The Private Members’ Bill ballot opens today. It’s this process that prompted the ban on under-18s using sunbeds and allowed marriages to take place in registered locations. What will be pulled out this year?
A Private Members’ Bill (PMB) is a Bill that a back bench MP (an MP who is not a government minister) can introduce. While only a minority of PMBs become legislation directly, the drafting and presentation process can generate interest and publicity that results in legislative change.
The Bills can make a difference to our lives – a PMB instigated the law that resulted in under-18s being banned from using commercial sunbeds via the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010. And the Marriage Act 1994, allowed us to get married in a registered place, not just a church or registry office.
We’ve a good track record for successful PMBs. We put forward the Bill to end the solicitor monopoly of conveyancing taken forward by Austin Mitchell MP and were involved in bringing building societies within the remit of what is now the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Five Bills – five quick wins
Each parliamentary year 20 MPs are randomly selected to put forward a Bill. While some of these MPs know what their Bill will be, some don’t. Organisations like Which? have an opportunity to directly influence legislation. This year we will approach all 20 MPs with five ideas for Bills we think we really help people. The beauty of our chosen few is that they would only require a small change to existing legislation.
Our first proposed Bill would require private letting agents to join an approved complaints scheme. Estate agents are required to be signed up to such schemes but letting agents are currently off the hook (even if the estate agent and letting agent is the same company!).
This means private tenants and landlords don’t have access to the same help private home buyers have if something goes wrong with an agent.
The second Bill would enable parents of children with a child trust fund to transfer the fund into an ISA. Currently you can’t do this, and we’ve worked out that this means children could miss out on £300 million over the next ten years.
We don’t think you need to use a claims management company (CMC) to claim back mis-sold PPI. But if you choose to, and you need to complaint about the company, you currently have no one to formally complain to. Asking the Legal Ombudsman to be responsible for these complaints will fix this issue. That’s Bill number three.
Simplify energy tariffs
Energy tariffs are the subject of Bill number four. We want to see all energy suppliers structure their tariffs in the same simple format – a standing charge and a single unit cost for each fuel. This will make it much easier for you to find the cheapest energy deal.
And last but not least, we want to see existing legislation on food pricing updated and clarified. We want you to be able to easily compare the cost of the food you’re buying.
We think each of these Bills would be an easy win for the government and result in a positive change to our lives. So which Bill do you think is most likely to get through? And if you could submit a Bill to parliament what would you change?