Citizenship GCSE: What is a Private Member's Bill?

Learn more about Private Members’ Bills, a bill introduced by an MP who isn’t a minister.

Private Members' Bills are notoriously difficult to get through Parliament. What makes it so difficult for a backbench MP to turn their ideas into law?

Here, we see how difficult it is just to get the opportunity to introduce a Private Members’ Bill. We meet Kate Emms, the House of Commons Clerk who is in charge of Private Members Bills.

So many MPs want to introduce a Private Members Bill that Kate organises a raffle to decide who gets a chance.

The top twenty names drawn out are given a timeslot in the House of Commons to introduce a bill, but there is another way.

We meet Thomas Docherty MP, who sleeps in an office in the House of Commons for two nights to get his chance to introduce a Private Members Bill.

This short film is from the BBC series, Exploring the House of Commons. This series goes behind the scenes of the House of Commons to explain some of the processes that drive British politics.

NB This series was filmed in 2013 - 2015 and some of the political figures shown no longer hold their positions.

Teacher Notes

GCSE or Scottish National 5:

This could be an effective way to stimulate discussion about the effectiveness of Parliament.

Pupils could consider the following questions for discussion:

What makes it difficult for an MP to turn their ideas into law?

How could the system for Private Members' Bills be improved?

A level or Scottish Higher:

This could be used as an effective way to introduce the legislative function of Parliament.

Pupils could make a list of reasons that make it difficult for Private Members' Bills to succeed.

Pupils could consider the following questions:

What is a Private Members' Bill?

How effective are Private Members' Bills?

How effective is Parliament in fulfilling its legislative function?

Should it be easier for MPs to introduce legislation?

How could the system for Private Members' Bills be improved?

Pupils could make a list of tips for an MP who is thinking about applying for Private Members' Bill.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching classes about Citizenship. It will be suitable for GCSE or A Level, and Scottish National 5 or Higher.

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