House of Commons Library

Public Reading Stage of Bills

Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This note reviews the proposals for introducing a public reading stage for bills; outlines the pilots that have been conducted; and reports on the evaluations of those pilots.

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The Select Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons (the Wright Committee) was asked to consider how the public could initiate debates and proceedings in the House. It made recommendations on both involving the public in the legislative process and changing the House of Commons petitions system.

The Conservative Party proposed the introduction of a ‘public reading’ stage of bills at its Conference in September 2009; and, in its 2010 General election manifesto, it outlined plans for giving the general public opportunities to initiate parliamentary proceedings.

Pilot public readings have been held for three Government bills:

• Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010-12;

• Small Charitable Donations Bill 2012-13;

• Children and Families Bill 2012-13;

and the draft Care and Support Bill was subject to an online consultation, whilst it was undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny. Public reading stage pilots for the Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010-12, the Small Charitable Donations Bill 2012-13 and the draft bill were administered by the Government. The House of Commons administered the public reading pilot of the Children and Families Bill 2012-13. Information gathered from the public was prepared by the Government or the House and given to the public bill committee considering each Bill.

In January 2013, the Leader of the House issued a written statement, in which he outlined public engagement with the Government administered pilots. He stated that “The Government remain committed to promoting public engagement in Parliament and specifically in the legislative process. The pilot results indicate that approaches to consultation should be carefully tailored to the Bill”.

The House of Commons published an Evaluation of the Public reading Pilot of the Children and Families Bill 2012-13.

Commons Briefing papers SN06406

Author: Richard Kelly

Topics: Legislative process, Parliament, Parliamentary procedure

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