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

I am particularly concerned about the time we have to discuss this. We have changed the system. In the previous Session, there was a change so that petitions that reach 100,000 signatures can be debated in the House of Commons. We can make meaningful changes when we really want to. Although many people will be pleased that debates can take place, what they really want to see is change. Our legislative process is long overdue an upgrade. Is it not time that we put an end to this cruel joke that we are playing on the public?

Hon. Members have suggested several different changes to the way that we debate and vote on private Members’ Bills, and I hope they will be heard fully. The suggestions are an improvement because the processes are based on the reality of the system as it operates today, rather than a notional way, as has been suggested by Conservative Members, that is just not based in fact or reality.

I await the Procedure Committee’s forthcoming report and recommendations because we are open to further suggestions. Mr Nuttall suggested that perhaps this debate is in some way premature. I would say entirely the opposite: this is a very timely debate. We do not want yet another report that does not get anywhere; we would like some commitment to change, which will hopefully change things for society for the better.

To challenge the point about private Members’ Bills always being about matters of conscience, I am not clear where there is a matter of conscience in higher education information or the fitness of homes for human habitation. Private Members’ Bills are not always about matters of conscience. I support the comments of Dr Whitford: some of them are about social reform matters and are important to many people.

The most important thing is that the Procedure Committee and the Government should recognise that the current system does not work and needs to change. The Procedure Committee’s second report said that it would not be putting its proposals to the House and that, instead:

“This is an idea whose time has not yet come.”

Following the passion Members have shown today, I entirely disagree with that statement. This is entirely the idea’s time, and I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will commit today to allowing the whole House at least to debate and vote on the Committee’s proposals once they have been published.