Backbench Bills

  • Ivor Burton
  • Gavin Drewry


The inclusion of backbench bills in a study of government legislation can be defended on several interrelated grounds. The first and most important justification is that many private members’ and private peers’ bills, particularly the minority that reach the statute book (45 out of 323 such bills were successfully enacted in the 1970–74 parliament), are government bills in all but name. It is common knowledge that some bills (we have no evidence of how many) are officially drafted, under the auspices either of the Law Commissions or of a government department, and handed to sympathetic backbenchers (particularly those who have won a good place in the ballot) by the whips. Occasionally such backing is publicly acknowledged by the sponsor. To make substantial progress beyond their formal first readings backbench bills must have either active ministerial support or, at the very least, benign government neutrality.


Select Committee Standing Order Closure Motion Government Bill Statute Book 
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  1. 1.
    P. A. Bromhead, Private Members’ Bills in the British Parliament (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1956 ) p. 171.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Peter G. Richards, Parliament and Conscience (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970); also ‘Private Members’ Legislation’, in Walkland and Ryle, op. cit., ch. 6.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Dick Leonard, ‘Private Members’ Bills since 1959’, in Dick Leonard and Valentine Herman (eds), The Backbencher and Parliament ( London: Macmillan, 1972 ) p. 131.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    See P. Byrne, ‘The Equal Opportunities Commission’, paper presented to the annual conference of the Political Studies Association, 1978.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ivor Burton and Gavin Drewry 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivor Burton
    • 1
  • Gavin Drewry
    • 1
  1. 1.Bedford CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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