’s Bill Ballot Book. This is a book with numbered rows in it and I just took the next space on the page the book was open at. I am number 138. The winners will be inundated with pressure groups wanting them to adopt their particular cause.

At the other end of the today’s business will be the final votes on the Queen’s Speech. Yesterday, the amendment tabled by the Labour Party was defeated by 300 votes to 263.

 

New ideas for Private Members’ Bills

Back to Westminster again this morning and after Defence questions there will be the launch of two Select Committee reports. One of these is the eagerly anticipated report of the Procedure Committee into the procedure used to deal with bills introduced by backbench members of Parliament,. The report is embargoed until the official publication at 11am today so I can not say more than it contains some new and interesting proposals.

I will include a link to the report either later today or tomorrow once it is published.

Wales Debate and Private Members Bills

Yesterday, after questions to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the announcement of future business the main business was two debates scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee on Gangs and Violence and secondly, on Wales. The debate on Welsh affairs is an annual affair which is usually scheduled to take place as close as possible to St.David’s Day. I enquired about the progress of the government’s promised consultation on the Universal Service Obligation which will give everyone a legal right to request a broadband service just as we have with other basic utilities. I was told it is on its way and the government will probably legislate to introduce the Universal Service for Broadband in the digital economy bill.

Today, private members Bills are being considered and I expect a range of Bills will be considered on subjects ranging from the registration of driving instructors to the system of electing Members of the European Parliament

Opposition day (19)

Today after questions to the Secretary of State for Wales and then the Prime Minister the main business will be the 19th allotted Opposition day when Labour get to decide the debates and today it is state pensions for women and police funding crime and community safety. I have a meeting of the Procedure Committee this afternoon where we will be hearing evidence from the Clerk of the House as part of our inquiry into the process used to deal with Private Members’ Bills.

I had a very useful meeting last evening with the chief of Rosso busses at a dinner organised by the All Party Group on Road Passenger Transport where the speaker was the Minister Andrew Jones MP. The main subject of discussion was the forthcoming Buses Bill and how it could potentially affect the buses in our area.

Private Members’ Bills Progress

It was not a good day yesterday for all those who say that there is no point in having Private Members’ Bills anymore because not one but two completed their passage through the House of Commons. Firstly, the Riot Compensation Bill which updates the centuries old law on the amount of compensation payable to those whose property is damaged as a result of a riot. The old Act was passed before even motor cars had been invented. The new Act modernises the law and introduces a £1 million cap on claims.

The second Bill to complete its progress removed an anomaly in the law relating to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. This is the independent body which looks again at claims from convicted criminals that there has been a miscarriage of justice. At present the Commission can send for documents from public bodies but not private bodies and this Bill provides that a Court can now order a private individual or company to hand over documents relevant to their investigations.

Now, admittedly both these bills are what MP’s refer to as hand out Bills. In other words they are Bills which have been given out by the government. So, right from the start they have the support of government. I proved in the last Parliament that where an MP comes forward with a change to the law which makes sense the government can be persuaded to support a Private Members’ Bill and the process can be used to change the law.

New Procedure Committee Inquiry

The Procedure Committee which I sit on has a announced the terms of reference of a new Inquiry it is to carry out on the procedure relating to Private Members Bills. These are bills intended to change the existing law or bring in an entirely new law which are brought forward not by the government of the day but by any backbench MP. They are only debated on certain Fridays in the year. As I often receive criticism for the way private members bills are handled this is your chance to make your views known. Full details of how to do this are in the formal announcement which I have set out below:

COMMITTEE ANNOUNCEMENT

Procedure Committee to inquire into private Members’ bills

The Procedure Committee has decided to look at the procedures and practices of the House relating to private Member’s bills, in the light of the work undertaken by the predecessor Committee in the 2013-14 Session.

This short inquiry will review the package of proposals adopted by the predecessor Committee in 2014, with a view to making recommendations for the present House to consider. The legislative process for bills introduced on Fridays by backbench Members successful in the ballot will be the primary focus, but the Committee will also review the use of presentation Bills and Bills introduced under the ‘ten-minute rule’ (Standing Order No. 23).

Issues to be examined by the Committee include:

· Whether the present procedures provide for an adequate balance between the right of a backbench Member to secure progress for a bill which has support in the House and the rights of individual Members to block the passage of legislation with which they disagree.

· Whether it is appropriate for Ministers to use the existing procedures of the House to prevent the progress of bills which have support in the House.

· Whether the present powers of the Chair to impose time limits on speeches in the interests of the progress of business should be used in respect of private Members’ bills.

· Whether the existing ballot arrangements which give certain Members the opportunity to sponsor bills at Second Reading and beyond are appropriate.

· Whether private Members’ bills should continue to be considered on certain Fridays, and, if not, what other arrangements might be made for consideration of such bills on the floor of the House or elsewhere.

· How the practice on moving motions ‘That the House sit in private’ (invariably used tactically on sitting Fridays) should be reformed.

The Committee invites short written submissions (no more than 3,000 words) addressing one or more of the issues above. The deadline for receipt of submissions is Friday 19 February 2016.

Submissions should be made electronically using the inquiry evidence portal at:
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/procedure-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/private-members-bills-15-16/commons-written-submission-form/

The Committee will also seek to take oral evidence on these issues from present and former members of the House and other interested parties.