What are Private Members’ Bills?
Despite their name, Private Members’ Bills are actually Public Bills — meaning they still apply to everyone. These Bills are introduced by MPs or Lords who are not government ministers (backbenchers, i.e. non-ministers of the governing party; members of opposition parties; independents; or crossbenchers). Because the government holds a majority in the House of Commons, Private Members’ Bills don’t pass very often. But because they get allocated time for debate, they are a good way to raise debate around an issue that the Member feels the government is not giving enough attention. They may then influence subsequent and future Bills, or draw attention to an issue that has not received much scrutiny and raise its profile. Private Members’ Bills are often debated on Fridays.
Private Members’ Bills can start in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords like regular Bills, and they go through the same stages. But because they are considered less important and less likely to pass into law, they are given less time to be debated in Parliament. An example of a recent Private Members’ Bill is Julie Cooper MP’s Bill to exempt carers from NHS parking charges — read about it here.
Another option for Members to raise low-profile issues is through the Ten Minute Rule: any Member can request ten minutes for a statement of opinion on a matter, and then someone can choose to voice an opposing opinion in ten minutes as well. This could be a good way for Members to find out whether a particular issue has support amongst other Members without or before formalising the issue in a Bill.
As you can see, there are lots of options for MPs and Lords to raise issues in Parliament. So if you feel strongly about something in particular, do contact your MP so they can make a case for it.