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Private Bills

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

26. If she will bring forward proposals for amendments to Standing Orders to reduce the number of private Bills introduced in a parliamentary Session. (312142)

Private Bills enable individual local authorities to obtain legal powers that are additional to those generally given to them. Reducing the number of private Bills would mean denying that facility to local authorities or other bodies. Private Bills are also needed to deal with those bodies that are established under private Acts such as the Crossrail Act 2008 and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, which can be amended only by private Bills. I therefore have no plans to bring forward changes to Standing Orders.

I regret the response of the deputy Leader of the House. She is quite correct that large-scale projects such as the channel tunnel should be dealt with through private Bills. However, a lot of cities are currently trying to change the law on pedlars through private Bills, which is wasting parliamentary time. This afternoon we will spend another three hours on such Bills. Their number should be limited.

I have figures for the length of time that was spent on private Bills in the 2007-08 Session: it was less than 0.5 per cent. of our sitting time. I am slightly surprised that the hon. Gentleman cannot see the benefits of a localised approach that gives specific powers when they are needed. There tend to be only three or four private Bills each year, and they do help local authorities when they have specific issues.