Ballot bills

28.7In view of the limited time available for Private Members' Bills, precedence among Members who wish to introduce the first such bills of the session, and thus those most likely to secure time for debate on their second reading, is conferred by means of a ballot. This ballot is held on the second Thursday on which the House sits in the session1 at a time and place fixed by the Speaker (usually a committee room at 10 am), and is conducted by the Chairman of Ways and Means. Any Member who wishes to enter the ballot signs his or her name next to one of the numbers in the ballot book which is placed in the ‘No’ division lobby for that purpose during the hours the House sits on the immediately preceding Tuesday and Wednesday.

A Member may give notice on behalf of another who is absent from the House. In this case, the Member who gives the notice enters the name of the Member for whom he or she acts in the book and signs his or her own name, but by doing so forfeits his or her own chance to enter the ballot.2 The name or signature of a Member must not appear more than once in the ballot book.

Balls with the numbers corresponding to Members' names are placed in a bowl to be drawn by the Clerk Assistant when the ballot is held. The Clerk Assistant draws 20 balls, one by one.3 As each is drawn, the Clerk Assistant calls out the number, and the Chairman of Ways and Means reads out the corresponding name. The Members who may introduce bills under Standing Order No 14(6) and the order in which they are presented are determined in this way.

The Standing Order further provides that these ballot bills are to be presented on the fifth sitting Wednesday of the session.4 The Member must hand in at the Public Bill Office (or at the Table), not later than the rising of the House on the previous day, the short and long titles of the bill which he or she proposes to present. The notices of the bills to be presented are then arranged on the Order of Business in the order determined in the ballot, and the bills are duly presented in this order at the commencement of public business on the fifth Wednesday of the session. Ballot bills must be presented by the Member successful in the ballot or another Member named in writing by the Member concerned to the Clerks at the Table or to the Public Bill Office.

After the bill has been presented, the Member in charge names the day for second reading. Since ballot bills are the first Private Members' Bills of the session, the higher a Member is placed in the ballot, the greater is his or her chance of securing at least a second reading debate for the bill concerned. Ballot bills have no further priority later in the session: the advantage for the Member in charge of such a bill is only in the prior choice of days for the bill's second reading. For the time allocated for Private Members' Bills, see para 18.16.


  1. 1. SO No 14(10).
  2. 2. Parl Deb (1902) 102, c 1271.
  3. 3. It is within the Speaker's discretion to decide how many names should be drawn.
  4. 4. This day has been altered by sessional order, eg CJ (1993–94) 16; Votes and Proceedings, 26 May 2010.