Why are new laws needed?
One of Parliament's main roles is debating and passing statute law (legislation).
The Government introduces most plans for new laws, with many included in the King's Speech at the opening of each session of Parliament, and changes to existing laws. However, new laws can originate from an MP or a Lord.
Emergency issues such as the threat of terrorism, pressure on the Government to update old laws and case law in the courts, interpreting, clarifying and re-applying established principles of statute law, all contribute to the need for new laws.
Who is consulted about changes to the law?
Before proposals for laws, known as Bills, are introduced into Parliament, there is often consultation or discussion with interested parties such as professional bodies, voluntary organisations and pressure groups.
White and Green Papers
Proposals for legislative changes may be contained in government White Papers. These may be preceded by consultation papers, sometimes called Green Papers, which set out government proposals that are still taking shape and seek comments from the public. There is no requirement for White or Green Papers to be introduced before a Bill is introduced into Parliament.
Draft Bills and pre-legislative scrutiny
A Draft Bill is a Bill that is published to enable consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny before a Bill is formally introduced into either the House of Commons or House of Lords.
A Draft Bill is considered, often by a departmental select committee in the Commons or by a joint committee of Lords and Members of the Commons. This allows MPs and Members of the Lords to have early influence on the Bill. This process is known as pre-legislative scrutiny.
Do all Bills apply to the whole of the UK?
Some Bills apply to the whole of the UK.
However, Bills may apply to one or more constituent parts - for example, only to England and Wales. Law-making powers in some subjects rest with the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, rather than the UK Parliament.
Sometimes new laws are also needed to ensure that the UK complies with international law.