The law-making process in England and Wales
The law-making process in England and Wales

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

The law-making process in England and Wales

3.2 The Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949

The House of Commons may use existing legislation – such as the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 – which will allow them to make law without the consent of the House of Lords. This rarely happens, but the House of Commons has this power available if the House of Lords cannot reach an agreement, or rejects a piece of proposed legislation which the House of Commons wishes to bring into force. The Parliament Acts were used when the government of the day pushed through the War Crimes Act 1991, the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999, and the Hunting Act 2004. The last of these Acts outlawed the hunting of wild animals using dogs to locate and kill the animal (usually a fox). This was a controversial piece of legislation and the House of Lords was not able to sanction the proposed Bill.

Activity 2 Fitting the Bill

Watch the following film, which discusses the work of the House of Lords when dealing with a public Bill. A public Bill is a piece of legislation which has been proposed by the government of the day.

While watching, make some notes on the different stages (order of events) which the Bill passes through. You will discover that there are a set number of stages the Bill must go through before it is then passed back to the House of Commons.

Skip transcript: Activity 2 Fitting the Bill

Transcript: Activity 2 Fitting the Bill

So, most bills start in the House of Commons, and when they’ve finished with it, and it’s been through all its stages there, literally a hard copy is still walked up to the House of Lords, wrapped up in ribbon. It gets brought into the chamber, and a government minister will stand up and read the long title. And this is known as the first reading. And the long title is a paragraph on the bill which just sums up what that bill is doing. And then that hard copy of the bill gets taken out of the chamber and up to our office, where we keep it safe.
So, second reading is a debate, and members take it in turns to stand up and talk about the subject. And it’s quite useful, because they can also take the opportunity to tell the government, ‘well, this is what I think of your bill, these are the bits I’m going to try and change later on’.
Once we’ve received the bill, and once it’s had its second reading, then a bill is open for amendments. And members come into the legislation office and discuss with us the changes that they’d like to make to the bill. And then we put everything in the right order and print it up all ready for everybody to look at, when it’s in the chamber. If at second reading lots of people disagree with the subject, then at the end, they can have a vote and they can decide to throw out the whole bill there and then. But that doesn’t tend to happen very often.
My Lords, I beg to move that the house do now resolve itself into a committee upon the bill.
Committee stage – everybody turns up and they go through the bill line by line. And, most of the amendments are a chance to try and work out what the government’s thinking, what its policy is in an area. So, people suggest changes just to see what the government says about them and whether they’ll accept them or not.
Questions. One is, what is the urgency to consider the report stage?
So, the next stage is called report stage. And this time, they go through the bill line by line again. But the amendments are right down to the nitty gritty. These are changes that people really want to make. And, so quite often, we get more votes at report stage, because people really want to push the government and find out how many people agree with them.
Not contents, 218. Therefore, the not contents have it.
The very last stage is called third reading. And this is pretty much just a tidying up. So, if there’s been a big change earlier on which has lots of consequential little changes. So after third reading, all the changes that have been made will be stuck in, or crossed out, as the case may be. And then it’s wrapped up in red ribbon with a message saying, ‘Dear House of Commons, here’s a bill that the House of Lords have passed, please will you consider it?’
Message from the Lords.
So, ping pong is the point where the bill is going backwards and forwards between the two houses. And all they’re looking at are the areas where they can’t agree. So, everything else that’s agreed is put to one side. And on the areas where they can’t agree, they try and find a compromise. So, the House of Lords might say, ‘we don’t like this, what you think of this instead?’ And the Commons will either to say ‘yes’. Or they might say, ‘no, we don’t agree with that policy, but how about this compromise?’ And they’ll whittle it down until everybody’s agreed on a way forward.
So, when both houses have finished the bill, then the last stage is that the Queen is asked to signify that she’s happy with it. And when that happens, in both houses the Speaker and the Lords’ Speaker stand up and announce that the bill has been given its Royal Assent.
My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act of 1967, that the Queen has signified her royal assent to the following acts.
Then the bill goes off, and the final copy is printed. And it’s that copy that is taken up to the parliamentary archives and is the official record.
End transcript: Activity 2 Fitting the Bill
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Activity 2 Fitting the Bill
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now drag and drop the explanations given below to the right stage.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. First reading

  2. Second reading

  3. Committee stage

  4. Report stage

  5. Third reading

  • a.The long title is read.

  • b.The Bill is tidied up.

  • c.Each line of the Bill is looked at again and further amends made.

  • d.The subject is debated.

  • e.Each line of the Bill is looked at and amends made.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = a
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = e
  • 4 = c
  • 5 = b


This is the process that takes place in both Houses (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) before the Royal Assent is given. You will learn more about these stages later on in this course.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus