Posted: 11 February 2016

How does a bill become a law?

With the recent publication of the Policing and Crime Bill we’re calling on the Government to use this opportunity to strengthen the law for 16 and 17 year olds who are victims of sexual exploitation, we need your help more than ever.

We need you to help influence the passage of this Bill through parliament, by calling on your MP to attend events and voting for amendments in Parliament.

Of course we understand the way a bill becomes a law can sometimes be a bit confusing and complex, particularly if you have never encountered one before. It’s my job to advise The Children’s Society on how Parliament works and how we can best influence legislation as it passes through the Houses of Parliament and in this blog post I am going to explain to you how laws are made and how you can influence them.


How does a bill start?

Each year, around May, the Queen comes to Parliament, sits in the House of Lords and announces all the Bills the Government are going to be producing that year. It’s broadcast on BBC One and it’s how we know what laws the government are going to make over the next year.

The beginning

At some point in the year following the Queen’s Speech in May the Government will lay a bill in front of Parliament and announce the day it will be debated. This is how a bill starts its process to become an Act and is called a First Reading.

Once the government have published the Bill, we wait a couple weeks, usually two weekends, before we’ll have what’s called a Second Reading. This is where parliamentarians will debate the entirety of the Bill from the purpose of the Bill, to what’s in it, to what’s missing from it. No one can make any amendments to the Bill at this point but it is a good point to see what issues are getting traction with MPs.

Line by Line

After a general debate on the Bill, the government will set up a committee of about 16 MPs who will go through the Bill in detail, discussing each line of the Bill in detail. This is called Committee Stage and is where specific proposals within the Bill will get the most detailed debate.

MPs also get an opportunity to put down amendments to change or get rid of specific proposals or even whole sections of the Bill. Most amendments aren’t voted on at this stage and instead are used for probing but that doesn’t stop them being re-laid and voted on at another stage.

Changing the law

The Report Stage, is where the Committee Reports back to Parliament their views on the Bill and any changes they’ve made. This is another opportunity for MPs to make amendments to the Bill but these are usually the ones that are voted on. You can see the results of all votes and the voting record of your MP online.

Because the Government has a majority in the House of Commons they rarely lose votes. However, often the number of MPs that turn up to vote can help show the government the breadth of support for an issue and make them think again about some proposals.

After Report Stage we haveThird Reading which is the final opportunity to debate the bill before it heads over to the House of Lords to go through the same process of debating and amending as it’s just been through in the House of Commons.

With the Policing and Crime Bill now making it’s way through Parliament we’re calling for:

  • More powers for police to intervene early to stop sexual exploitation of vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds before it happens
  • A new offence for those who use alcohol and drugs to threaten, coerce and groom children
  • More consistent data collection by the police so that children get the same protection regardless of what police authority they live in
  • Better support for victims while their case is investigated and prosecuted to help them stay engaged and part of the process.

Please get involved now and ask your MP to support the Seriously Awkward campaign and help use the Policing and Crime Bill to change the law and protect 16 and 17 year olds.

TAKE ACTION

By Jake Mcleod - Policy team
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