Making laws

Bills (draft laws) start in either the House of Lords or House of Commons. They go through set stages of approval in both Houses before they can be signed off by the Queen (Royal Assent) and become an Act of Parliament (law).

Making laws: Did you know?

  • The Lords plays an essential role in improving bills, highlighting problems and making them workable.
  • In the 2012-13 session, Lords spent 422 hours examining 71 bills.
  • Members of the Lords cast their votes on bills in the chamber by entering either the ‘content’ or ‘not content’ lobby. These two lobbies run down the two sides of the chamber. Members are counted as they enter the lobby by tellers and clerks.

A bill must go through the following steps (in both Houses) to become law:

  • First reading: Bill arrives.
  • Second reading: Main debate on purpose and key areas of the bill.
  • Committee stage: Detailed line by line scrutiny of the text with amendments (proposed changes). Votes may take place to decide whether to make the changes.
  • Report stage: Further examination of the text. More amendments are debated and further votes take place to decide whether to make the changes.
  • Third reading: A ‘tidying up’ stage. Final chance for amendments and votes.
  • Each House considers the other’s amendments.
  • Royal Assent: When both Houses agree the final content, a bill is approved by the Queen and becomes a law or ‘Act of Parliament’.

Amendments (changes)

Lists of amendments are suggested, or ‘tabled’, by members and discussed in detail during committee, report and third reading stages. The ‘marshalled list’ shows each amendment in the order it affects the text of the bill. Amendments are often grouped by theme before each debate.

After an amendment has been discussed the government signals whether it will accept or reject the proposal. If the government does not intend to accept the amendment the member who suggested it can either withdraw it or call a division (vote).

Further information

Image: House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris

Watch the Lords on Parliament TV

Watch all the action from the Lords' chamber and committees live on Parliament TV

Lords enquiry service

Contact the House of Lords enquiry service with general questions about the Lords:

Lords publications

Get free copies of House of Lords publications and briefings

Lords Hansard

Read the latest Lords Hansard for a detailed word by word report of the work in the chamber