If the private member is to count for anything, there must be a relationship between what the private member and the institution of Parliament can do and what the electorate thinks or expects can be done.

THIRD REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON THE REFORM OF THE HOUSE

(McGrath Committee) , June 1985, p. 2

Private Members are generally defined as Members of the House of Commons who are not part of the Ministry.1 For the purposes of Private Members’ Business, the Standing Orders specifically exclude the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Secretaries.2 The Assistant Deputy Speakers are permitted to participate in Private Members’ Business. Although these two Presiding Officers do not abstain from sponsoring private Members’ bills or motions, they are prudent in this regard.3

In general, one hour is set aside each sitting day for Private Members’ Business, that is, for the consideration of bills and motions presented and sponsored by private Members. Private Members may use the time allotted for the consideration of Private Members’ Business to put forth their own legislative and policy proposals, and express their views on a variety of issues.4 Private Members’ proposals can take the form of a public bill, a motion, or a notice of motion for the production of papers. Private bills are also studied during the hour set aside for Private Members’ Business.

A private Member’s bill is the legislative expression of a policy initiative proposed by a private Member. Typically, these bills are drafted by legislative counsel in the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel based on instructions received from private Members. Like government bills, private Members’ bills become statutes once they receive Royal Assent.5 Most private Members’ bills are public bills that originate in the Commons, but some public bills, and occasionally private bills, that are sponsored by private Members come to the Commons after first being introduced in the Senate.6

A private Member’s motion typically proposes that the House declare its opinion on some topic or that the House order a certain course of action to be taken, either by the House itself or by one of its committees or officers. A notice of motion for the production of papers is a request that the government compile or produce certain papers or documents and table them in the House.7