A Private Bill is a proposal to confer particular powers or benefits on any person or body of persons - including individuals, local authorities, companies, or corporations - in excess of or in conflict with the general law.
Although it goes through similar stages as a public bill, a private bill has different stages and rules. For example, anyone "specially and directly" affected by private bill can (during particular periods) petition against the bill in both the Commons and the Lords. There are preliminary steps that must be taken before a Private Bill can be presented to Parliament. Private Bills are deposited in Parliament on the 27 November and are scrutinised by the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills before being formally presented before Parliament in January. Some bills will start in the Lords and others will start in the Commons.
Once presented the bill will go through the following stages in each House in turn:
- First reading (formal introduction of the Bill, which is held without debate)
- Petitioning period (Starting on or about 22 January and ending about 8 or 10 days later in the Commons and a about fortnight in the Lords, When the bill goes to the second House the petitioning period in either Houses is 10 days and begins on the day of first reading.)
- Second reading (This is often approved formally unless a Member wishes to have a debate on the Bill. In the Commons the motion may be repeatedly blocked, which can delay progress indefinitely. The principles of the bill are debated on third reading.)
- Committee stage (Bills which have outstanding petitions against are considered by an Opposed Bill Committee, whereas bills not petitioned against go to an Unopposed Bill Committee. Both committees are specially appointed. In the Lords it is possible for a bill to be considered by an Opposed Bill Committee and an Unopposed Bill Committee.)
- Report stage (Only available in the Commons and is the last chance for MPs to amend the bill. In the Lords, private bills do not have a report stage after they have left committee.)
- Third reading (The principles of the bill are debated on third reading. It is the opportunity for the House to reject the bill. It is also the last chance for MPs and Lords to debate or block a Private Bill. In Lords the bill can be amended on third reading.)
When a Bill has passed through both Houses it may return to the first House (where it started) when amendments made by the second House are considered.
- Royal Assent (granted by the Monarch) means that the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament