Bill

Draft form of an Act of Parliament


Note: This entry refers to Public Bills before Parliament. For Private and Hybrid Bills, a more convoluted process will occur.

In Short

A proposed Act of Parliament that must pass through the Parliamentary Process before being enacted. Bills may be tabled by Government and backbench MPs.

How are Bills brought before Parliament?

Bills can be brought before Parliament as a:

  • Presentation Bill
    • The most straightforward manner of tabling a bill before Parliament.
      The Speaker is notified of the intention to present a Bill, and it has its First Reading before the Main Business of the day commences.
      Government Bills are laid before Parliament in this manner. Backbenchers can also use this mechanism to table Bills.

  • Ballot Bill
    • Private Members Bills that receive the first opportunity to have Second Reading Debates
    • Private Members Bills for which the Member may make a ten minute speech outlining the basis for the Bill, but otherwise treated as a Presentation Bill

What is required of a Bill?

On First Reading (when the Bill is laid before Parliament), the Bill must have a short title, for example Pigeons (Abolishion) Bill, and a long title that outlines the extent of the proposed Bill, for example "An Act to amend and clarify the law relating to pigeons".

For a Second Reading debate on the general provisions of the Bill, the full text must be provided.

Bills are dated by Parliamentary Session, for instance 'Pigeons (Abolishion) Bill 2013-14'. Should a Bill become an Act, the title will say 'Act' rather than 'Bill' and the date will be changed to the year in which it received Royal Assent, e.g Pigeons (Abolishion) Act 2014'.

Should another Bill be tabled with the same title as one already presented, the Bill will have a number appended to signify the different Bills e.g. Pigeons (Abolishion) (No.2) Bill 2013-14. Should the Bill become an Act, the number will be retained in the title of the Act, e.g. Pigeons (Abolishion) (No.2) Act 2014.

How does a Bill become an Act?

Through a process so nuanced and extensive that it merits a page to itself.

Who is responsible for progressing the Bill?

The person who tabled the Bill, called the 'sponsor'. You can find the name of the sponsor and a list of any cosponsors on the back page of a Bill.

How long do you have for your Bill to become an Act?

Until the end of the Parliamentary Session. Except for Government Bills that have passed a 'carry over motion', all other Bills lapse.

Further Resources

UK Parliament Glossary: Bills