A new Home Education Bill had its First Reading in the House of Lords on June 27th 2017. I explained in the last blog post what this means and I now want to look in more detail at the TIMESCALE for this Bill moving forwards.
So far nobody is likely to know what the Bill says unless someone has drawn their attention to it, and arguably there is no reason for them to be alerted at this stage since it will not be discussed in the House of Lords until October/November and then only for a couple of hours maximum (2nd Reading). Depending on the timing of this, the next stage could be either side of Christmas, where the peer who put forward the Bill will deal with suggestions (amendments) put forward by other members of the House of Lords (Committee). Again this will only be an hour or two single session.
- stop at 2nd Reading;
- stop at Committee; or
- stop at the end of the House of Lords because there is no parliamentary time to squeeze them into the Commons.
From 2015 the House of Lords has had a ballot system for Private Member’s Bills which determines how soon the Bill can get its 2nd Reading and therefore how quickly it can finish all the necessary stages in the House of Lords before theoretically arriving at the House of Commons.
The ballot number is highly relevant because this type of Bill runs out at the end of the parliamentary session and is not carried over to the next parliamentary session (unlike Government Bills which only run out of time at the end of the parliamentary term when there is an election) which is one of the many many reasons why Private Members Bills introduced in the Lords so rarely make it into law. NB the parliamentary session nearly always means the parliamentary year but after the General Election in June 2017 the Government said that the first session of the new Parliament would last for 2 years.
By convention these Private Members Bills are only debated (often back to back) on particular Fridays. The main business of the week tends to finish on the Thursday so normally you would expect fewer peers to come in on a Friday.
ALL BILL INFORMATION
Private Members Bills appear in the list of “Bills Before Parliament” Click on the Bill to reach the Bill page, which will look like this
From this you can see:
- the Bill started in the House of Lords
- it is sponsored by someone called Lord Soley
- it has had its First Reading
- there is no date set at present for Second Reading (but you will get this if you sign up for email updates as above or keep checking the page)
It might not be immediately apparent but the page contains a lot of information. The “Read debates on all stages” page becomes increasingly relevant because you can see whether the Bill is actually being discussed or whether the stage is just a formality.
The bill documents link also becomes more useful as the Bill progresses because this is where you can spot whether any amendments have been tabled for Committee stage.
http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/ is another good reference page.
PASSAGE OF A BILL
PRIVATE MEMBERS BILL COMMITTEE
It is important to note that there is NOT a dedicated committee set up for the purpose of scrutinising this type of Bill; instead any peer who wishes to take part in the debate on the allotted Friday may do so and may also table amendments. In addition, peers are NOT summoned to vote so there might only be a dozen people taking part.
The Committee page also mentions that this stage lasts for up to 8 days but this is for GOVERNMENT BILLS. For previous Private Members Bills starting in the Lords I have been back through the debates and found that Committee stage is over in a single session lasting an hour or two, see this spreadsheet for more details.
Once you have the date of various debates, you can also watch on the Parliament TV archive and see the number of peers who were actually there, which is not something you would necessarily pick up from a transcript.
The Parliament TV home page starts with the Commons so for this type of Bill you have to click on the tab for the House of Lords To see previous debates go to “View Archive” which is located in the bottom right hand corner.
The archive will again default to the Commons so you have to switch it to Lords on the dropdown list.
2016 PRIVATE MEMBERS LORDS BALLOT NUMBERS 5 – 10
The Home Education Bill was drawn at number 9 in the 2017 Private Members Lords ballot, so I looked at the previous year’s ballot, with particular reference to numbers 5-10. For an annotated spreadsheet of the 2016 ballot, click here
2016 ballot numbers 6, 8 and 10 did not go any further than 2nd Reading in the Lords while ballot number 7 reached Committee stage in the Lords and ballot number 9 made it through Committee and as far as Third Reading in the Lords which in theory allowed it to move on to the Commons although this never happened.
2016 BALLOT POSITION NUMBER 7
Ballot position number 7 in 2016 was the House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill. 1st Reading was in May and 2nd Reading was in September. 2nd Reading debate lasted 2 hours. For this particular Bill, amendments for Committee began to be put forward soon after 2nd Reading. It would seem that Committee for this Bill was expected to be busy, in any event it was not scheduled until December. You can watch the Committee session here to see how the debate unfolded and how the Committee deals with amendments. This Bill did not progress beyond Committee.
SCREENSHOT COMMITTEE SESSION FOR 2016 BALLOT NUMBER 7, HOUSE OF LORDS AMENDMENT BILL
2016 BALLOT POSITION NUMBER 9
Ballot position number 9 in 2016 was the Lobbying Transparency Bill. 1st Reading in May, 2nd Reading in September, Committee in November (Committee is significant because it is when amendments tabled by other peers are debated), and finally Report and 3rd Reading in December. In theory the Bill could have proceeded to the Commons but as usual this did not happen because this type of Bill is low priority and there are many timetabling pressures.
The peer introducing the Bill to Committee said “we are very short on time today” and it rattled through in 40 minutes. You can watch the Committee session for this Bill here to see how few peers were involved.
SCREENSHOT COMMITTEE SESSION FOR 2016 BALLOT NUMBER 9, LOBBYING TRANSPARENCY BILL
Watch from this point [14.38] to see how quickly the Committee session is wound up. This is emphatically NOT a numbers game. With this type of Bill peers are NOT summoned to vote as with the big Government Bills of the day; there might only be a dozen people taking part.
Report stage for 2016 ballot number 9 Bill took place 3 weeks after Committee with no debate followed by 3rd Reading a week later. The record notes that “The Bill was read a third time. A privilege amendment was made and the Bill was passed and sent to the Commons” In fact though, nothing happened with the Commons because as so often there was no parliamentary time.