The legislative process

the legislative process

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The legislative process (1)
Parliament is the UK's legislative authority. Strictly speaking, it has three elements ­ the
monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons ­ and all three elements must be
in agreement before a proposal can become law. When a proposed new law is being
debated by Parliament, it is called a Bill. Once a Bill has passed successfully through both
Houses of Parliament and receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act of Parliament.
The legislative role of the monarch, however, has largely been taken over by the
government ministers. Usually, therefore, when people talk about `Parliament', they are
referring to the Palace of Westminster where the HoCs and the House of Lords are located.
Types of Bills
There are various types of parliamentary Bills, the two main types being public Bills and
private Bills.
Private Bills ­
Private Bills play only a minor role is legislation today. They are intended to apply only to a
particular area, a specific organisation or a certain section of the population. They are
sometimes promoted for large capital projects on behalf of private companies or by public
bodies (such as local authorities) as a means of avoiding long and costly public inquiries.
Private Bills were popular in the 19th Century when local authorities sought means to
improve their public facilities or develop large-scale projects. The Transport and Works
Act of 1992, however, restricted to scope of Private Bills so that such large-scale projects
are normally now given legal authority in other ways.
Public Bills ­
The vast majority of Bills passing through Parliament are public Bills (they are aimed at the
public as a whole). Most public Bills are sponsored by the government and therefore
referred to as `government Bills'. But around 10% of Commons' time is spent on a second
type of public Bill ­ the Private Members Bills. Private members Bills are introduced and
promoted by backbench MPs.
The legislative process (2) ­ Private Members Bills
Private Members Bills encounter special difficulties in their passage through Parliament ­
only 13 Fridays each Parliamentary session are devoted to Private Members Bills, for
example. The vast majority therefore fail and do not become law. Out of 2067 Private
Members Bills introduced between 1983 and 2002, only 256 were successful in the sense
that they received Royal Assent. Many of those which were successful were either
politically uncontentious or received gov't support.
Four ways of introducing a Private Members Bill into Parliament
1 ­ Ballot Bills

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At the start of each parliamentary session, MPs can enter their names in a ballot from which
20 names are drawn. In each session, however, only certain Fridays are set aside for
discussion of `Ballot Bills' and many of these tend to be taken up with the later stages of
Bills already in pipeline.…read more

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Private Members Bills. Similarly, in 1994, the age of consent for homosexuals was
lowered to 18 after the gov't supported a Private Members Bill.
The legislative process (3) ­ Government Bills
Some types of gov't Bills are introduced in every parliamentary session ­ for example the
Finance Bills containing the provisions of the Budget. Some are brought in to deal with
emergencies (wars or civil strife, for example) or in response to pressure.…read more

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It should be emphasised, however, that it is the gov't (on the whole) which decides which
matters require legislationand the gov't is normally able to command a majority in any vote
take in the HoCs. The scope for backbench MPs (of any party) or for individual members of
the HoLs to make an impact on legislation which comes before Parliament is, therefore
limited.…read more

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If MPs form a particular party vote in large numbers against the party line, however, the
withdrawal of the party whip becomes less of a realistic sanction. Between 2001 and 2004,
there were a number of occasions when a significant number of Labour backbench MPs
rebelled and voted against the gov't.…read more


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