Wednesday, 27 February 2008

10 Minute Rule Bills

Yesterday Dr Nick Palmer had an opportunity to introduce a bill into the House of Commons - in prime time. The bill [Small Print Bill] makes "requirements regarding the minimum size of print in certain documents, including those relating to advertising and contracts; and for connected purposes"

It won't become law - but that is rarely the point of "10 Minute Rule Bills". A Factsheet published by Parliament explains -

Bills introduced under Standing Order No. 23, otherwise known as the Ten Minute Rule, are not always serious attempts at legislation. The process is used much more as a means of making a point on the need to change the law on a particular subject. Motions under this rule may also provide the opportunity for a Member to test parliamentary opinion on a subject upon which he/she or other Members may seek to legislate in later sessions. The Ten Minute Rule allows a brief speech in favour of the bill by the Member introducing it. It also allows a speech by a Member opposing the Motion. This has to be made in the House after question time (at, or shortly after, 3.30 pm, although this is often delayed by statements etc.) on Tuesdays and 12.30 pm Wednesdays, when both Members' benches and the press gallery are likely to be well filled. There may also be television coverage of the speech in the early evening news. Standing Order No. 23 allows Members to ask the House permission to introduce a bill. If the House agrees, whether by division or not, the bill will get its first reading. If the House disagrees after a division, the bill cannot be introduced.

Sometimes Ten Minute Rule bills do become law if there is general consent, although there is rarely time for debate after their introduction. Standing Order No. 23 bills are marked "T" in the Weekly Information Bulletin. Not all Ten Minute Rule bills are printed. The Member will often be satisfied with the publicity achieved by his or her speech in the Chamber. If the bill is not printed it cannot make further progress.

Members may move a motion to bring in a Ten Minute Rule bill by giving notice in the Public Bill Office between five and fifteen sitting days beforehand. This usually means the Tuesday or Wednesday three weeks before. The slots are in practice divided up between the parties according their representation in the House. No notice may be given until the fifth Thursday of the session.