UK Politics

Private member's bills: Which ones made it from 2012?

Prison warden locking door
Image caption Private member's bills introduced this year mean that mobile phone signals in prison can be blocked

In Parliament it is usually only the government which gets the chance to bring in new laws.

But every year there is a ballot, and 20 MPs whose names are drawn get a chance to bring their own bills forward and have them debated in Parliament.

These private member's bill can be about anything that MP chooses. Some use them to highlight big issues or controversial positions. Others try to make small changes to the law which they think will solve an under-appreciated problem.

Some significant acts have been passed as a result of private members bills, including the abolition of the death penalty.

Sometimes an MP will accept a 'handout' bill from the government, which the government wants passed but for various reasons did not want to suggest itself.

Talked out

A limited amount of time is given in Parliament to debate private member's bills. If the debate is not finished when the time runs out, the bill will not make it to committee stage unless 100 MPs are there to support it.

Image caption An act which provides extra protection to the Antarctic wilderness was successfully brought in

This means that in most cases, if another MP does not like the private member's bill, they can kill it off simply by continuing to talk during the debate until the time runs out. This is called a filibuster.

Because it is so easy for other MPs to filibuster private member's bills, the ones which pass often tend to be uncontroversial, or to be adopted by the government of the day.

Richard Ottaway MP, whose bill became law, said: "For a private member's bill to be successful it has to have virtually unanimous support from colleagues. If you introduce a bill on, for example, Assisted Dying (which I did toy with) it is controversial and would attract opposition."

'Supine nature'

The bills which were put forward as a result of the 2012 ballot were a diverse bunch, ranging from giving more powers to the coastguard to repealing the act which made us join the EEC in 1972.

Ten of the bills from 2012 - all from Conservative MPs incidentally - made it through and became acts of Parliament.

Image caption An attempt to have the appointment of the Governor of the Bank of England approved by MPs failed

MPs who put a bill forward but were unable to get it passed were disappointed.

Labour MP John McDonnell wanted to make it law that Parliament approved the chancellor's choice for Governor of the Bank of England. This did not pass.

Mr McDonnell said: "At [George] Osborne's behest a group of Tory backwoodsmen talked it out.

"I never cease to be amazed at the supine nature of MPs and the power of patronage at work in the Commons."

Other MPs put forward private member's bills which are very unlikely to be passed in to law, but draw attention to an issue.

Conservative MP Douglas Carswell put forward a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. This would effectively mean leaving the European Union.

Although his bill was talked out, some MPs hailed it as a symbolic moment and one claimed those present were "making history" by even discussing the issue.

Peter Aldous, whose bill successfully became an act of Parliament, had some advice for MPs who want to get a private member's bill through.

"I was fortunate enough to have had government support for the provisions that the bill sought to bring in. Notwithstanding this, it is essential that MPs promoting a private member's bill build bridges throughout the Chamber so as to obtain cross-party support for their bill.

"You need to be prepared to talk through all concerns and, if necessary, table amendments so as to give the bill a sporting chance of successfully completing its legislative journey."

2012 private member's bills which became law:

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