Untouched by Reform — Private Members Bills and Delegated Legislation
Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) are an area of the legislative process which remains almost entirely untouched by reform. Forty years ago was perhaps the golden age of the PMB. They were used to allow the House of Commons to put ‘conscience’ issues on the parliamentary agenda, and led to famous legal changes heralding the ‘social revolution’ of the 1960s: for example, abolition of the death penalty (1965), homosexual law reform and the legalisation of abortion (1967), and the abolition of theatre censorship and divorce reform (1968). Since then the tradition of using PMBs has withered. ‘Matters of conscience’ such as Sunday trading, the equalisation of the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual acts, and changes to the law on abortion have been effected through government bills.
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