Documents to download

Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) are bills introduced by Members of the Commons or the Lords who are not government ministers. With limited time available for the consideration of PMBs, generally only those with Government and cross-party support are successful. Although only a minority of PMBs become law, they are a valuable way for backbench Members to raise issues not on the Government’s agenda.  

PMBs in the House of Commons

Under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons a backbench Member can introduce a bill in three ways:

  • Ballot [SO No 14(10)]
    Ballot Bills are the first PMBs to be introduced in a session. They take priority over other PMBs when time is allocated for debates and so have a better chance of becoming law. The Commons Library briefing on Ballot bills lists the 20 MPs drawn in the ballot in each session since 1997.
  • Ten Minute Rule [SO No 23]
    Under this procedure the MP asks leave of the House to bring in a bill, making their case in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. An opposing speech may also be made, again in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. If the MP is successful, the Bill is taken to have had its first reading and the MP names a Friday for second reading. Ten Minute Rule Motions are taken on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Presentation [SO No 57]
    MPs can present a bill on any sitting day. This is a formal event; there is no opportunity to make a speech. The Member presents the bill in the Chamber, and the Clerk reads the short title.

Only the short title and long title of a PMB is required for presentation and first reading. The full text is often not available until shortly before the second reading of the bill.

The Library briefing Public bills in Parliament explains the procedure for public bills, including PMBs, and their passage through both Houses of Parliament.

Parliamentary time available for PMBs

Government business has precedence in Parliament and most bills considered by Parliament are Government bills.

Time set aside by the House for consideration of PMBs is limited under SO 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; consequently these bills have more chance of making progress. On and after the eighth Friday, bills that have progressed beyond second reading take precedence.

Debates on PMBs are not programmed and are susceptible to being ‘talked out’.

Extra time may be provided for consideration of PMBs. In recent sessions:

  • 2010-12: on 23 March 2011, the Leader of the House provided four additional sitting Fridays, as a consequence of the extended session and in relation to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011.
  • 2017-19: a motion to provide three additional sitting Fridays was agreed on 30 January 2019.
  • 2019-21: six Fridays were provided. Sittings were affected by the pandemic and Private Members’ Bills Fridays were repeatedly rescheduled.
  • 2022-23: on 18 September 2023, the House agreed a motion for an additional sitting on 20 October 2023.

Commons Procedure Committee

The Procedure Committee examined Private Members’ Bills procedure in the 2010 and 2015 Parliaments.

2010 Parliament

Private Members’ bills, 2 Sep 2013, HC 188 2013-14

Private Members’ bills: Government response and revised proposals, 31 Mar 2014, HC 1171 2013-14

2015 Parliament

Private Members’ bills, 18 Apr 2016, HC 684 2015-16

Private Members’ bills: Government response to Committee’s 3rd Report of Session 2015-16, 13 Jun 2016, HC 383 2016-17

Private Members’ bills: Observations on the Government response to the Committee’s Third Report of Session 2015–16 HC 684, 18 Oct 2016, HC 701 2016-17

Private Members’ bills: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2016–17, 16 Jan 2017, HC 937 2016-17

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

PMBs in the House of Lords

At the start of each session in the House of Lords a ballot is held, two days after the State Opening of Parliament, to determine the order in which the first 25 Lords PMBs will be introduced. The procedure for the ballot is set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords.

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.

See Lords private members’ bills ballot 2023 for results of the ballot held on 9 November 2023.

Further information

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

Parliament: facts and figures

The Parliament: facts and figures series covers topics including elections, government, legislation, Members and parliamentary business.

Please get in touch with us at with comments, corrections, or if you would like to access the data in a different format.

Documents to download

Related posts