Back Bench Business Committee

The committee was set up as part of the Wright Reforms of 2010. It is made up of elected backbench MPs. Its main role is to determine what issues should be debated on the one day a week allocated to backbench business. Before 2010 most of the parliamentary agenda was controlled by the government and the main opposition party leadership.

Giving one day a week up to backbench business was, therefore, a major departure. The subject matter of such debates comes from several sources. Among these are:

  • when an e-petition on the Downing Street site achieves 100,000 signatures

  • on the initiative of one of the select committees

  • from a request by an MP or group of MPs requests emerging from national and local campaigns

In the 2014–15 parliamentary session, debates included the following examples: On International Women’s Day

  • On humane slaughter of animals for food (a result of an e-petition)

  • On improving cancer care

  • On the future of the BBC (from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee)

  • On Harvey’s law (the result of the police’s poor handling of a dog killed in a road accident. An e-petition demanded a law requiring police to treat such incidents more seriously and to keep pet owners better informed following accidents.)

But the most celebrated example of the committee’s work occurred in 2011. An e-petition had been held to order the publication of all the documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. With over 100,000 signatures, the petition forced a parliamentary debate. As a result of this the government was forced to release previously secret papers about the disaster. The affair resulted in a new inquest and several inquiries into Hillsborough.