Have you ever wondered how legislation passes through Parliament? This is a quick guide with some links to the House of Commons website for more background.
The Parliament Act (1911) ensured the supremacy of the House of Commons by limiting the legislation-blocking powers of the House of Lords. Before then, legislation would sometimes be deliberated on for a long time, for example Members did not agree on the 1909 Budget and the 1832 Reform Act had three first readings, as it was introduced on three different occasions.
When a bill is first introduced to Parliament, a copy is placed on the table in the Chamber at the House of Commons. This is called a First Reading.
The bill then receives a Second Reading. A major government bill will normally be debated for about six hours, although it may spend far longer.
The Second Reading is the first stage at which a Government bill can be defeated. However, this has not happened since 1986, when the Shops Bill, designed to relax the law on Sunday Trading was defeated in the Commons.
After its Second Reading, the bill moves to its committee stage. This usually takes place in a public bill committee which sits with MPs representing the same voting balance as the Commons. The committee will examine each part and aspect of the bill. The committee debates proposed amendments to existing clauses and schedules but the Government may also add new clauses and schedules.
The Report stage back in the Commons provides an opportunity for Members who were not on the public bill committee to propose further amendments to the bill.
The last Commons stage of a bill is the Third Reading, usually taken straight after the conclusion of the Report stage. This enables the House to take an overview of the bill, as changed in Committee or on Report. No changes may be made at this stage. Debates on Third Reading are usually very short.
Once it has passed its Third Reading in the Commons, the bill is sent to the Lords, where the process is repeated.
When the content of the legislation has been agreed between the Houses, the bill is submitted for the Royal Assent, where the Queen will approve and sign the bill. After signification of Royal Assent, the bill becomes an Act. Some Acts are brought into force immediately and others at a date specified in the Act.
In the minority of cases, bills can be introduced in the House of Lords and then progress through the House of Commons. Interestingly, a recent example of this is the Crime and Courts Bill, which introduces a new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a concentration of a controlled drug above a specified limit, has just had its second reading in the House of Commons.
You can track the progress of a Bill on Parliament's website. A full list of Bills before Parliament can be viewed here, so if you are unsure about where we are on any legislation you can follow it online.