A bill is a draft of a new law or a change to an existing law, presented to Parliament.
Bills can start in either of the two Houses, the House of Lords or the House of Commons. Both Houses have set stages to debate, examine and suggest changes to the draft. Both Houses must agree the final text of the bill before it can be signed off by the monarch (Royal Assent) and become an Act of Parliament (law).
A bill must go through the following Lords stages:
- First reading: The bill arrives in the Lords. This stage is a formality where the bill name is read in the chamber
- Second reading: The main debate on the purpose and key areas of the bill. At this stage members discuss any concerns or specific areas where they think changes may be needed. There are usually no votes (divisions) at this stage
- Committee stage: Detailed line-by-line scrutiny of the text with amendments (suggested changes). Members start at the front of the bill and work through to the end. Votes may take place to decide whether to make the changes. Any member may take part and there is no time limit
- Report stage: A further opportunity to examine the bill and make changes. More amendments are debated and further votes take place to decide whether to make the changes
- Third reading: A ‘tidying up’ stage, aiming to close any loopholes. A final chance for amendments and votes
- Consideration of amendments: If the Lords has made changes to the draft law, it is sent to the Commons to agree. The Commons may accept the Lords change, make its own change in its place, or reject it. Any Commons changes are sent back to the Lords. There may be several rounds of this process, known as ‘ping pong’
- Royal Assent: When both Houses have agreed the text, the bill is approved by the monarch and becomes a law or ‘Act of Parliament’
Lords amendments to bills (suggested changes)
Lists of amendments are suggested, or tabled, by members before committee, report and third reading stages. At each day and stage of every bill with suggested changes, a list is published grouping the changes together. Each change is shown in the order it affects the text of the bill. Amendments are often grouped together before each debate, so they can be looked about together.