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How does a bill become legislation?

How does a bill become legislation?

The government set out a legislative programme for each session of parliament. This consists of all the bills that will be considered in that session – sessions typically last around a year. Even if a bill has a slot in the legislative programme, it cannot be introduced for consideration until it has been cleared by the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee. This Committee determines whether the final draft of the bill is ready to be introduced for consideration and whether it should start in the House of Commons or House of Lords.

Once introduced, a bill will go through seven main steps before becoming law:

First reading

The first reading is only a formality in which the title of the bill is read out and ordered to be printed. There is no debate at this time.

Second reading

During the second reading, the main principles of the bill are debated. No amendments can be made at this point, but members of the Houses can discuss areas that they will propose changes for at a later stage. The debate ends with a vote on the bill. If the vote is lost, the bill cannot proceed.

Committee stage

During the committee stage, the bill is examined in detail. The committee will decide clause by clause, whether the section should remain and whether any amendments should be proposed. If taking place in the House of Commons, a specially convened committee of MPs may conduct this stage, however, it can be conducted in the chamber, in the presence of the whole House. In the House of Lords, any member can participate in this committee stage.

Report stage

At this stage, only amendments are discussed. This takes place in the chamber, meaning the whole House takes part.

Third reading

The third reading is a general discussion of the proposed bill. In the Commons, no amendments can be made at this point, however in the Lords, finalising amendments can be tabled.

Later stages

At this point, the House of Commons and the House of Lords must both agree on the text of the proposed bill before it can be finalised and become law. The opposite House to where the bill began can reject amendments and suggest alternatives multiple times.

Royal Assent

Once the bill has passed through both Houses, it is passed on to the King to approve and give Royal Assent. Once it has achieved Royal Assent, it becomes law.

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