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Statutes
 
 
 
 
Statutes are also known as Acts of Parliament or legislation. Statutes are laws made by Parliament.  Parliament consists of two Chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. These Chambers, together with the Monarch, are responsible for making statutes. The House of Commons is made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) who are elected by the citizens of the UK. The House of Lords is currently made up of Life Peers, Hereditary Peers and senior Bishops of the Church of England. Prior to October 2009, Lords of Appeal in ordinary, (Law Lords, - senior judges from the House of Lords Judicial Committee) could also sit in the House of Lords Chamber of Parliament. However,  following amendments made in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, there is now a new Supreme Court which  replaced the House of Lords as the final appeal court. Consequently Law Lords will no longer sit in the House of Lords Chamber of Parliament and will therefore no longer have a role in statutory law making. Although by convention, Law Lords did not take part in debates of a political nature. The move of the Law Lords out of Parliament was to strengthen the Separation of Powers and removing the judicial arm of the state from the legislative process. Earlier reforms sought to remove the Hereditary Peers. Many of which have already been removed and they will eventually be phased out completely. You can see more on reforms of the House of Lords here.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
A Statute will begin as a Bill. There are three types of Bill:
 
 
 
Public Bills - These are introduced by the Government on matters of public policy which affect the country as a whole. Most statutes will start as a public Bill. Public Bills are often proceeded by Government Papers. A Green Paper, a consultative document, setting out the Government's intention to reform an area of law or introduce a new law. It will often give various options for implementing the policy. The Green Paper will invite responses from interested parties and set a deadline for receiving responses. Once the responses have been received the Government may then issue a White Paper setting a firm proposal of policy. This will often contain a draft Bill which will become a statute.
 
 
 
Private Bills - These are introduced by Local Authorities or large public companies. These do not affect the general public as a whole. Once introduced as a statute these will just affect those who introduced the Bill and those who use its services. Individuals or organisations may petition against such Bills if they object to their introduction. Private Bills broadly follow the same legislative process as Public Bills although there are some differences. A more detailed consideration of the different processes can be found here. 
 
 
Private Members' Bills - These are introduced by individual backbenchers (ie MPs who are not Government Ministers, or Lords). These can be introduced in the House of Commons either by the Ballot system, through the 10 minute rule or by presentation. See further here. Notable examples of Private Members' Bills include the Abortion Act of 1967 and the infamous Dangerous Dogs Act 1990.
 
 
 
 
The legislative process
 
 
 
Bills can be introduced into either the House of Commons or the House of Lords (except Finance Bills which must start in the Commons). The Minister responsible for introducing the Bill must a statement under s.19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 declaring whether the Bill, in their opinion, is either compatible or incompatible with the Rights conferred under the European Convention of Human Rights. The Bill then follows the following stages:
 
 
 
First Reading
 
The title of the Bill and its main aims are read out. This is generally a notification procedure announcing the date of the more important Second Reading where the main debates will take place.
 
 
 
Second Reading
 
The Bill is read in full. The main debate takes place on any controversial or contentious issues. Ammendments may be made at this stage. You can view on-line Parliamentary debates here. The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights will report on whether any Human Rights issues arise. After the debates the House will vote on whether to proceed.
 
 
 
The Committee Stage
 
The Bill will be subject to a clause by clause scrutiny by a Committee generally made up of 16-50 members. The Committee is generally selected for their expertise either on the subject matter of the Bill or their drafting experience. The Committee Stage is generally an exercise in eliminating drafting errors rather than looking at the policy matters behind the Bill. The Committee may propose amendments.
 
 
 
Report Stage  
 
The committee reports its findings to the House of origin. The proposed amendments are debated and there will be a vote on whether to accept the amendments.
 
 
 
Third Reading
 
The Bill is read in full. There will only be a debate at this stage if at least six MPs request it. A vote will take place as to whether the Bill should proceed.
 
If the Bill successfully passes all these stages it then proceeds to the alternative Chamber. If it started in the Commons it passes to the Lords and vice versa. 
 
Any ammendments made in the alternative House must be referred back to the House of origin to agree to the ammendments. This is known as Ping Pong.
 
 
Once the Bill successfully progresses through both Houses it then goes to:
 
 
 
Royal Assent
 
This is a formal procedure whereby the Queen signs the Bill and it formally becomes an Act of Parliament (a statute). Generally the newly created statute will contain a date for implementation shortly following Royal Assent. In some Acts, particularly lengthy Acts, the date for implementation may be some time after receiving Royal Assent to allow businesses, organisations and individuals to adapt and prepare for the changes. eg Human Rights Act of 1998 was implemented in Oct 2000 and many provisions in the Companies Act 2006 were not implemented until Oct 2008. Implementation dates are often set through secondary legislation.
 
 
 
 
You can find Bills currently before Parliament and track their progress here.
 
 
  
 
 
Parliament Acts 1911 & 1949
 
 
The Parliament Act 1911 removed the House of Lords' power of absolute veto over legislation. The Lords at most could delay a Bill for two years. The Parliament Act of 1949 reduced the delay period to one year. This power has not been used on many occasions.
 
 
 
Statutes passed without approval of the Lords under the 1911 Act:
 
  • Government of Ireland Act 1914
 
  • Welsh Church Act 1914
 
  • Parliament Act 1949
 
 
 
Statutes passed without approval of the Lords under the 1949 Act:
 
  • War Crimes Act 1991
 
  • European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999
 
  • Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2000
 
  • Hunting Act 2004
 
 
 
Following the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, the Countryside Alliance challenged the validity of the Parliament Act 1949 given that it had itself been passed without the approval of the Lords.  The case went to the House of Lords with no less than nine Law Lords hearing the appeal. The House of Lords unanimously confirmed the validity of the Parliament Act 1949.
 
 
 
 
Statutes