Private Member's Bill


Private Member's Bill

A Private Member's Bill is a proposed law introduced by a backbench member of parliament, whether from the government or the opposition side, to that legislature or parliament. In most parliaments within the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy, the overwhelming majority of bills introduced are proposed by members of the Cabinet. However some parliamentary time is often set aside so that backbenchers may introduce bills also. Note that a Private Member's Bill should not be confused with a private bill; Private Members' Bills are in fact public bills.

Only a small proportion of Private Members' Bills make it to enactment. This is generally because of lack of time - a controversial private member's bill can be "talked out". In some cases, measures that a government does not want to take responsibility for may be introduced by backbenchers, with the government secretly or openly backing the measure and ensuring its passage. They are sometimes known as "handout" or "whips' bills". The Abortion Act 1967 was enacted in the United Kingdom through this means, with the Bill itself being introduced by a Liberal Party Member of Parliament, David Steel; through the support from Home Secretary Roy Jenkins the Bill was given enough government time to allow a full debate.

Other Private Member's Bills to have been enacted include the Adoption Act 1964, the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1964, the Charter Trustees Act 1986, the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, the Knives Act 1997, the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, the Sustainable Communities Act 2006.

The United Kingdom parliament has a long history of enacting Private Member's Bills. In contrast, Ireland's parliament, the Oireachtas Éireann, rarely passes Private Members Bills, with the overwhelming number of Bills being passed all being introduced by members of the Irish government.Fact|date=February 2008

Private Member's Bills in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom House of Commons, there are several routes to introducing Private Members' Bills. In each session, twenty backbench MPs are selected by ballot to introduce a bill. These bills are given priority for debate and generally offer the best chance of success. Additional bills may be introduced via the Ten Minute Rule, although this is usually used just to raise an issue rather than legislate on it, or through presentation without debate under Standing Order 57. Neither Ten Minute Rule or presentation bills are likely to get time to be debated, so only non-controversial bills have any chance of success. Private Members' Bills from the Lords may also be adopted by an MP to complete their journey through Parliament.

Private member's bills can sometimes become the cause for much anxiety and shenanigans as outside individuals or organisations seek to influence members who have been selected in the ballot.

There are two principal routes for influencing UK law:
* Lobbying a government department or minister.
* Lobbying a member of parliament who has a private member's bill coming up.

British House of Commons procedure

In principle, Private Members' Bills follow much the same parliamentary stages as any other bill. In practice, the procedural barriers to passage are much greater.

Time is allocated for Private Members' Bills on 13 Fridays a year in the House of Commons. Five hours of time are available on each day and Several Private Members' Bills will be scheduled for each session.

Unlike Government bills, debates are not timetabled and there is no guarantee that the debate will finish within the time available. MPs opposed to a Private Members' Bill, including Government ministers and whips, will routinely attempt to talk out the bill, stopping further progress by preventing a vote. The bill's proponent can force a vote only with the support of at least a hundred members (and a majority of those voting) [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmstords/416/41603.htm#a40] . As many MPs return to their constituencies on Thursday night, this has the practical effect of blocking all Private Members' Bills without solid support.

It is quite possible for the first bill to take up all five hours, preventing any other bill on the agenda from being debated. Any bill not debated may receive second reading without debate at the end of the session, but a single shout of "object!" will delay consideration to a future date; Government and opposition whips routinely block contentious Private Members' Bills in this way. Another date for second reading will also be set for bills which have been talked out. This is a formality; the bill will be put to the bottom of the order paper, will likely be objected to on each future occasion and has no practical chance of success.

Even if second reading is passed, a bill is likely to need the support of the government to become law. The bill will be referred to standing committee, which may make amendments. The amended version of the bill will then return to the Commons. To become law, it must also successfully negotiate report stage and third reading, as well as the House of Lords. Contentious bills are likely to run out of parliamentary time unless the government allocate some; any pending Private Members' Bills lapse at the end of each parliamentary session.

Private members bills may also originate in the House of Lords. To become law, these bills must be adopted by an MP and passed in the same way as a Commons originated bill.

The Australian Parliament

Only 15 private member's bills or private senator's bills introduced into the Australian Parliament since 1901 have been passed into law [ [http://www.aph.gov.au/house/pubs/practice/chapter16.htm#pri House of Representatives Practice, Table 16.1] ] . Of these, eight have been initiated by senators and seven by members. A larger number have passed one house but not the other. An even larger number did not pass the house in which they were introduced and thus lapsed.

Among the most notable of the successful bills was the "Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1924", which introduced compulsory voting for federal elections. This was introduced by Senator for Tasmania Herbert Payne of the Nationalist Party [http://www.aph.gov.au/library/handbook/historical/senate/kirk.quirke.htm] on 16 July 1924, passed by the Senate on 23 July, passed by the House of Representatives on 24 July - both times with little debate - and given Royal Assent on 31 July. Despite much public debate ever since on the issue of compulsory voting, the legislation has never been repealed.

Another very notable private member's bill was the "Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996", which deprived the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island legislatures of the power to make laws permitting euthanasia. This was introduced by Kevin Andrews, Member for Menzies, after the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly had passed such a law, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. Although Andrews was a member of the Liberal Party, members and senators were allowed a conscience vote on the issue, and each side of the debate was supported by members and senators from all political parties.

References

External links

* [http://www.parliament.uk/works/newproc.cfm UK Parliament website: Bill Procedure]
* [http://www.parliament.uk/faq/ballot_faq_page.cfm UK Parliament website: The result of the Private Members' Bill ballot for the current session]
* [http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/l02.pdf House of Commons Factsheet: Private Members' Bills Procedure]
* [http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/l03.pdf House of Commons Factsheet: Success of Private Members' Bills]


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