Private Members’ Bills Fridays often start with an MP standing up and saying “I beg to move that the House do sit in private.” This motion can only be moved once in a sitting and the purpose of moving it first thing is to prevent another MP moving it later, when, if there were a vote, and fewer than 40 MPs took part, it would result in the bill under discussion being put aside.
Once the vote on sitting in private is over or if there’s no vote, the Clerk reads the title of the first bill listed. If that’s your bill, you rise and say “now”, and then the Chair calls you to speak. You need to say “I beg to move, That the [short title] Bill be now read a second time”. At the end of your speech, the Chair formally proposes the question, and the debate starts. At the end of the debate, the Chair may call you to sum up, if there is time. If this happens, you should start your final remarks with the words: “With the leave of the House…”
The debate can run until 2.30pm. There are two main reasons why the debate might finish before 2.30pm: everyone who wants to speak has spoken, or someone has successfully moved the closure. You, or any other MP, can ask to move the closure at any time during the debate by saying “I claim that the question be now put.” It’s up to the Speaker to decide whether to accept the motion for the closure. When doing so, the Speaker will consider whether there has been sufficient time for the debate. If the Speaker accepts the closure there may then be a vote on this. If a vote is called, at least 100 MPs must vote “aye” to secure the end of the debate and consequently force a decision on second reading.
If the debate does finish before 2.30pm, the Speaker puts the question on second reading, and calls a vote if one is needed. You’re responsible for finding two tellers, who will help count the votes. You must present their names to the Clerks at the Table.
If the debate is still continuing at 2.30pm, it’s adjourned and no debate is possible that day on any of the bills listed after it. The Clerk reads out in turn the titles of the other bills listed. If one of those bills is your bill, you should rise and nod, or say “I beg to move” and the Speaker proposes the question on second reading.
If anyone objects (which is usually what happens), then the second reading will need to happen on another day. The Speaker says “Objection taken. Second reading what day?” and you need to name another Friday when the House is sitting. You should have a date ready. You can ask the Public Bill Office if you need help choosing a date.
If no-one objects, then your bill receives its second reading, and will continue onto committee stage without the need for a debate. This is unusual.
The debate in the Chamber works similarly for report stage and third reading. In the case of report stage, either you or other MPs can table amendments to your bill and amendments are selected and grouped by the Speaker. Whoever has the first amendment in the group will be called to move it and then anyone can speak about any of the amendments in that group. If report stage finishes before 2.30pm, the bill moves straight to its third reading debate.