Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:15 UK

Private members' bills

Backbench MPs or peers, sometimes referred to as private members, have the power to introduce their own legislation under the private member's bill procedure.

A to Z: Private Members' Bills

Some private members' bills have brought about significant changes to the law, such as the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965, and the Abortion Act 1967.

But the majority do not make it on to the statute book, as the government neglects to allocate them sufficient parliamentary time.

There are three types of private member's bill:

• The most important is the balloted bill. Each year a ballot is held at the start of the session and the twenty MPs whose names come out top are allowed to introduce legislation on a subject of their choice.

Measures which gain strong cross party support can stand a good chance of becoming law. But backbenchers with bills that do not enjoy such support will find that their proposals are easily blocked.

• Members may also introduce private member's bills in the form of Ten Minute Rule Bills.

The sponsoring MP is given a slot on a Tuesday or a Wednesday afternoon in which they may make a speech lasting up to 10 minutes in support of his or her bill.

Occasionally, if an MP finds a proposed measure particularly objectionable, he or she will speak against the bill for a further 10 minutes.

These bills are not allocated time for further discussion and stand little chance of becoming law.

• The third type of private member's bill is the presentation bill. A member introducing this type of bill is not able to speak in support of it and the bill stands almost no chance of becoming law.

These bills are used by MPs largely as a method of publicising a particular issue.

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