Lords private members' bills

02 July 2012

The House of Lords had its first chance to debate aspects of three private members' bills on Friday 29 June, spanning topics such as cessation of membership, smoke-free private vehicles and caravan sites

A private members' bill is a type of public bill (that affects the public) introduced by an individual member of the House of Lords.

House of Lords (Cessation of Membership) Bill

This bill allows members to cease membership through retirement and in the event of non-attendance or criminal conviction.

Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat) outlined the three purposes of the bill in his opening speech: 'First, it proposes that members may cease to be members of this House on a voluntary basis if they choose to retire... The second provision is for compulsory retirement for those who fail to attend in one session... The third provision is simply to bring us into line with the other chamber by removing from membership of the House those who are guilty of criminal offences and sentenced to a year or more in prison.' 

Smoke-Free Private Vehicles Bill

This bill amends the Health Act 2006 to extend the smoking ban to private vehicles where there are children present.

Lord Ribeiro (Conservative) opened the debate and declared an interest as a past president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and as a patron: 'I have seen and treated the long-term effects of smoking in adults and wish to prevent similar harm occurring in children.'

Responding on behalf of the government, Earl Attlee (Conservative) said: 'The government are not persuaded that legislating for smoke-free cars is the best approach at this time. We believe that some significant issues need to be resolved before such legislation can be contemplated.'

Caravan Sites Bill

A bill to secure the establishment of caravan sites by local authorities in England for the use of gypsies and travellers.

Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat) introduced the topic by explaining the
Caravan Sites Act 1968, which required local authorities to provide sites for gypsies residing in or resorting to their area. 'The objective to which the bill is a contribution has been on the agenda for the last half-century and it is about time we solved it decisively, for the mutual benefit of both travellers and the settled population,' he said.

What is second reading?

Second reading is the first opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.

Before second reading takes place, a list of speakers for the second reading debate is opened and interested members add their names to it.

The government minister, spokesperson or a member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate.

Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.

Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days.

Next stage: Committee stage

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage. Any member of the Lords can take part.

It usually starts no later than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list - in which all the amendments are placed in order. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (groupings of amendments) is published on the day.

During committee stage every clause of the bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit, or guillotine, on discussion of amendments.

Further information

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