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

I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. He has been a Minister, and he can use that experience in his role as a Member of Parliament. I believe that we can, if we wish, make a serious contribution to the progress of any law going through this House.

Traditionally, private Members’ Bills have been used to raise smaller issues, as well as big, significant issues of conscience, which have already been mentioned. The private Members’ Bills that have been successful have either changed an outcome in Government policy in due course or have made a modest and sensible change to the law with which people agree. In this Session, six such Bills have passed through the House of Commons, of which three have received Royal Assent and three are in the Lords.

It is important to say that, although the Government do not, and should not, have a monopoly on legislation, they have a mandate to legislate, whereas private Members’ Bills do not necessarily have an elected mandate from the country. As a consequence, I support the fact that we should encourage people to write to us if they want to support particular legislation, and I will shortly address expectation management and the role that each of us can play.

It can be difficult to get legislation through if the Government are opposed to it, but it has happened. My right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan succeeded with the Autism Act 2009. She secured a closure against the wishes of the then Labour Government by getting a sufficient number of Members to come and support the Bill—those Members were not just from the Conservative party. She then managed to make progress through the House. Mr Howarth knows that such Bills are in the control of hon. Members because we can get closure motions. There were several such closures in the previous Parliament, including on the Daylight Saving Bill, several on European Union (Referendum) Bills, on the Affordable Homes Bill, on the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill and on the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill. Members were ready in case a closure motion was needed on the Live Music Bill. There was an unsuccessful attempt to move a closure on the Tenancies (Reform) Bill, when not enough people were here. I understand that constituency days are important, but if Members genuinely believe that a piece of legislation should make progress, it is within their power to make that happen.