Presentation, ten-minute rule and Lords private members' bills

Much of what we have said about the procedure and tactics of ballot bills also applies to ordinary presentation bills, to ten-minute rule bills and to bills brought from the Lords. However, all of these have more of a hill to climb, as none may be proceeded with until the ballot bills have been presented (and those will have taken up two or three slots on each of the days devoted to second readings).

Both presentation bills and ten-minute rule bills are thus used more often to make a point than seriously to seek to change the law. Ten-minute rule bills have the additional advantage that an MP has the opportunity to gauge opinion in the House. Beginning in the seventh week of the session, on every Tuesday and Wednesday before the main business of the day, one MP is called to make a speech of not more than ten minutes setting out the case for a bill and seeking the leave of the House to introduce it. Other MPs are alerted to the subject matter by a brief description on the Order Paper. If there is objection to the proposal, one opponent may speak against, again for a maximum of ten minutes; and, if necessary, there is a vote. If the proposer is successful, the bill is introduced in a little ceremony that involves the MP walking from the bar of the House to the Table, bowing three times en route. (In a strange historical survival, the second of those bows, halfway up the Chamber, is just at the point where the great chandelier hung in the Chamber destroyed by fire in 1834, where MPs presenting a bill would stop and bow two centuries and more ago.)

Ten-minute rule bills are very popular with MPs. They could, of course, introduce exactly the same bill by the ordinary presentation method, without seeking the leave of the House. However, ten-minute rule bills come on at prime time immediately after questions and statements, and they are often a high-profile way of floating an idea and getting media attention - and perhaps laying the foundations of a later successful attempt. The right to introduce them is on a first come, first served basis. In the past, an MP would spend the night in a room next to the Public Bill Office in order to be the first to give notice 15 sitting days before the slot came up; but informal arrangements between the parties have, on the whole, ended this ‘January sales’ tactic.

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