There are two main sorts of Bill: Private Bill and Public Bill. Private Bills deal with local matters and individuals. Public Bills deal with matters of public importance. Important Bills are usually sponsored by the Government. One example of a Government Bill is the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill of 1992-1993, which affects the amount of time that fishing boats may spend at sea. Although a rather old example, it illustrated well how a Government Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. This particular Bill was introduced into the Commons by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
This stage is called First Reading. It gives MPs notice that the Bill will soon be coming for discussion. The text is then printed and read by Members in time for the important Second Reading. Here the main purpose of the Bill is explained by the Minister of State responsible for fisheries, and the Bill is debated by the House.
The House then votes to decide whether the Bill should continue its passage through Parliament.
The Bill continues to its Committee Stage where eighteen Members from both Government and Opposition discuss it in detail, considering many possible changes (amendments). This is followed by Report Stage when the committee reports back to the rest of the House.
At the Third Reading stage, the House decided to pass the Bill as a whole. The Bill cannot be changed at this stage – it is either accepted or rejected. Once a Bill has passed its Third Reading in the Commons, one of the Clerks at the Table carries the Bill to the House of Lords.
The House of Lords has the job of reviewing Bills received from the Commons. A different group of people can often see something in a completely different way. The House of Lords often makes changes to Commons Bills. Once both Houses of Parliament have passed a Bill, then it has to go to the Queen for the Royal Assent. After receiving the Royal Assent the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
Even after an Act has received the Royal Assent, it may not come into force straight away.