All over the world, there are laws to oversee just about everything. From protecting our general safety to ensuring our rights as citizens, laws help to keep our society civil and prevent people from doing things which are prohibited or wrong. Here in the UK, laws originate with the government before being passed by Parliament and in this piece, we will explain the process of how a bill is created, all the way through to the point where it becomes statutory law.
The primary reason for introducing a law is to address a problem in society and decide what actions to take about it. This is one of the roles of the government, to introduce a proposal or policy with the aim of being backed by government ministers. Through consultation with experts, such as special interest groups, a proposal can then be shaped and enhanced. Government ministers need to persuade their colleagues to support the idea and the policies are then debated in cabinet committees made up of ministers from across the government. It is the Legislation Committee who make the final decisions as to whether a proposal will be presented to Parliament for review by MPs and Lords.
Before it becomes law, a proposal or policy is a bill and must be passed through both Houses of Parliament – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Most bills are based on ideas suggested by the government, although any MP or Lord can propose a bill. A bill gets introduced so everyone knows it’s on its way to becoming law and a Government minister who supports the bill will explain the reasons for why it should become passed as law. This gives other MPs and Lords the opportunity to ask questions and challenge the bill, or to show their support for it. MPs and Lords who have a special knowledge of the bill’s subject will take a closer look at it, examining its details and ensuring nothing is overlooked. Once this is done, MPs and Lords can make changes to the bill and after holding a debate, make their amendments. MPs and Lords vote on a bill every time it is changed or debated, so it continues to be amended before it becomes law. If the majority of MPs and Lords vote against the bill, then it doesn’t become law and the idea would need to be abandoned or a new bill established.
When a bill gets approved in one house, it then transfers to the second house for approval there. Both houses must agree on the final wording of the bill before it becomes law and if one house changes the bill, it must go back to the other for approval and this can happen several times until an agreement is reached. If both houses cannot agree, the House of Commons has the final say since its members are elected. However, the two houses almost always reach an agreement.
The final part of a bill’s journey to becoming law is called Royal Assent. This is when both houses agree a bill is fit to become law and it goes to the monarch for approval. Once approved, it becomes law.
Laws are created to shape our society and protect people’s fundamental rights. In the UK, the government is committed to ensuring that every citizen is governed by the same laws and that our rights as citizens are protected.