In regards to this story

A single MP in the Houses of Parliament can say the word “object” and prevent a bill being passed.

Why can one MP block proposed legislation like this? What is the parliamentary rule which allows it?

  • The title of the article appears to be "May 'disappointed' at upskirting law block", while the title given in the question statement is "New upskirting law blocked by Tory MP". Did the title get changed or something?
    – Nat
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 21:05
  • 6
    @Nat yes, the title of BBC news articles often change as the story develops. The title I’ve used here was the current title when I asked the question.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 21:12
  • Just noting, this article details why the objection was raised: theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/17/… Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 10:14
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    @Philip please lock this question and prevent the OP from adding all sorts of uneccesary and emotive personal views. This is a process question, not a debate. Question is; How did an MP block a Private Members Bill? The question has been answered fully but it is clear the OP wants to debate the finer details of upskirting and voyuerism. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 12:10
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    @AJFaraday I agree with the edit by Venture2099. The subject matter of the bill is not really relevant to the political process the question is about. Please do not revert that edit, because otherwise I would have to lock the question. And I really would prefer not having to do that, because it would mean that no further answers can be posted and nobody can vote on the question anymore.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


A single MP can't block a law from being passed; however, he can block a law being passed without debate. The Bill is a Private Members Bill, and there is always very limited time available to debate them, so although formally Bills that are objected to are put on the list to be debated later, in practice that rarely happens (except for a few at the top of the ballot). The time to lay out a case for or against the Bill would be in the actual debate.

Christopher Chope is from the libertarian right of the Conservative party and is a scourge of well-meaning backbench legislation. His objection in this case was reported as being that it was wrong to create a new, imprisonable criminal offence without a debate.

The government broadly supports the Bill, and that being the case, they may adopt it and allocate government time for a debate. And one should point out that it isn't legal throughout the UK, being already criminalized in Scotland.

  • 2
    Would it be fair to view the call for objections as a call to see whether meaningful debate would be possible? The essence of a debate is that there are two or more sides whose proponents present arguments promoting them. In order to debate a bill, there would need to be someone presenting arguments against it. The call for objections is essentially a call to see if anyone wants to present the opposing side.
    – supercat
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 19:40
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    @JackAidley The BBC article goes on to state he's done the same thing for many Private Members Bills over the years that go without debate. As an old Tory MP, I doubt he'd be against greater legal protections to Police Horse and Dogs, but he objected to that too. To be honest, I'm surprised anything that could lead to members of the public going to jail isn't debated, regardless of how one sided the debate is.
    – Philbo
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 9:44
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    @Philbo: he's also sponsored a huge number of private members bills himself. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 12:46
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    @JackAidley There's nothing contradictory in that: his objection is not to private members bills per se, but to the lack of debate. "Any new law needs to be debated," he said. "We don't have legislation by decree - that is what they have in Putin's Russia or Erdogan's Turkey." (ref: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44518706)
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:22
  • Comments deleted. This question and its answer are about the political processes in the Westminster parliament. This is not the place to discuss the usefulness of the particular bill which brought the process to the attention of the question author. If you are interested in the current legal situation regarding taking unsolicited upskirt pictures in the UK, please post a question on law.stackexchange.com
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 8:50

Sittings of the Commons have a "moment of interruption" (the time of which depends on the day of the week) after which no further business can be done unless there is unanimous approval by the House. From Standing Order 9(6):

After the business under consideration at the moment of interruption has been disposed of, no opposed business shall be taken, save as provided in Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business).

Any opposition - even a single MP objecting - appears to be sufficient to block a motion.

The time for the moment of interrupt for Fridays is quite early - 2:30pm - as it's the day when MPs typically spend time in their constituencies. Also, Fridays are reserved for private members' bills. The order in which they are considered is determined by ballot towards the start of the parliamentary session.

In the instance mentioned in the question - 15 June 2018 - the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill was top of the list to be debated, and used up all the time available. At 2:30pm, the Speaker then went through the rest of the list. Of the 21 bills remaining, the second reading of every single one was objected to, and so they were all postponed to later dates.

The BBC article linked to in the question suggests that some MPs may object on principle to bills having their second readings passed without debate; or bills which the Government objects to may be blocked by their whips. This doesn't normally make headlines, but in the case, the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill had widespread - and Government - support, hence the outrage.

On the one hand, a bill having an undebated second reading would still be scrutinised at its other stages, and then again in the House of Lords. On the other hand, most private members' bills (especially those low down in the list) don't have much chance of becoming law in the first place, so delaying their second reading may make little difference.

The best chance for this bill (and indeed, any private members' bill) is for the Government either to allocate some of its time in the schedule to ensure its passage through the house, or to incorporate it into another Government bill.

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