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.
KeywordsSelect Committee Standing Order Closure Motion Government Bill Statute Book
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