Making New Laws: Bills and Acts
The functions of Parliament are: making laws; providing money for the government through taxation; examining government policy, administration and spending; debating political questions.
Every year Parliament passes about a hundred laws directly, by making Acts of Parliament. Because this can be a long process, Parliament sometimes passes a very general law and leaves a minister to fill in the details. In this way, it indirectly passes about 2,000 additional rules and regulations.
No new law can be passed unless it has completed a number of stages in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The monarch also has to give a Bill the Royal Assent, which is now just a formality. Since 1707 no sovereign has refused a Bill. Whilst a law is still going through Parliament it is called a Bill. There are two main types of Bills – Public Bills which deal with matters of public importance and Private Bills which deal with local matters and individuals.
Public and Private Bills are passed through Parliament in much the same way. When a Bill is introduced in the House of Commons, it receives a formal first reading. It is then printed and read a second time, when it is debated but not amended. After the second reading the Bill is referred to a committee, either a special committee made up of certain members of the House, or to the House itself as a committee. Here it is discussed in detail and amended, if necessary. The Bill is then presented for a third reading and is debated. If the Bill is passed by the Commons it goes to the Lords, and provided it is not rejected by them, it goes through the same procedure as in the Commons. After receiving the Royal Assent the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. In order to be enforced, it must be published in Statute form, becoming a part of Statute Law. ,The power of the Lords to reject a Bill has been severely curtailed. A money Bill must be passed by the Lords without amendment within a month of being presented in the House. The Act of 1949 provides that any Public Bill passed by the Commons in two successive parliamentary sessions and rejected both times by the Lords, may be presented for the Royal Assent, even though it has not been passed by the Lords. The Lords, therefore, can only delay the passage of a Public Bill, they cannot reject it.