PMBs in the House of Commons

Parliamentary business in the Commons is governed by Standing Orders (SOs) of the House of Commons. There are three ways a backbencher can introduce a bill in the Commons:

  • By ballot – SO No. 14 (9) (10) (11)
  • 10 Minute Rule – SO No. 23
  • Ordinary Presentation – SO No. 57

Parliamentary time available for backbench legislation

Government business has precedence in Parliament and the majority of bills considered by Parliament are Government bills. With limited time available for the consideration of PMBs, generally only bills with Government and cross-party support are successful.

The time set aside by the House for consideration of private Members’ legislation is limited by SO No.14(8) to 13 Fridays in each session.

Four additional sitting Fridays were made available in the long 2010–12 session, following the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011. A motion to provide three additional Fridays for private Members’ bills in the 2017-18 session was agreed on 30 January 2019.

PMBs procedure

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. After this, bills that have reached later stages than second reading have precedence. On and after the eighth Friday, PMBs are arranged in the following order:

  • consideration of Lords amendments, third readings, consideration of reports not already entered upon, adjourned proceedings on consideration, bills in progress in committee, bills appointed for committee, and second readings.

MPs cannot introduce bills under the Ordinary Presentation or Ten-Minute Rule procedures until all the Ballot Bills have been presented. This means that these bills will be slotted in behind the Ballot Bills on one of the available Fridays, with less time available to debate them. Debates on PMBs are not programmed and are susceptible to being ‘talked out’.

Commons Procedure Committee

The Procedure Committee held inquiries into private Members’ bills procedure in the 2010 and 2015 Parliaments. Proposals for change included programming PMBs. As this was rejected it suggested that there should be a convention that a PMB that was debated all day should be voted on at the end of the sitting.

The Procedure Committee has published the following reports and government responses on private Member’s bills:

2010 Parliament

2015 Parliament

The Procedure Committee did not consider PMBs in the 2017 Parliament.

PMBs in the House of Lords

Peers can also present private members bills in the House of Lords and, since 2015, there has been a ballot to determine order of introduction. If a bill completes its passage through the House of Lords, it requires a Member of the House of Commons to sponsor it in the Commons. Procedure in the House of Lords is governed by Standing Orders of the House of Lords Relating to Public Business. The Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords notes that:

  • There is no procedural distinction between bills sponsored by a minister and those introduced by other members of the House, save in respect of carry-over and human rights statements. In practice the House normally accords priority to proceedings on government bills except where private members’ bills are not expected to give rise to debate. But there is no concept of government or private members’ “time” in the Lords, nor any specific time when government or private members’ bills are taken.

Further reading

For more information on procedure for public bills in Parliament, including the various types of PMBs, see the Commons Library briefing on Public Bills in Parliament.

Bill proceedings and documents

The titles of the bills in the list link through to the Bill Pages on the Parliament website. Here you can find all the associated bill documents and proceedings on the bill.

Hansard Society: Guide to Private Members’ Bills, 2019

Parliament: facts and figures

Browse all briefings in the series

This series of publications contains data on various subjects relating to Parliament and Government. Topics include legislation, MPs, select committees, debates, divisions and parliamentary procedure.

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Pease send any comments or corrections to: Parliamentary Information Lists Editor, Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Suggestions for new lists welcomed.


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