Explore how Parliament works
Passage of Bills
Depending on which parliamentary chamber the legislation is initiated, the legislative process will be slightly different, however the fundamental stages remain the same.
In order to become law, bills pass through both Houses of Parliament in a similar manner, during which they are put under similar scrutiny. The process for passing legislation is as follows:
1st Reading – The name of the bill is formally announced to Parliament. There will also be information given to MPs and Peers as to when the second reading will take place.
2nd Reading – This is the first real opportunity for the content of the bill to be debated. MPs/Peers are able to make speeches regarding the content of the bill, whilst also being able to ask analytical questions of the minister who is introducing the bill.
Committee Stage – This is the stage during which a bill goes through its most detailed scrutiny. The contents of a bill are examined line by line by a Public Bill Committee, who consider any suggestions for amendments made by MPs. It is the chair of the committee who ultimately decides, however, which amendments are placed before the committee to be debated. The committee must reach a decision on each clause as to whether it should be agreed to, amended, or removed from the bill. On occasions, the bill is ear-marked for fast-tracking and the degree of scrutiny at committee stage is limited.
Report Stage – This brings the bill back to the floor of the chambers so that any MP or Peer can suggest further amendments to the bill that were not agreed at committee stage.
3rd Reading – Following almost immediately on from the Report Stage, the third reading is the final opportunity for MPs/Peers to make limited contributions to the debate. This session is often short and is predominantly intended to pass any amendments to the bills which have been made.
Amendments considered – Once the bill has been passed by both Houses it returns to the chamber it originated from so that amendments be considered in the bill’s entirety. If the bill fails to be passed at this stage it leads to a process widely known as parliamentary ’ping-pong‘, during which the bill is passed between the two chambers until agreement is finally reached.