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Private Members’ Bills

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 7 November 2013

The Government are considering the recommendations contained in the report published by the Procedure Committee on 2 September and will respond shortly.

Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in congratulating the Procedure Committee on an excellent report and consider implementing its recommendations for the timetabling of private Members’ Bills so that Back Benchers voices will be properly heard in this place?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on pursuing these matters as vigorously as he does in relation to private Members’ Bills. I am afraid that I am not in a position today to tell him that the Government have responded, but I can tell him that we will respond very shortly to the Procedure Committee’s report, and indeed it contains some sound and strong recommendations that I am sure we will want to consider carefully.

Is it not the case that if 100 MPs turn up for a closure motion on a Friday they can ensure the progress of any Bill, which is not a great number out of 650 if it has such widespread support? Hon. Members should not expect to turn up with some well-meaning claptrap and expect it to be nodded through just because it is a Friday.

Yes, my hon. Friend is right that the use of a closure motion and, indeed, timetabling is possible for private Members’ Bills, but it is also worth pointing out that the Procedure Committee has said in its report that it is not its intention to facilitate the passage of Bills into law, and that it should not be easy to see a private Member’s Bill become law.

Does the Deputy Leader of the House agree that regardless of the procedures used to deal with private Members’ Bills, such a Bill is extremely unlikely to reach the statute book unless it has the express or at least tacit approval of the Government?

I can assure my hon. Friend that there have been examples in the past—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House secured a private Member’s Bill in opposition—so there are opportunities even for Opposition Members to push private Members’ Bills through, although clearly having the support of the Government is helpful.