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Private Members' Bills (Westminster Hall)

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 8 May 2008

31. If she will propose to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons that it inquire into using Westminster Hall as well as the main Chamber for debate on Private Members’ Bills on Fridays. (204046)

The House has, from time to time, looked at the time made available to private Members’ Bills and the best ways for them to be considered. The issue is complex. For example, it includes the question of how much time hon. Members want to spend on parliamentary business at Westminster, and within that, on private Members’ business, and the place of that time within the working week.

I understand my hon. Friend’s proposal to involve parallel Friday sittings in the two venues so that more Bills can be considered. I am not aware that that specific idea has been proposed before, but it is clearly one that any Committee examining this issue could consider.

I am very glad to hear that the issue may get consideration. Private Members have brought some very important legislation through the House, legislation that Governments of the day have been too frightened to introduce—one thinks of the abolition of the death penalty or the abortion law reform. Legislation on more of these difficult issues, including, perhaps, legislation to deal with the question of primogeniture, could be brought through by a private Member if more time were available. I urge the Modernisation Committee to examine my proposal seriously.

I agree with my hon. Friend that much private Members’ legislation has been extremely important and groundbreaking. I know that an hon. Member could apply every year for 10 years and still have only a 50/50 chance of being selected in the ballot, but sometimes issues that initially appear in private Members’ legislation find their way into Government legislation in the end.