House of Lords

Bills and How they become Law


A Bill is a draft law. It has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it receives the Royal Assent and becomes an Act.

This note describes briefly the different types of Bills and illustrates overleaf how a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. The chart notes important differences between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Public Bills

These are Bills of general effect and relate to public policy. Bills may start in either House. The title of a Bill which starts in the House of Lords is followed by the initials [HL].

Most major Bills are introduced by Ministers and are outlined in the Queen's Speech which sets out the Government's plans for each parliamentary session. Public Bills introduced by a backbench member are called Private Members' Bills. They must not be confused with Private Bills. Unlike in the Commons, peers have an unrestricted right to introduce Private Members' Bills and time is normally found for them. However, because time is limited in the Commons, few of these Bills survive unless they command general support. They are often seen as a useful means of testing opinion.

Private Bills

These Bills contain provisions which explicitly apply to only part of the community rather than the community as a whole. Most are local in character, promoted by bodies such as local authorities or statutory bodies seeking special powers. Private Bills begin in both Houses in equal numbers and procedure is broadly the same in each. Almost all of their consideration takes place off the floor of the House, where those whose interests are adversely affected by a Private Bill can have their case heard by a Select Committee.

Hybrid Bills

These are a cross between a Public and a Private Bill i.e. Public Bills which affect private interests. A Hybrid Bill initially goes through the same procedures as a Private Bill where, if petitions are presented, it is then sent to a Select Committee; it is subsequently treated as a Public Bill.


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© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 17 December 1997