Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Government Bills

With the Bill to introduce ID cards getting its second reading in the Commons today and the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill at the committee stage, it has struck me quite forcibly (and embarassingly) that I do not have a very clear idea of the procedures by which the Houses of Parliament acutally pass laws. Here then, is the skinny on the overall system. Perhaps the committee stage and the process of amendment will become clearer to me as events roll along.

Public Bills can be introduced into either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. As a rule, government bills likely to raise political controversy start in the Commons, while those of a technical but less party-political nature often go to the Lords first. Bills with a mainly financial purpose are always introduced in the Commons. If the main object of a public bill is to create a public charge - involving new taxation or public spending - it must be introduced by a government minister in the Commons.

The procedure of passing a Public Bill is similar in both Houses. The stages are:

first reading
second reading
committee stage
report stage
third reading
passage through the other House
Royal Assent

The first reading of a public bill is a formality. Once formally presented, a bill is printed and proceeds to a second reading. Amendments can be made at the committee and subsequent stages.

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