Tomorrow we pay our annual visit to Parliament to lobby MPs to pick one of our suggested backbench Bills. Why? Because there’s a ballot to choose 20 MPs who’ll be given priority to present a Private Member’s Bill.
Usually 400+ MPs enter the Private Member’s Bill ballot, but who will the lucky 20 winners be? You can watch the proceedings at 9am and later today the list will be published on the Parliament website.
The lucky 20 MPs have to decide what Bill they’ll publish by 24 June, with the top seven guaranteed debating time in the autumn.
Why it matters and what we’re proposing this year
There’s no guarantee any of the Bills will become law but they can influence government policy, as we have seen with our own recent backbench Bills.
For example, in 2013, we successfully persuaded Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart to table our Bill to tackle nuisance calls. Although the Bill didn’t become law, it played its part in persuading the Government to take the problem of unwanted marketing calls and texts more seriously.
The Government published its own Action Plan in spring 2014 and asked Which? to chair a task force looking at how consumers consent to receive marketing communications by phone and text. The task force has published a series of recommendations.
So what is Which? promoting this year? Now the General Election is out of the way, we’re having a second go with three of our unsuccessful Bills from last year but we’ve also got a new Bill picking up an issue recommended by the recent task force on nuisance calls and texts.
Bill 1: holding company directors to account for nuisance calls and texts
Our new Bill would be a measure to help tackle unwanted phone calls and texts by strengthening the powers of the Information Commissioner.
It would enable him to make company directors accountable for corporate breaches of the law banning unwanted calls and texts. This measure was recommended by the Nuisance Calls and Texts task force on consent and lead generation in December 2014.
Bill 2: making complaints count in public services
This is about public services and relates to our ongoing Making Complaints Count campaign. Last year, 5.3 million people who had a problem with a public service didn’t complain.
We think the complaints system across public services needs to change. This Bill has a simple aim. To help give people a voice when they have had problems with a public service and improve the identification of systemic problems so they can be tackled.
Bill 3: better information for students about universities
This is specifically about higher education. Prospective students don’t currently have access to certain information that would help inform their choice of university and course. This is the first big financial decision a young person will make and it should be a well-informed decision.
This Bill will improve the information made available to prospective students through the ‘Key Information Set’ and ensure that universities are complying with the direction from the Competition and Markets Authority on the information that should be made available.
Bill 4: switching mobile provider
Our fourth Bill would make switching mobile phone provider easier and quicker. In the mobile phone market, the current switching process requires consumers to contact their existing provider to get a code to then give to the new provider.
This Bill would make receiving service providers responsible for managing the transfer of services, meaning that consumers need only speak to their new provider, as is the case with banks and energy companies.
In effect, the Bill would introduce ‘recipient-led’ or ‘gaining provider led’ (GPL) switching across the entire telecommunications sector, making the switching process easier and quicker.
What happens next?
Now our job is to see whether we can persuade any of the 20 MPs who have won the ballot to introduce our Bills by 24 June.
Which of our four Bills would you most like MPs to take up and why?