The Formal Legislative Process (3)

  • Created by: JM150601
  • Created on: 15-09-18 10:27

What is legislation?

The term legislation refers to laws passes by the Houses of Parliament in the forms of acts or statues or by an external body such as local councils.

1 of 16

Supreme legislation

Supreme legislation is that which proceeds from the supreme or sovereign power. Seen as the queen ha nothing to do with laws other than the ceremonial ascent, the supreme legislative authority is vested in Parliament.

Laws made by Parliament are incapable of being repealed. An act of parliament cannot be questioned. This is known as the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy which means Parliament may make or unmake any laws if it wishes .

Subordinate legislation is that which proceeds from any authority other than the sovereign power, and is therefore dependent for its continued existence and validity on some superior or supreme authority. More commonly known as delegated legislation.

2 of 16


There are several different types of Bill. The most usual are public bills which deal with matters of the public, general intrest. The majority of these bills would be introduced by a government minister and would he known as government bills. They can also be introduced by MPs which are known as probate members bills.

In addition there are private bills. These are brought by bodies outside parliament who are seeking special powers. And example of this would be local authorities. These bills are likely to affect other people and so the bill has to be advertised widely so that anyone likely to be affected has the chance to object.

Hybrid bills are public bills which affect the rights of private individuals and bodies. Hybrid bills give such individuals and bodies the opportunity to oppose the bill or seek amendments to it.

3 of 16

Procedure for Public Bills

First Reading
Second Reading
Committee Stage
Report Stage
Third Reading
The House Of Lords
The Royal Ascent


4 of 16

Types of committees

A standing committee: A committee is made up of members of parliament who are drawn on party lines to examine a bill clause by clause. This is the most usual way for a bill to be debated.

A committee of the whole house: the chamber of the House of Commons ceases to be a legislative chamber and becomes mere committee of the House of Commons during the committee stage of a bill the whole house will debate the bill clause by clause. Bills are only usually debated this way when they are either of major importance, need to be passed quickly without the delays involved of setting up a standing committee or they are not controversial at all and it would be not worthwhile setting up a standing committee.

5 of 16

The House Of Lords

Role of the House of Lords with regards to the enactment of an act of parliament has always been to revise bills introduced in the House of Commons. This makes sense because the House of Commons is made up of democratically elected MPs who have a mandate from the electorate to make new laws for the country and can therefore claim to speak for the general public in a way that the House of Lords cannot.

However if the bill is introduced to the House of Lords, then the Lords can kill the bill before it ever gets back to the house of commons. This is what happened in January 2000 with the Criminal Justice Bill. The Lords killed the bill which resulted in an uproar due to the fact that the elected representatives approved but the unelected didn’t but yet the unelected got their way.

6 of 16

Advantages of Parliamentary Law Making

Laws are usually introduced by the government who, by virtue of the fact that they have been elected, can claim to act on behalf of the people.

The many stages involved in the passage of the bill through Parliament implies the process is both rigourous and thorough.

7 of 16

Disadvantages of Parliamentary Law Making

New laws are enacted in response to perceived need for change but the procedure for enacting new laws can be lengthy.

The House of Lords, which is an unelected body, can upset the legislative program of the elected government.

8 of 16

Green and White Papers

Each government minister has the Department of civil servants and advisors. The particular ministry which is responsible for the area in which a wide change in the law is being considered will draft ideas for change.

On major matters a green paper may be issued by the minister with responsibility for that matter. A green paper is the consultative document on the topic in which the government‘s view was put forward with proposals for law reform. Interested parties are then invited to send comments to the relevant government department, so that a full consideration of all sides can be made and necessary changes made to the governments proposals.

Following this the government may publish a white paper with its firm proposals for new law.

9 of 16

First Reading

This is a formal procedure where the name of the bill is read out. No discussion or vote takes place.

10 of 16

Second Reading

This is the main debate on the whole bill in which MPs debate the principles behind the bill. The debate usually focuses on the main principles rather than the smaller details. At the end of this there is a vote. The vote may be verbal, or maybe a formal vote in which the members of the house though by leaving out of two special doors on one side or the other.

Obviously there must be a majority in favour for the bill to progress any further

11 of 16

Committee stage

At this stage a detailed examinations of each clause of the bill is undertaken by committee. This is usually done by what is called a standing committee, which contrary to its name, is the committee chosen specifically for that bill.

12 of 16

Report Stage

At the committee stage amendments to various clauses in the bill may have been voted on and passed, so this report stage is where the committee report back to the house on those amendments. ( if there are no amendments that need to be made then the report stage will be scrapped and the bill will go straight to the third reading).

13 of 16

Third Reading

This is the final vote on the bill. It is almost a formality sent a bill that has passed through all the stages above is on likely to fail at this late stage. In fact in the House of Commons there will only be an actual further debate on the bill as a whole if at least six MPs request it.

14 of 16

The House Of Lords

If the bell started life in the House of Commons is now passed to the House of Lords where we go through the same five stages outlined above. If the House of Lords makes amendments to the bill, then it will go back to the Commons for them to consider those amendments. If the commons do not accept the Lord’s amendments, they send those amendments back to the Lord’s. This sending to and fro can go on for some time and is referred to as ping-pong.

15 of 16

Royal Ascent

The final stage is where the Monarch finally gives approval to the bill and then it becomes an act of parliament. This is now formality and, under the Royal assent act of 1967, the Monarch will not even have the text of the bill to which she is assenting; she will only have the short title.

16 of 16


No comments have yet been made

Similar Law resources:

See all Law resources »See all Legislative Process resources »