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This Lords Library briefing provides a summary of the procedure for private member’s bills in the House of Lords and recent statistics for the number passed each session. It also provides examples of the types of private member’s bill introduced and commentary on the aims of those tabling the bills.

Who Can Introduce Private Member’s Bills?

Both Members of the House of Lords and Members of the House of Commons who are not on the government frontbench can introduce private member’s bills. Private member’s bills are usually short and on uncontroversial matters. In practice, there is no restriction on the subject matter of private member’s bills, and they have in the past been used to implement major social reforms, including the legalisation of homosexuality for men over the age of 21 in England and Wales and the abortion legislation in the 1960s. In recent years, private member’s bills have been used to debate contentious issues such as assisted dying for the terminally ill.

House of Lords Procedure

There is no procedural distinction drawn between private member’s bills and government bills in the House of Lords. Since the 2015–16 session, the order in which House of Lords private member’s bills are debated has been established in a ballot at the start of each session.

As in the House of Commons, the majority of time spent on legislation in the House of Lords each session is spent on government bills. However, the amount of time made available in the House of Lords to debate private member’s bills tends to be more flexible than in the House of Commons; there is no formal limit on the number of days when private member’s bills can be debated and there is no fixed time for when a debate on a private member’s bill must end. Private member’s bills starting in the Lords, however, have to be considered in the House of Commons, where they will face further hurdles before they can receive royal assent.

Private member’s bills may receive government support, but government time is not usually made available in the House of Commons for private member’s bills to be debated. Private member’s bills may also face time restrictions because of the finite time available each session. Private member’s bills cannot be carried over into a new session. Given the number of procedural hurdles that such bills face, only a minority of the bills passed by Parliament and receiving royal assent each session are private member’s bills and, of those, a smaller number are those which started in the House of Lords.

This briefing does not constitute procedural advice. Members requiring such advice should consult the Legislation Office’s A Guide to Private Members’ Bills in the House of Lords and contact the Legislation Office with any further enquiries.

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