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Types of Members of Parliament – The Policy Entrepreneur

MPs become experts in policy areas of their choosing, maybe because they are important in the constituency, maybe just because they have a personal interest in them. Policy expertise is also useful for many of the other roles that they are pursuing. They will develop links with interest groups that are concerned with these topics. There a number of ways in which they can be pursued in the Commons:-

Questions to Ministers

In written questions, particularly, MPs can probe what the Government is doing in an area.

Westminster Hall Debates

These were introduced in 1997 and can be initiated by backbenchers. Other MPs with an interest in the topic will attend and speak and a Minister is present to reply to the debate. They take place outside of the main chamber in a room off Westminster Hall.

Early Day Motions

MPs can put down a motion on any topic. This is not debated but other MPs can add their name to it. As well as raising issues that MPs are interested in, an early day motion that attracts a lot of support can signal the beginning of a major backbench revolt as happened over Iraq.

Adjournment Debate

At the end of business for the day an MP can raise an issue of their choice and a Minister replies

Ten Minute Rule Bills

MPs can introduce a Bill for debate only.

Private Member’s Bills

At the beginning of each session backbench MPs can propose a Bill and there is a ballot with the first seven or so in the ballot getting a chance to introduce the Bill with a Second Reading on Friday mornings. 100 votes, as well as a majority, is needed to pass that stage but then the Government has to make time available for the remaining stages. Few are passed but the process does serve to raise the issue.

All Party Parliamentary Groups

MPs can set up a group if there is support from MPs across party lines. They must have at least 20 MPs and Lords with at least 10 from the Government parties and 10 from the Opposition parties. They are not an official part of Parliament but have to register.

They cover a huge range of topics from Deafness to Engineering to Cricket and there is one for almost every country in the world. They receive no public funding and often rely on interest groups in these areas for financial support. This has attracted criticism but MPs have argued that it allows them to have staff and make visits related to the topic and does not mean that they always take the view of the interest group. As an APPG they are more likely to be able to meet and influence Ministers than as individual MPs.