This chaotic year in Westminster has taken another turn with the reintroduction of sitting Fridays. Westminster Hall debates have also returned in a hybrid form, creating another opportunity for the CEE Bill to be raised by MPs—but what does the return of Friday sittings mean for the CEE Bill?
Caroline Lucas MP presented the CEE Bill to Parliament back in September 2020 as a private member’s bill—a law proposed by backbench MPs rather than by the Government. Private members’ bills are given the chance to be debated in the Commons on Fridays—the only time they can progress and be voted on. However, given the sheer volume of these bills, the success rate of many is slim; even if they’re popular or important. The CEE Bill was given a date for it to be debated in the Commons. This was initially Friday 12 March, but it was later put back to Friday 26 March. And then, due to the pandemic, Friday sittings were suspended from the beginning of this year.
However, Friday sittings have now been reinstated. A deal was struck between the Leader of the Commons and backbenchers to bring back these sittings and allow some private members’ bills to be debated. We understand that only those bills that had previously cleared Committee stage were allowed to come back to the Commons ahead of schedule—with the option to potentially progress to the Lords with no debate. So far, this was only scheduled for one day—and one day only, 12 March—and no further Fridays have been announced by the Government.
Friday sittings haven’t really returned and the backlog of bills that were put on hold (of which the CEE Bill is one) remain in limbo—waiting for their opportunity to be debated. Not only is the CEE Bill being sidelined, but the many other bills tabled by our elected representatives have been disregarded—again—with this half-hearted reintroduction. Something typical of this Government is their hollowing out of parliamentary procedure and, with it, our democratic rules. The recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill—which the CEE Bill Alliance vehemently opposed—also speaks to this worrying trend.
This means that whatever happens, not much has changed for our campaign. The CEE Bill still has a low chance of progressing in this parliamentary session—which will last until early May—and even less so now due to the number of bills lined up for their second readings. Furthermore, the Commons goes on Easter recess from 26 March until 14 April, putting opportunities for the CEE Bill on hold for three weeks.
This is all very confusing and frustrating. But does not change the long-term strategy, which is actually quite simple. On the one hand, we keep the Bill on the books in Parliament, using every opportunity in this Parliamentary session and beyond to get MPs debating it. On the other, we continually add to the number of MPs declaring support for the Bill on the back of pressure from constituents, organisations and businesses from across society. So while Westminster may be increasingly slow and dysfunctional, our campaign’s only growing stronger. We recently passed 100 supporting MPs and we’ve had big names, including Oxfam GB and The Co-operative Bank, join our Alliance in recent days. The only real mistake we can make is to stop.
26 March Banner Drop & Twitter Storm
So, to keep the campaign steaming ahead, we’ll be marking the 26 March – the date of the postponed second reading – with a nationwide banner drop and Twitter storm. CEE Bill campaigners across the country are making banners that call on their MPs to back the bill and dropping them at a prominent local spots. The locations of the banner drops will be added to the map on this webpage. If you are already planning a drop, be one of the first to add yourselves to the map!
We also want you to record a video message for your MP in front of the banner and then post it on Twitter. There are various hashtags and handles to use to make sure we’re achieving maximum impact, all the details are in this briefing document. You can, of course, take part in the Twitter storm even if you don’t do the banner drop – every tweet counts!
For more information on how you can join in on 26 March Twitter storm and to prepare your banner drop plans, check out our site. Together, we can make the CEE Bill a top priority for MPs—even if the Government refuses to give it time in Parliament.