House of Commons (United Kingdom)/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article House of Commons (United Kingdom).

The legislative process for public bills

The procedures adopted are varied from time to time by the issue of amendments to Standing Orders [1]

Preparatory stages

The originating government department consults interested parties, sometimes by the publication of a consultative document termed a "Green Paper", followed by a statement of the government's intentions, termed a "White Paper". Select Committees are sometimes consulted.

The wording of the Bill is agreed in the course of a series of meetings of legislative experts known as Parliamentary Counsel.

Pre-legislative scrutiny
An opportunity for textual scrutiny has sometimes been provided by the prior publication of a full draft of a proposed bill[2] [3]

Timetable approval
A cabinet committee called the "Future Business Committee" agrees to the inclusion of the Bill in the government's legislative timetable for the current or forthcoming session of parliament.

Parliamentary stages

First reading
The Bill is laid before the House and is ordered to be printed. There is no debate.

Second reading
The responsible minister states the purpose of the Bill, and there is a debate on its desirability.

Committee stage
A committee of 16 Members examines each clause of the Bill and makes amendments where deemed appropriate. (The parties are represented in the committee in the same proportion as in the House)

Report stage
The Bill is debated by the full House and further amendments are agreed.

Third reading
The Bill is formally confirmed without change of content.

House of Lords approval
The Bill is either approved by the House of Lords, or is returned to the House of Commons for further consideration.

Votes of confidence

Votes of confidence have in the past taken one of three forms[4]

  • a "confidence" motion", initiated by the Government;
  • a "no confidence motion" initiated by the Opposition; and,
  • a motion of sufficient importance to be deemed a vote of confidence.

However, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 stipulates that the passage of a no confidence motion is one of the alternative conditions necessary for the calling of a general election (another being a motion for the dissolution of parliament). It also stipulates that a general election must be called unless, within 14 days of the passage of such a motion, the successor government wins a confidence motion[5]. It is not clear whether a defeat on a motion in the third of the above categories would still count as a vote of no confidence (for example, it is not clear whether a defeat on the Government’s budget would be considered as a vote of no confidence). It would be possible, however, for a Government to make it clear, before such a division on such motion, that they considered it to be a matter of confidence - a procedure that past governments have used to make their supporters aware of the importance of particular motions. The loss of a vote of confidence need not result in the resignation of a Prime Minister if he or she is able to gain the confidence of Parliament in a new government under his or her leadership, for example by dissolving a coalition or assembling a new coalition.