A bill's passage through Parliament is divided into three key stages in both the Commons and the Lords - known as readings.
This term refers to a practice which was common in the days before the invention of printing when the full contents of a bill would be read out loud to the House to inform members of its contents.
This is no longer necessary but the term readings has been retained.
The three "reading" stages are:
- First reading when the title of the bill is read out and copies are made available to members. No debate takes place at this stage;
- Second reading when the general principles contained in the bill are debated, and;
- Third reading when the bill, having been through committee and report stage, is fully debated one last time.