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The Creation of a Bill


Enacting it to Law


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The legislative process - that is the process whereby a bill becomes an act of Parliament - can be a long drawn out procedure if the Bill is controversial. If it is non-controversial there are ways of speeding it up. A bill is a statute in draft and if it is a government bill, as most of them are, it will originate in a government department and be discussed and approved in the Cabinet before it is introduced in Parliament.

The bill is introduced by the Minister responsible, normally in the House of Commons, and given a formal first reading without debate. The main debate takes place at the second reading when the principles of the bill, but not its details, are discussed. If adopted at second reading the bill is referred to a committee for detailed study. The majority of bills are referred to a committee for detailed study. The majority of bills are referred to standing committees which consist on average of 20 members, but some bills, notably those relating to expenditure or taxation, are referred to a committee of the whole House. In Committee a bill may be considered clause by clause and amendments may be moved to any clause. If amendments are adopted in committee they may be reconsidered in the House at the report stage, a stage at which further amendments may also be introduced.

The final stage in a bill's passage is the third reading at which it is considered in its final form. Once adopted by the House of Commons a bill is referred to the Senate where it  goes through the same process, and may be referred back.

If the bill originates in the Senate, it goes through substantially the same process in reverse order. All amendments inserted by the Senate in a Commons bill must be passed by the House of Commons if they are to become law; and all amendments inserted by the Commons in a Senate bill must be approve by the Senate before they become law. If the two Houses cannot agree the bill fails.

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