This e-learning module will develop your knowledge and understanding of the process of making laws at UK Parliament.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Explain the process bills must go through in order to become laws.
- Outline some of the ways ideas for new laws come to UK Parliament.
- Embed this knowledge into your teaching practice.
At the end of this module you will have the opportunity to receive a Certificate of Participation by completing a short feedback form.
Why do we need new laws?
We live in a society that is constantly evolving. Changes in attitudes or lifestyles, new inventions and medical advances are just some of the things that might prompt the need to change the law.
Sometimes laws can be amended, and sometimes new laws are made to replace older ones.
What is a bill?
A proposal for a new law is known as a bill. If Parliament passes (agrees to) a bill it becomes an Act of Parliament, which makes it an enforceable law. This is known as primary legislation.
Some laws can be changed through secondary legislation. Secondary legislation is used to make edits or small changes to an Act. An Act must say what changes can be made through secondary legislation and the process that must be followed.
On other occasions, new laws are made which overrule (repeal) and replace previous laws.
Where do bills come from?
Calls for a change in the law may come from an individual, a pressure group, businesses, charities, the medical profession, the police or lawyers. And while the government has the greatest say in which changes are actually proposed, it is the House of Commons and the House of Lords that pass or reject them.
There are various routes by which a bill can be introduced to Parliament. The government is allowed the majority of Parliament’s time for legislation, so most bills are first put formally forward by a government minister in the House of Commons. Before this, MPs and members of the public can provide feedback on documents called ‘green papers’, which encourage consultation on an idea, or ‘white papers’ which contain a draft bill.
Backbench MPs and members of the House of Lords can put forward a Private Member’s Bill – and while only some of these become law, they often start influential debates.
Are there different types of bill?
The majority of bills are public bills, which means they could affect the general public. These are most often introduced by the government. Public bills can also be put forward by individual backbench MPs and Members of the House of Lords, in which case they’re known as Private Members’ Bills. Some of Parliament’s time is set aside for the progress of Private Members’ Bills, so such bills have made important changes to the law.
While most bills are public bills, there is a separate category of private bills which only affect specific individuals, organisations or places. For example, a transport body might need a private Act to authorise the construction of a rail line. Hybrid bills are a combination – they are of national significance but will affect a specific group of people. HS2 and Crossrail are major transport projects which have required hybrid bills. Private bills and hybrid bills have similar stages to public bills, with the potential for fewer debates and opportunities for those affected to petition both houses.
In this video you will explore how UK Parliament makes laws. Watch how a bill is introduced in Parliament and learn about the different steps it must pass through in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it can become a law.
Use these resources to explore the process of making laws. Look in detail at the different steps as a bill progresses through both Houses in UK Parliament. Learn about when members of the House of Commons and House of Lords debate the the contents of a bill, how they can make amendments (changes) and what happens during ‘ping pong’.
You can also use these resources in your classroom.
What this looks like in your classroom:
Team up with another class to draft and amend each other’s bills. Students can draft bills about the issues which matter to them, debate ideas and vote on amendments. Use the PDF resources above to work your way through each stage of the bill. When your group is happy with their bill, send it to the other class so they can go through the same process. Replicate ping-pong until both classes agree on the final wording of the bill.
Second Reading Debate
Explore the journey of a bill in our interactive PDF resources, then hold your own second reading debate. Ask pupils to share an idea for a law with the class and then vote to choose one they would like to debate. Split the class in two – the government group can argue for and the opposition group can argue against. This is an excellent opportunity to practise persuasive oracy skills. Encourage students to listen to opposing arguments and include evidence or experience to add weight to their own responses.
After watching our video following the Ivory Act 2018, get pupils to research the journey of another law in a related area, such as the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019.