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The bill ballot is one of three ways in which a backbench MP can introduce a Private Members’ Bill, the others being Ten Minute Rule Bills or Presentation bills. Ballot bills are the first to be introduced in a session.

At the start of each new parliamentary session, backbench MPs are invited to enter their names into a ballot. The ballot is held on the second sitting Thursday in the session.

The order in which the numbers are drawn determines the order in which ballot bills are presented. On the fifth sitting Wednesday of the session, MPs successful in the ballot present their titles and nominate a date for second reading. The first seven ballot bills presented are most likely to get a second reading debate.

Only the title of the bill is needed for the presentation, or first reading (formal, not debated), of the bill. The full text of the bill is often not available until shortly before second reading. Some ballot bills are never published in full.

Private Members’ Bill ballot 2023-24

The Private Members’ Bills ballot for the 2023-24 session took place on Thursday, 16 November 2023. Julie Elliott (Labour) was drawn in first place. The 20 MPs who were drawn in the ballot presented their chosen bills on Wednesday, 7 December 2023.

Progress of the 2023-24 ballot bills can be followed on Parliament’s bills website.

Parliamentary time available for backbench bills

The Government decides the legislative agenda and government business takes priority. With limited time available for the consideration of PMBs, generally only bills with government and cross-party support are successful.

Time set aside by the House for consideration of Private Members’ Bills is limited by Standing Order No 14(8) to 13 Fridays in each session.

The first seven of these Fridays are reserved for second reading debates. Members drawn high in the ballot can nominate one of the first seven Fridays for their second reading and consequently their bills have more chance of making progress. On and after the eighth Friday, bills that have reached later stages than second reading take precedence.

Debates on PMBs are not programmed so can be ‘talked out’. The Procedure Committee’s 2016 report Private Members’ bills made recommendations for reform, including a guaranteed vote on second reading and prioritising certain bills on merit.

Sittings in the 2019-21 session were affected by the pandemic with Fridays set aside for consideration of PMBs repeatedly rescheduled. There were six sitting Fridays available for the consideration of PMBs in 2019-21.

Commons Procedure Committee

The Procedure Committee held inquiries into Private Members’ Bills procedure in the 2010 and 2015 Parliaments.

2010 Parliament

2015 Parliament

The Procedure Committee did not consider PMBs in the 2017 or 2019 Parliaments.

Further information

More information on Private Members’ Bills and ballot bill procedure is available at

Parliament: facts and figures

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