In a fortnight’s time Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich & Clacton, is introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill to make the criminal justice system more accountable, and he has announced that he plans to bring in several more. So what is a Ten Minute Rule Bill?
Well, they tend NOT to be an earnest effort to introduce legislation – in the short-term at least. Normally the preserve of backbenchers, these bills give an MP the chance to draw attention in the House of Commons (and, through the media, elsewhere) to a particular issue.
On Tuesdays and Wednesday afternoons, after questions, an MP may make a short speech before one is made opposing the motion. It is therefore also a way for a Member to test Parliamentary opinion. The majority of Ten Minute Rule Bills (only one of which is allowed on a given day) are not supported by the Government, but if the bill wins the approval of the House at its first reading, it will become a Private Members’ Bill and be placed in a queue to receive a second reading.
The chance to present a Ten Minute Rule Bill is quite highly prized, and MPs have been known to sleep outside the Public Bill Office in order to be first in line.