Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 16:41 UK
Second reading

Second reading is the first substantive stage of a bill's parliamentary passage.

Stages a bill must pass in both the Commons and Lords
First reading: The title of a bill is read out and copies of it are printed but no debate takes place.
Second reading: A debate on the general principles of a bill.
Committee stage: Members subject a bill to line-by-line examination.
Report stage: A review of a bill that has been amended at committee stage.
Third reading: The House takes an overview of the bill as finally amended - before passing it on.

It is when the general principles contained in a bill are debated by members.

The day on which the second reading is to take place is first announced by the Leader of the House in a Business Statement - generally made each Thursday that Parliament is sitting.

The government has said that it aims to leave two weekends between the printing of a bill and its second reading.

A bill is introduced to the House by the government minister who has overseen the drafting of the proposed legislation.

The minister outlines the main aims of the bill, before his or her opposition counterpart responds.

The debate is then thrown open to backbench members.

Any MP can try to block a bill by proposing a "reasoned amendment" and such efforts are often pushed to a vote - but it is very rare for the House to deny a government bill a second reading.

After second reading, a bill goes into its committee stage.

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