Once M Ps take their seats in parliament their most important job is to make legislation. Every year, parliament passes about a hundred laws directly, by making Acts of Parliament.
New legislation in Britain usually starts in the House of Lords. Any new law can be passed only when it has completed a number of stages in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. Before a Bill can go through all its stages in parliament it has to be written down, or drafted. The Bill has to be exact, so that no misunderstandings can occur and so it can be under-stood by as many people as possible.
First and second readings. In the days before printing, the only way M Ps could find out what a Bill contained was by having the contents read out to them. Therefore the next stages within parliament are known as “readings”, although now M Ps do have a printed copy. The first reading lets M Ps known that the Bill is coming up for discussion. There is no voting at this stage. The second reading explains the purpose of the Bill, and the House has to vote on it. If the House votes for the Bill, it proceeds to the Committee stage.
The Committee stage. This involves a small group – or committee – of about 18 M Ps looking in detail at the Bill and suggesting amendments. This stage is present because of time limits in the House of Commons.
The Report stage. Now the House of Commons is told what the Committee decided.
Third reading. The Bill Then goes to the third reading, which gives the House of Commons a chance to look again at the Bill as a whole.
Consideration by the House of Lords. Once it has passed its third reading, the Bill is carried to the House of Lords. This second chamber can be very useful; a different group of people can often see something in a different way. The House of Lords has the time to examine Bills and make amendments.
As in the Commons, the Bill goes through a number of stages. The first reading introduces the Bill, the second reading explains it in more detail, then it goes to the Committee stage. The Committee stage is different in that it is conducted in the chamber of the House itself, not in a committee room. Any Lord who is interested in the Bill can take part in the discussion. This stage is followed by the Report stage and then the third reading, where the Lords get their last chance to look at the Bill as a whole.