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

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. It is quite correct that Members should be able to spend some time on a weekday in constituencies, visiting schools and businesses, doing advice surgeries and meeting residents, and it is sensible to allow one weekday a week for that. There should not necessarily be the need, therefore, to attend Parliament on a Friday. If we were to move consideration of private Members’ Bills to another day, that would give all Members the opportunity both to take part in debates that consider those Bills seriously and to have time in their constituencies.

There are options. We could take private Members’ Bills on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening or morning, or we could use some Back-Bench business time. I think it is recognised that that time is not heavily subscribed, so we could use some of it more effectively to deal with private Members’ Bills on days when all Members are around Parliament. In addition, we should ensure that private Members’ Bills are properly programmed, with sufficient time to discuss each one that comes forward.

It is not just about when, but about how we deal with the business. Here are three things we could do. First, there is no reason not to have time limits on speeches in debates on private Members’ Bills. We have them regularly in other debates, so why should we not have them in those? Secondly, we could bring in rules to guarantee a vote on a private Member’s Bill on Second reading.