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How the Backbench Business Committee works

31 January 2012

The Backbench Business Committee was the first business committee of any kind to be established by the House of Commons. It gives an opportunity to backbench Members to bring forward debates of their choice.

The House of Commons Backbench Business Committee has a limited allocation of time outside Government control in which it can schedule subjects for debate suggested by backbench Members of Parliament.

The Committee can consider any subject for debate. This includes subjects raised in national or local campaigns, reports by select committees and other groups and issues suggested by constituents, including by people who have signed an e-petition or a traditional paper petition (there is no restriction on the number of signatures required).

The Petitions Committee is the body charged with overseeing the new e-petitions system and recommending petitions for debate in Westminster Hall on a Monday. For more information go to the e-petitions page or the Petitions Committee's homepage

Requesting a debate

To request a debate, an MP must contact the Backbench Business Committee and fill in an application form by fill in an application by 2:30pm on the Friday preceding the Tuesday meeting at which they intend to make a bid to the Committee.

Members who are Ministers of the Crown, parliamentary private secretaries or principal opposition front-bench spokespersons are not permitted to make applications to the Committee.

MPs who wish to suggest a debate may attend one of the Committee's weekly public meetings to make the case for a debate on their subject. These meetings are conducted in public and can be watched on Parliament TV.

Selecting topics

The Backbench Business Committee has limited time to schedule for debates and it is not possible to allocate debates on all the subjects which are suggested.

The Committee selects topics for debates on their merits and considers criteria including;

  • topicality and timing
  • why holding a debate is important
  • the number of MPs who are likely to take part
  • whether a debate has already been held or is likely to be arranged through other routes
  • whether a substantive motion has been put forward for a debate in the Chamber


The Government decides which days of the week will be given to the Backbench Business Committee for its debates and the amount of time available varies each month.

Once the Backbench Business Committee has selected a subject for debate, it will allocate it to one of the available days and publish details on its website and in the House of Commons Order Paper.

In weeks when there is no time is available for Backbench Business, the Committee will postpone taking a decision until more time becomes available.

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