Ten Minute Rule
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The Ten Minute Rule, also known as Standing Order No. 23, is a procedure in the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the introduction of Private Member's Bills in addition to the 20 per session normally permissible. It is one of the ways in which a bill may receive its first reading.
Introduction of the bill
Any MP may introduce a bill under the Ten Minute Rule, although in practice it is only used by backbenchers. To qualify to introduce a bill under the Rule, the MP in question must be the first through the door to the Public Bill Office on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning fifteen working days (usually three weeks) prior to the date they wish to introduce their bill. Due to the popularity of the Rule and the difficulty in launching a Private Member's Bill by other means, MPs have been known to sleep outside the Public Bill Office in order to guarantee a slot. In 2014 three MPs agreed a sleeping rota between themselves in order to ensure that they were first in the queue.
Ten Minute Rule motions are held in the main Commons Chamber after question time, at around 12:30pm on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Whichever MP has reserved the slot presents their bill and is entitled to speak for 10 minutes to convince the house of its merit. After the 10 minutes have passed, another MP may speak for a further 10 minutes to oppose the bill. The Speaker then calls a voice vote to decide whether the bill should be allowed a second reading, which is when the bill is debated at a later date. The Speaker will divide the house for a recorded count of votes if there is some opposition. However, the majority of Ten Minute Rule motions are not objected to, and are allowed to proceed without any debate at this stage. This is because MPs have not yet had time to review the bill's content.
Progression towards becoming law
When a Ten Minute Rule motion passes, the bill is added to the register of parliamentary business. It is scheduled for debate along with the other Private Member's Bills, but at a lower priority. The MP presenting the bill must tell the Speaker the date for this second reading debate. The bill is generally printed and published shortly before the second reading.
Bills introduced under the Ten Minute Rule rarely progress much further, since the Government usually opposes Private Member's Bills in the later stages and, given their low priority in the schedule, there is often insufficient time for the debate to be completed. Most Ten Minute Rule introductions are instead used to stimulate publicity for a cause, especially as the debate follows the media-popular question time and is usually broadcast live on BBC Parliament, or to gauge the opinion of the house on an issue which may later be introduced in another bill.
However, bills introduced under the Ten Minute Rule do sometimes become law, passing through every stage of Parliament right through to Royal Assent. Since 1945, there have been over sixty Acts of Parliament which were initially introduced under the Ten Minute Rule. A recent example was the Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act 2002.
A famous bill introduced under the Ten Minute Rule was the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill in 1999, which provoked a denial of royal approval for its progression to a second reading.
- "Ten Minute Rule Bill". BBC News. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- Crace, John (14 May 2015). "The insider’s guide to Westminster: from Portcullis House to the Burma Road". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
Last year, for instance, three MPs hatched a plan to sleep by turns in the room adjoining the office of the Commons clerk responsible for allotting the last remaining slots for private members’ bills, so at least one of them would be first in the queue when he arrived.
- "Private Members’ Bills Procedure" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: Parliament of the United Kingdom. June 2009. p. 8. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "Bills and Legislation: No Debate". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
- "Ten Minute Rule Bills Reaching Royal Assent Since 1945" (PDF). Parliament of the United Kingdom. September 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2010.[dead link]
- Booth, Robert (15 January 2013). "Secret papers show extent of senior royals' veto over bills". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2013.