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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 13th April 2016.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:30 am, 13th April 2016

That is absolutely right, and I will come to time limits shortly.

We have two key problems. The first, which is widely acknowledged, is of Bills being talked out. Other hon. Members may want to speak about their experience of that. I have no doubt that Members who indulge in that practice will say in their defence, “We are working within the rules.” If that is the case, we must change the rules.

It is not just about MPs talking Bills out, however. The second problem is that it is very difficult for a private Member’s Bill to make any progress without the Government’s support. If a Bill gets a Second Reading, even if the will of the House is clear, there is no guarantee that it will get parliamentary time to enable it to make progress. Back-Bench Members from all parties find it incredibly difficult to make a difference unless they have Government support and co-operation. It is therefore dishonest to pretend that Members can bring in a Bill without at least tacit Government support. Those are the two key problems, but we could introduce a combination of measures to tackle them and allow a culture change in this place in which private Members’ Bills are taken seriously and given proper consideration. They relate both to when private Members’ Bills are taken and how they are dealt with.

The key question, which has already been identified, is whether private Members’ Bills should be confined to Fridays, because when they are, it is almost inevitable that they will not receive the consideration they are due. I am a new MP who came in last year, but from speaking to long-serving colleagues it seems there has been an increasing expectation in recent years that hon. Members should spend more time in their constituencies being available to their constituents.