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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:50 am on 13th April 2016.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 10:50 am, 13th April 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Vaz. I congratulate Jeff Smith on securing this debate. I also welcome hon. Members who have participated, particularly those who have shepherded, or have tried to shepherd, a private Member’s Bill through Parliament—or, indeed, who have supported their hon. Friends in trying to do so. It is noticeable that most Members here today, although not exclusively, are from the 2015 intake, and it is encouraging to see so many hon. Members who have an interest in parliamentary procedure and who want to use this place to get things done.

It is an important principle that a Member of Parliament can initiate legislation and that it is not left to the Government. There are three ways to achieve that in this House. There are ballot Bills and the private Member’s Bill process, with ballot Bills having priority on sitting Fridays, which are dedicated to private Members’ Bills. We have ten-minute rule Bills, where at least a debate is guaranteed on the principle of the Bill, and we also have presentation Bills, which are probably the ones that have the least chance of getting a debate because ballot Bills have priority on sitting Fridays. However, each route has seen success in securing an Act of Parliament, so it has been possible to use each of those routes to get a change in the law.

Members should not measure success on their particular issue only by achieving an Act of Parliament. I happen to have secured an Act of Parliament in the first Session of the last Parliament, from 2010 to 2012, so I have been through the process of having to organise a debate and a Committee and having to find a Member of the House of Lords who is prepared to take the Bill through, and it is not a light undertaking. Indeed—dare I say it?—I am sure that hon. Members who were successful in the ballot, even if they were drawn below No. 7, will have been inundated with phone calls and emails before they even knew that they had been successful in the ballot, which shows that there are organisations out there that are keen to use this process to secure legislation.