UK Parliament Week Blog (Thursday) | How laws are made in Parliament

The Primary role of any parliament is to make, amend and repeal the laws of the land where necessary. The way that this is achieved in the UK is through the passage of a Bill – a document which outlines the proposals for new laws or plans to change existing laws, and is debated and voted on in Parliament.

The Government introduces most plans for new laws, with many included in the Queen's Speech at the opening of each session of Parliament, and changes to existing laws. However, new laws can originate from an MP or a Lord.

Emergency issues such as the threat of terrorism, pressure on the Government to update old laws and case law in the courts, interpreting, clarifying and re-applying established principles of statute law, all contribute to the need for new laws.

Currently, there are 146 Bills before Parliament – and all are being debated at various stages. A Bill can start life in the Commons or the Lords and must be approved in the same form by both Houses within a specific time before becoming an Act.

There are four types of Bill:

Public Bills – A Bill which changes the law as it applies to the general population and are the most common type of Bill introduced in Parliament.

Private Bill – A Bill which is usually promoted by organisations, like local authorities or private companies, to give themselves powers beyond, or in conflict with, the general law.

Private Members Bill - Public Bills which are introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers.

Hybrid Bill – A Bill which proposes changes to the laws that affect the general public and significantly impact specific individuals or groups.

In order to pass into Law, a Bill must progress through five stages – both in the House of Commons and in House of Lords. These stages are:

  • First Reading
  • Second Reading
  • Committee Stage
  • Report Stage
  • Third Reading

Once a Bill is passed through both Houses of Parliament, it is then presented to the Queen for final consideration. This process is known as Royal Ascent. Whilst the Queen, as head of state has the power to stop a bill from being passed into law a monarch has not refused a Bill since 1707.

Only following Royal Ascent the Bill becomes an ‘Act of Parliament’. An Act of Parliament is a law, and it is enforced in all areas of the UK where it is applicable.

You can learn more about each stage of the passage of a Bill on the Parliament website: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/

Any Member of Parliament of Peer can introduce a Bill – however, the majority of Bills that are made into Law are sponsored by a Government Minister as a way to fulfil an electoral manifesto pledge to the British Public.

Most recently, I introduced a Private Member’s Bill called the ‘Marriage Registration Bill’ to Parliament. The purpose of this Bill was to amend the process of Marriage registration so that mother’s names would be included on Marriage Certificates.

I submitted this Bill in my role as Second Church Estates Commissioner after an online petition calling for the name of the spouse’s mothers to be included on the marriage registration certificate attracted over 70,000 signatures from members of the public – a step which would have changed the current practice which was first introduced in 1837.

The Bill I presented made also provision for the formation of a central electronic database of married persons to ensure that the change could be enacted swiftly and without incurring the cost of having to update records held by the Church at a cost of up to £3 million.

However, despite my efforts and due to the strict time limited applied for Bills to be presented and debated before Parliament, my bill was not afforded time for debate and I was unsuccessful in getting the bill passed within the set time limit on this occasion.

You can read a copy of this Bill here: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/marriageregistration.html