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Last Updated: Monday, 14 October, 2002, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Bill Procedure

The main Bills constituting the Government's legislative programme are announced in the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, which usually occurs in November.

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.

Private Members' Bills
While government bills are highly likely to become law, few private members' bills do so. Indeed, many such bills are not even debated in the Commons.

The present situation prescribes that every bill must finish in November or perish with the winter frost
Robin Cook MP, May 2002

In the Commons early in each session backbench MPs hold a ballot for the opportunity to introduce a bill on one of the Fridays during the session when such bills have precedence over government business. The first 20 MPs whose names are drawn win this privilege.

There are also other opportunities to introduce such bills. For example, on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the Commons is sitting an MP may seek to introduce a bill under the 'ten minute rule'.

This allows the proposer to make a brief speech in favour and an objector to speak briefly against it.

This process is often used more as a way of making a point about the need to change the law on a particular matter rather than a serious attempt at legislation.

In the House of Lords, peers have an unrestricted right to introduce Private Members' Bills and time is normally found for them to be debated.

Private legislation
Private Bills are prompted by outside interests and are introduced into Parliament through a petition by the person or organisation desiring the bill.

Petitions are subject to scrutiny before being accepted into Parliament. Most are local in character, promoted by bodies such as Local Authorities or statutory bodies seeking special powers.

On acceptance, the bill may be started in either House and goes through the same stages as a public bill.

Most of the work is done in committee, where procedures follow a semi-judicial pattern.

The promoter must prove the need for the powers sought, and the objections of opposing interests are heard. Private bills may be carried over from one session to the next.

Passing a Public Bill
The procedure of passing a Public Bill is similar in both Houses. There is a First Reading of the Bill to begin with.

Link to First Reading Section

Making New Law
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Types of Bill
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
First Reading
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Second Reading
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Commons Committee Stage
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Lords Committee Stage
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Report Stage
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Third Reading
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Passage through the other House
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Royal Assent
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament
Delegated Legislation
14 Oct 02  |  BBC Parliament


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