Public Bills, also know as Government Bills, represent perhaps the most important type of legislation. These are proposed laws which relate to public policy in some way, a good example being the Health Act 2006, which among other things, introduced the ban on smoking in public places.
Once a Bill becomes law, it becomes known as an Act of Parliament, but in order to achieve this, it must successfully navigate an often perilous path through both Houses of Parliament.
First Reading – represents the birth of a new piece of legislation. At this stage the title of a Bill will be read in a process known as the ‘first formal reading’. The Bill is then printed and proceeds to the next stage.
Second Reading – First chance for the House to debate the contents of a Bill. It is introduced into the House by a Government Minister from the department responsible for the Bill. Once this is complete the opposition is given its first chance to respond. At the end of this initial debate, the House will decide whether or not the Bill should proceed to the next stage. The 2n d reading will normally take place two weekends after the 1st reading.
Committee Stage – Represents the first opportunity to debate and amend the details of a Bill, clause by clause. Standing Committees are normally made up of 16 – 50 members of the House in proportion to overall party strengths.
Report Stage – A further chance to consider amendments, but this is open to all members of the House, not just those on the original Committee. This period is sometimes referred to as ‘Consideration’.
Third Reading – Is the final opportunity for the House to debate the Bill. No further amendments can be made at this stage. At the conclusion of the debate members vote on whether or not to send the Bill to the House of Lords for its consideration.
Next stage – once a Bill has been through the House of Lords, it wi l be returned to the Commons for any amendments made by the Lords to be consid ered. Both houses
must agree to the final text which can lead to a Bill moving backwards and forwards between Lords and Commons on a number of occasions. This is sometimes referred to as ‘ping pong’.
Royal ascent – Once both houses have agreed on the contents of a bill it will then proceed on for Royal Ascent. It is at this point that a Bill becomes an Act once it has received royal approval. This approval is now merely a formality, and one must look back to 1707/08 for the last time a Monarch refused to give ascent to a Bill, when Queen Anne refused to agree to a bill for settling the Scottish militia.
This is a type of legislation which is concerned with adding details to a previously enacted law. Parliament will be asked to vote on a piece on a Bill which will give a minister the power to regulate the administrative details of the actual legislation.
Private Members Bills
These are bills which are introduced by MPs who are not Government ministers. Due to the time constraints within Parliament, it is very unusual for a Private Members Bill to become law, though certainly not unheard of, especially if the Bill deals with a popular issue.
There are three types of private members bill –
Private Ballot – these are given the most priority in terms of Parliamentary time, and therefore have the highest chance of success. At the start of each Parliamentary session a ballot amongst members is held for the opportunity to introduce a Bill. Generally speaking, the first seven names drawn will get the opportunity for a days debate.
Ten Minute Rule Bill – often remain an opportunity for Members to voice and opinion on a subject or aspect of legislation. A Member may make a speech of no more than 10 minutes, which another Member may oppose with a similar statement.
Presentation â€“ Any Member may introduce a bill in this way, as long as notice has previously been given. The Member introducing the Bill may not speak in favour of it. Such attempts are very rarely successful