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Monday, 15 November, 1999, 14:59 GMT
An idiot's guide to making laws
The title of the bill is read out in the Commons at the first reading
Bills announced in the Queen's Speech during the state opening of parliament will pass through months of thorough scrutiny before they become law.

The Queen's Speech
Bills usually take months to complete their passage through parliament, although on special occasions the process can take days.

A bill is composed by parliamentary draughtsmen who closely liase with the government department which has proposed the bill.

Prior to its first reading, there may well have been a green or white paper on the subject of the bill as the government consulted interested parties.

First Reading

A dummy copy of the bill is placed on the table on the day it is to be presented and after questions the title of the bill is read out.

After the clerk has read out its title the minister in charge of the government department or a whip acting on his or her behalf names a day for the second reading.

The first reading also forms the House's order to print the bill by the Stationery Office.

Second Reading

When the bill is printed it can then proceed to the first substantive stage, when its general principles are debated by members.

The date when the bill is to be debated will be announced by the leader of the House in her statement on parliamentary business.

It is normal for there to be two weekends to come between the first and second stages of a bill.

Certain non-controversial bills are dealt with in the Second Reading Committee or, if they are exclusively Scottish, in the Scottish Grand Committee. In practise, both types are given a full second reading soon afterwards without debate.

After a second reading, any money resolutions or ways and means resolutions are dealt with.

Committee Stage

The bill next progresses to committee stage where it is considered clause by clause.

Amendments can be made in the committee stage
A committee may make amendments if they are appropriate to the subject of the bill.

The whole House may consider bills at committee stage, especially when they are of constitutional importance, those which need to progress rapidly or which contain certain financial measures.

If the bill is amended by committee it is reprinted and given a new bill number.

Report Stage,

Amendments made at the committee stage are reviewed in the report or consideration stage.

Further amendments or alteration of amendments made by committees can also be made at this stage.

If a bill has been dealt with at committee stage by the whole house it progresses straight to the third reading. Third Reading

This is the final Commons stage of the bill, when the House takes an overview of the bill as finally amended.

Lords Stage

The bill is then sent to the House of Lords which examines the bill in a similar manner to that of the Commons.

Although after a second reading the bill is usually debated in the whole of the House and amendments can be made at the third reading as well as at report stage.

The Commons and Lords must finally agree on the text of a bill.

If the Lords amend a Commons bill their amendments are printed and must be considered by the Commons. If the Commons disagree, they send a message explaining why and the matter returns to the Lords.

If there is no agreement, the Parliament Act can be used to allow the will of the Commons to prevail and make the bill law after a year's delay.

Royal Assent

The Crown formally assents to a bill in order for it to pass into law.

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