House of Commons Library

House of Commons Background Paper: Public Bills

Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This House of Commons Background Paper sets out how legislation is passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords and explains the terms involved.

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This Standard Note sets out how legislation is passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords and explains the terms involved. It includes details of public Bills - i.e. legislation introduced by the Government and by backbench members of Parliament – and hybrid Bills – legislation normally introduced by the Government but which has some specific effects on particular localities or groups of people.

The third type of legislation, private Bills, is handled via a number of quite different procedures. These are described in the Library standard note Private Bills in Parliament (SN/PC/06508).

Bills are draft laws, and must be considered by and agreed to by both Houses of Parliament in an agreed form before they become Acts of Parliament. Most of those that become law are introduced by the Government: however, individual Members can introduce Private Members’ Bills. These rarely become law without Government support.

A Bill undergoes similar procedures in each House. It has three ‘readings’ and, between second and third readings, a ‘committee stage’; in the latter, the Bill is scrutinised clause by clause. There is normally also a ‘report stage’ after the committee stage. After the Bill passes all of these stages in one House, it moves on to the other House. Most high-profile bills, though not all, begin in the Commons. The annual Finance Bill, which gives effect to the Budget, always begins in the Commons as the House of Lords has limited powers in this area.

There are a number of other types of Bill and Bill procedures which are not used routinely. These include hybrid Bills and consolidation Bills. The note also looks at the procedure of carry-over, post-legislative scrutiny, Statutory Instruments, and the history of Public Bill Committees.

Commons Briefing papers SN06507

Author: Mark Sandford

Topics: Legislative process, Parliamentary procedure

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