Private Members’ Bills — [Valerie Vaz in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:41 am on 13th April 2016.

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Photo of Melanie Onn Melanie Onn Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 10:41 am, 13th April 2016

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Vaz. I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend Jeff Smith on securing this important debate. I thank all my colleagues who have spoken passionately on this procedural subject. In particular, I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr Howarth and my hon. Friends the Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) and for Burnley (Julie Cooper) on their contributions. It has been valuable to hear the experiences of those who have tried to introduce their own Bills and who took part in the lottery that we were all excited about at the beginning of the Session, only to find that it is a cruel joke not only on the public, but on us as individuals starting our adventures in Parliament.

It is clear to the majority of us that the current system for debating and voting on private Members’ Bills is undemocratic. It looks outdated to the public and it needs to change. Individual MPs currently have virtually no chance of influencing legislative change. This place has nothing to fear from the duly elected representatives from all parts of this nation raising important issues that are a high priority for constituents or large sections of society.

As Sir Alan Haselhurst mentioned, other parliamentary systems make specific provision for individual Members to be able to create, generate or better influence change to legislation, and now we have the opportunity to do that ourselves. Since the election, Bill after Bill that could have saved lives and money, and helped those who most need it has been blocked. That is not only damaging to those pieces of legislation that have not passed into law; it is hugely damaging to our democracy, because they were blocked by filibuster and were not even voted on.