Act of Parliament

Act of Parliament

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An Act of Parliament is a statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 (commonly called a law) enacted as primary legislation
Primary legislation
Primary legislation is law made by the legislative branch of government. This contrasts with secondary legislation, which is usually made by the executive branch...

 by a national or sub-national parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

. In the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 the term Act of Congress is used.

In Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries, the term is used both in a narrow sense, as the formal description of a law passed in certain territories, and in a wider (generic) sense for primary legislation passed in any country.

Bills


A draft Act of Parliament is known as a bill
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

.

In territories with a Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

, most bills that have any possibility of becoming law are introduced into parliament by the government. This will usually happen following the publication of a "white paper
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

", setting out the issues and the way in which the proposed new law is intended to deal with them. A bill may also be introduced into parliament without formal government backing; this is known as a private member's bill
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

.

In territories with a multicameral
Multicameralism
In contrast to unicameralism, multicameralism or 'polycameralism' is the condition in which a legislature is divided into several deliberative assemblies, which are commonly called "chambers" or "houses". This can include bicameralism with two chambers, tricameralism with three, tetracameralism...

 parliament, most bills may be first introduced in any chamber. However, certain types of legislation are required, either by constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

 or by law, to be introduced into a specific chamber. For example, bills imposing a tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

, or involving public expenditure
Public finance
Public finance is the revenue and expenditure of public authoritiesThe purview of public finance is considered to be threefold: governmental effects on efficient allocation of resources, distribution of income, and macroeconomic stabilization.-Overview:The proper role of government provides a...

, are introduced into the House of Commons in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 by convention, and in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

's House of Commons
Canadian House of Commons
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament...

 and Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

's Dáil
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

 as a matter of law. Conversely, bills proposed by the Law Commission and consolidation bill
Consolidation bill
A consolidation bill is a bill introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the intention of consolidating several Acts of Parliament or Statutory Instruments into a single Act...

s traditionally start in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

.

Once introduced, a bill must go through a number of stages before it can become law. In theory, this allows the bill's provisions to be debated in detail, and for amendments to the original bill to also be introduced, debated, and agreed to.

In bicameral parliaments, a bill that has been approved by the chamber into which it was introduced then "sends" the bill to the other chamber. Broadly speaking, each chamber must separately agree to the same version of the bill. Finally, the approved bill receives assent; in most territories this is merely a formality, and is often a function exercised by the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

.

In some countries, such as in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, the term for a bill differs depending on whether it is initiated by the government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 (when it is known as a "project"), or by the Parliament (a "proposition", i.e. a private member's bill).

Australia


In Australia, the bill passes through the following stages:
  1. First reading: This stage is a mere formality.
  2. Second reading: As in the UK, the stage involves a debate on the general principles of the bill and is followed by a vote. Again, the second reading of a Government bill is usually approved. A defeat for a Government bill on this reading signifies a major loss. If the bill is read a second time, it is then considered in detail
  3. Consideration in detail: This usually takes place on the floor of the House. Generally, committees sit on the floor of the House and consider the bill in detail.
  4. Third reading: A debate on the final text of the bill, as amended. Very rarely do debates occur during this stage.
  5. Passage: The bill is then sent to the other House (to the Senate, if it originated in the House of Representatives; to the House of Representatives, if it is a Senate bill), which may amend it. If the other House amends the bill, the bill and amendments are posted back to the original House for a further stage. The State of Queensland
    Queensland
    Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

    's Parliament is unicameral and skips this and the rest of the stages.
  6. Consideration of Senate/Representatives amendments: The House in which the bill originated considers the amendments made in the other House. It may agree to them, amend them, propose other amendments in lieu, or reject them. However, the Senate may not amend money bills, though it can "request" the House to make amendments. A bill may pass backwards and forwards several times at this stage, as each House amends or rejects changes proposed by the other. If each House insists on disagreeing with the other, the Bill is lost.
  7. Disagreement between the Houses: Often, when a bill cannot be passed in the same form by both Houses, it is "laid aside", i.e. abandoned. There is also a special constitutional procedure allowing the passage of the bill without the separate agreement of both houses. If the House twice passes the same bill, and the Senate twice fails to pass that bill (either through rejection or through the passage of unacceptable amendments), then the Governor-General may dissolve both Houses of Parliament simultaneously and call an election for the entire Parliament. This is called a double dissolution. After the election, if the House again passes the bill, but the deadlock between the Houses persists, then the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of both Houses, where a final decision will be taken on the bill. Although the House and the Senate sit as a single body, bills passed at a joint sitting are treated as if they had been passed by each chamber separately. The procedure only applies if the bill originated in the House of Representatives. Six double dissolutions have occurred, though a joint sitting was only held once, in 1974.
  8. The bill is sent to the viceroy (the Governor-General for the Commonwealth and the ACT; the Governor for a State; the Administrator for a Territory) for the Royal Assent. Certain bills must be reserved by the viceroy for the Queen's personal assent.

Canada


In Canada, the bill passes through the following stages:
  1. First reading: This stage is a mere formality
    Formality
    A formality is an established procedure or set of specific behaviors and utterances, conceptually similar to a ritual although typically secular and less involved...

    .
  2. Second reading: As in the UK, the stage involves a debate
    Parliamentary Debate
    Parliamentary Debate is an academic debate event. Many university level institutions in English speaking nations sponsor parliamentary debate teams, but the format is currently spreading to the high school level as well...

     on the general principles of the bill and is followed by a vote. Again, the second reading of a government bill is usually approved. A defeat for a Government bill on this reading signifies a major loss. If the bill is read a second time, then it progresses to the committee stage.
  3. Committee stage: This usually takes place in a standing committee of the Commons
    Canadian House of Commons
    The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament...

     or Senate
    Canadian Senate
    The Senate of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons, and the monarch . The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister...

    .
    • Standing committee
      Standing committee (Canada)
      In Canada, a standing committee is a permanent committee established by Standing Orders of the House of Commons. It may study matters referred to it by special order or, within its area of responsibility in the Standing Orders, may undertake studies on its own initiative...

      : The standing committee is a permanent one; each committee deals with bills in specific subject areas. Canada's standing committees are similar to the UK's select committees.
    • Special committee: A committee established for a particular purpose, be it the examination of a bill or a particular issue.
    • Legislative committee: Similar to a special committee in that it is established for the consideration of a particular bill. The chairmanship is determined by the Speaker
      Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
      The Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada is the presiding officer of the lower house of the Parliament of Canada and is elected at the beginning of each new parliament by fellow Members of Parliament...

      , rather than elected by the members of the committee. Not used in the Senate.
    • Committee of the Whole
      Committee of the Whole
      A Committee of the Whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee...

      : The whole house sits as a committee in the House of Commons or Senate. Most often used to consider appropriation bills, but can be used to consider any bill.
The committee considers each clause of the bill, and may make amendments to it. Significant amendments may be made at committee stage. In some cases, whole groups of clauses are inserted or removed. However, if the Government holds a majority, almost all the amendments which are agreed to in committee will have been tabled by the Government to correct deficiencies in the bill or to enact changes to policy made since the bill was introduced (or, in some cases, to import material which was not ready when the bill was presented).
  1. Report stage: this takes place on the floor of the appropriate chamber, and allows the House or Senate to approve amendments made in committee, or to propose new ones.
  2. Third reading: A debate on the final text of the bill, as amended.
  3. Passage: The bill is then sent to the other House (to the Senate, if it originated in the House of Commons; to the Commons, if it is a Senate bill), where it will face a virtually identical process. If the other House amends the bill, the bill and amendments are sent back to the original House for a further stage.
  4. Consideration of Senate/Commons amendments: The House in which the bill originated considers the amendments made in the other House. It may agree to them, amend them, propose other amendments in lieu or reject them. If each House insists on disagreeing with the other, the Bill is lost.
  5. Disagreement between the Houses: There is no specific procedure under which the Senate's disagreement can be overruled by the Commons. The Senate's rejection is absolute.


The debate on each stage is actually debate on a specific motion. For the first reading, there is no debate. For the second reading, the motion is "That this bill be now read a second time and be referred to [name of committee]" and for third reading "That this bill be now read a third time and pass." In the Committee stage, each clause is called and motions for amendments to these clauses, or that the clause stand part of the bill are made. In the Report stage, the debate is on the motions for specific amendments.

Once a bill has passed both Houses in an identical form, it receives final, formal examination by the Governor General who invariably gives it the Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

. Although the Governor General can in theory refuse to assent a bill or reserve the bill for the Queen at this stage, this power has fallen into disuse.

Bills being reviewed by Parliament are assigned numbers: 2 to 200 for government bills, 201 to 1000 for private member's bill
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

s, and 1001 up for private bill
Private bill
A private bill is a proposal for a law that would apply to a particular individual or group of individuals, or corporate entity. If enacted, it becomes a private Act . This is unlike public bills which apply to everyone within their jurisdiction...

s. They are preceded by C- if they originate in the House of Commons, or S- if they originate in the Senate. For example, Bill C-250 was a private member's bill introduced in the House. Bills C-1 and S-1
Bills C-1 and S-1
Bills C-1 and S-1 are pro forma bills introduced in the House of Commons and Senate respectively at the opening of each session of the Parliament of Canada. The bills are given a first reading and are then never proceeded with further. Being pro forma pieces of legislation, introducing them is...

 are pro forma bills, and are introduced at the beginning of each session in order to assert the right of each Chamber to manage its own affairs. They are introduced and read a first time, and then are dropped from the Order Paper
Order Paper
The Order Paper is a daily publication in the Westminster system of government which lists the business of parliament for that day's sitting. A separate paper is issued daily for each house of the legislature....

.

See also: List of Acts of Parliament of Canada

New Zealand


In New Zealand, the bill passes through the following stages:
  1. First reading: MPs debate and vote on the bill. If a bill is approved, it passes on to the committee stage.
  2. Select committee stage: The bill is considered by a Select Committee, which scrutinises the bill in detail and hears public submissions on the matter. The Committee may recommend amendments to the bill.
  3. Second reading: The general principles of the bill are debated, and a vote is held. If the bill is approved, it is put before a Committee of the House.
  4. Committee of the House: The bill is debated and voted on, clause by clause, by the whole House sitting as a committee.
  5. Third reading: Summarising arguments are made, and a final vote is taken. If the bill is approved, it is passed to the Governor-General for Royal Assent. New Zealand has no upper house, and so no approval is necessary.

United Kingdom Parliament



A draft piece of legislation is called a bill, when this is passed by Parliament it becomes an Act and part of statute law. There are two types of bill and Act, public and private. Public Acts apply to the whole of the UK or a number of its constituent countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Private Acts are local and personal in their effect, giving special powers to bodies such as local authorities or making exceptions to the law in particular geographic areas.

In the United Kingdom Parliament, each bill passes through the following stages:
  1. Pre-legislative scrutiny: Not undertaken for all bills; usually a joint committee of both houses will review a bill and vote on amendments that the government can either accept or reject. The report from this stage can be influential in later stages as rejected recommendations from the committee are revived to be voted on.
  2. First reading: This is a formality; no vote occurs. The Bill is presented and ordered to be printed and, in the case of private members' bills, a date is set for second reading.
  3. Second reading: A debate on the general principles of the bill is followed by a vote.
  4. Committee stage: This usually takes place in a public bill committee in the Commons and on the Floor of the House in the Lords. The committee considers each clause of the bill, and may make amendments to it.
  5. Consideration (or report) stage: this takes place on the floor of the House, and is a further opportunity to amend the bill. Unlike committee stage, the House need not consider every clause of the bill, only those to which amendments have been tabled.
  6. Third reading: a debate on the final text of the bill, as amended. In the House of Lords, further amendments may be tabled at this stage.
  7. Passage: The bill is then sent to the other House (to the Lords, if it originated in the Commons; to the Commons, if it is a Lords bill), which may amend it.
  8. Consideration of Lords/Commons amendments: The House in which the bill originated considers the amendments made in the other House.
  9. Royal assent

Scottish Parliament


In the Scottish Parliament, bills pass through the following stages:
  1. Introduction: The Bill is introduced to the Parliament together with its accompanying documents — Explanatory Notes, a Policy Memorandum setting out the policy underlying the Bill and a Financial Memorandum setting out the costs and savings associated with it. Statements from the Presiding Officer and the member in charge of the Bill are also lodged, indicating whether the Bill is within the legislative competence of the Parliament.
  2. Stage one: The Bill is considered by one or more of the subject Committees of the Parliament, which normally take evidence from the bill's promoter and other interested parties before reporting to the Parliament on the principles of the Bill. Other Committees, notably the Finance and Subordinate Legislation Committees, may also feed in at this stage. The report from the Committee is followed by a debate in the full Parliament.
  3. Stage two: The Bill returns to the subject Committee where it is subject to line-by-line scrutiny and amendment. This is similar to the Committee Stage in the UK Parliament.
  4. Stage three: The Bill as amended by the Committee returns to the full Parliament. There is a further opportunity for amendment, followed by a debate on the whole Bill, at the end of which the Parliament decides whether to pass the Bill.
  5. Royal assent: After the Bill has been passed, the Presiding Officer submits it to Her Majesty for Royal Assent. However he cannot do so until a 4-week period has elapsed during which the Law Officers of the Scottish Executive or UK Government can refer the Bill to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
    Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
    The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Ireland law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal...

     for a ruling on whether the Bill is within the powers of the Parliament.


There are special procedures for emergency bills, member's bills (similar to private member's bills in the UK Parliament), committee bills, and private bills.

Singapore


In Singapore, the bill passes through these certain stages before becoming into an Act of Parliament.
  1. First Reading: The bill is introduced to the government, usually by the members of parliament. The unicameral parliament will then discuss the bill, followed by a vote. Voting must be at least 1/2 aye for non-controversial bills and 2/3 aye for controversial ones. If the bill passes the vote it will proceed to the second reading.
  2. Second Reading: In this stage, the bill is further discussed and put to a second vote. If more than half of the votes are aye the bill proceeds to the select committee.
  3. Select Committee: The select committee consists of people not only from the parliaments, but also the people who could be affected by the bill is passed into law. This is to ensure equity and that the bill is fair for all. If the Bill is in favor, it will proceed to the third reading.
  4. Third Reading: After the select committee has discussed and are in favor of the bill, they will put it to a vote. At this juncture, if the votes are more than 1/2 aye, it will be sent to the President of Singapore, currently Tony Tan. This is known as President Assent.
  5. President Assent: The president must give permission in order for the bill to be passed. If he approves it, it will become a statute passed down by the members of parliament which is called an Act Of Parliament.

Titles and citation of Acts


Acts passed by the Parliament of England
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 did not originally have titles, and could only be formally cited by reference to the parliamentary session in which they were passed, with each individual Act being identified by a chapter number. Descriptive titles began to be added to the enrolled Acts by the official clerks, as a reference aid; over time, titles came to be included within the text of each bill. Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has also become common practice for Acts to have a short title
Short title
The short title is the formal name by which a piece of primary legislation may by law be cited in the United Kingdom and other Westminster-influenced jurisdictions , as well as the United States. It contrasts with the long title which, while usually being more fully descriptive of the...

, as a convenient alternative to the sometimes lengthy main titles.

The numerical citation of Acts has also changed over time. The original method was based on the regnal year(s) in which the relevant parliament session met. This has been replaced in most territories by simple reference to the calendar year, with the first Act passed being chapter 1, and so on.

Until the 1980s, Acts of the Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n state of Victoria were numbered in a continuous sequence from 1857; thus the Age of Majority Act 1977 was No. 9075 of 1977.

See also

  • Act of Congress
    Act of Congress
    An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by government with a legislature named "Congress," such as the United States Congress or the Congress of the Philippines....

  • Legislative act
    Legislative act
    A legislative act is a formal written enactment produced by a legislature or by a legislative process. It may be contrasted with a non-legislative act which is adopted by an executive or administrative body under the authority of a legislative act or for implementing a legislative act....

  • Halsbury's Statutes
    Halsbury's Statutes
    Halsbury’s Statutes of England and Wales is the authoritative source for statute law in England and Wales...

  • List of Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
  • Table of contents
    Table of contents
    A table of contents, usually headed simply "Contents" and abbreviated informally as TOC, is a list of the parts of a book or document organized in the order in which the parts appear...


External links

  • All Acts of Parliament (since 1988) and statutory instruments are available free on-line under Crown copyright
    Crown copyright
    Crown copyright is a form of copyright claim used by the governments of a number of Commonwealth realms. It provides special copyright rules for the Crown .- Australia :...

     terms from the Office of Public Sector Information
    Office of Public Sector Information
    The Office of Public Sector Information is the body responsible for the operation of Her Majesty's Stationery Office and of other public information services of the United Kingdom...

    ( OPSI).
  • Parliamentary Stages of a Government Bill (pdf) from the House of Commons Information Office.
  • Acts of Parliament (since 1267) revised to date are available free on-line under Crown copyright terms from the Ministry of Justice (SLD).