A Tory backbencher takes on the government

Not all legislation makes it onto the statute book
Not all legislation makes it onto the statute book

We've got a rather unusual piece on the site this week - a 'lessons learned' article from Tory MP Harriett Baldwin, about her bid to get a private member's bill passed through parliament.

Private member's bills are something of an oddity in the parliamentary process. They're the opportunity for individual MPs to get their name on the statute book with a bill all of their own. MPs enter a ballot to try and get on the list. If they get into the top seven, they stand a decent chance of making at least some progress. Harriett Baldwin, one of the 2010 intake, came seventh.

Like all MPs in this situation, she faced a tough choice. She could be the loyal backbencher and choose an issue which the government was keen on. Or she could go nuts and choose something, in protest mode, which wouldn't stand a chance of getting through. This is perilous: if the government decides it doesn't like the look of a private member's bill its chances of survival are about the same as an eggshell in a room seething with toddlers.

In the end she decided to go for something incremental, chipping away at an issue close to hear heart. Her legislation (territorial extent) bill would have required all future legislation to state which bits of the United Kingdom they applied to. Were they England and Wales, or just for Scotland, or the whole of the UK, or what?


This did not seem like a big ask. It would have pushed the debate on the West Lothian question, which addresses the dilemma of Scottish MPs voting on England-only issues, on a little bit, that's all. But the government opposed it nonetheless. You can read about her ultimately unsuccessful attempts to resist the inevitable in her article for us, on lessons learned from a private member's bill.

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