As previously mentioned, the UK parliament is made up on the House of commons, the House of Lords and the Monarch.
The Role of Parliament
One of their main responsibilities are to check and challenge the work on the government. This is known as scrutinizing the governments work. They do this in for the form of debates on specific issues in their houses. They also have a chance to personally debate these issues with the Prime Minister on a Wednesday for 30 minutes. This also gives the opposition of government bills to challenge the proposed bill and the effects it will have on the UK.
Their Primary job is to create, amend and Repeal legislation as they see fit. In order to do this, they must follow the law-making procedure which will be discussed below.
Another key job of Parliament is to oversee government spending. The budged which is produced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (currently Philip Hammond), will propose a budget that Parliament will have to pass. This is usually fairly common place that it will be passed due to government having such a presence in the House of Commons, however the safeguard is in place.
The Law-Making Process
Before passing a Bill, there is always a pre-Bill stage. Public Bills are divided into government bills and Private Members Bills.
Government Bills are ones proposed by the government and already have a promising chance of being passed through parliament. Private members bills are in reference to the rest of the parliament who make up the opposition, and any other political parties and independent MP’s that won a seat in a general election.
A private member can propose a bill, and few every year will get selected by a Ballot. It is rare for these bills to go all the way through parliament, however some really important UK legislation was passed through this process, such as the Abortion Act. It sometimes is used for controversial issues that should be addressed. Political parties are sometimes unwilling to stand either side of the issue, as it will alienate parts of the electorate that they are so fixated on winning over to gain more seats in the HOC.
The majority of legislation that is passed is government bills. The government creates the key points of the legislation that they wish to be passed. This White Paper is then debated and scrutinised at a Select committee of MP’s and other experts. If it survives this scrutiny, it will be drafted completely and passed to the main body of the Legislative process, shown below.
- 1st Reading
- 2nd Reading
- Committee stage
- Report Stage
- 3rd Reading
- House of Lord Procedure
- Back and forth between houses making Amendments
- Royal Ascent
Bills can start the process in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Generally, more important Laws will start in the House of Commons, and the House of Lords will work on the rest.
At the first stage, the head MP of the Bill, will read out the draft in parliament. It will not be discussed at this time.
During the second reading, MP’s will debate and scrutinize the Bill. Amendments may be made before it is passed to the Committee stage.
The Committee stage is where MP’s involved in the issue, along with any experts, individuals or groups that will be affected by the laws creation, are collected to once again debate and scrutinize the legislation. Parliament is under no obligation to listen to the experts; however, they should consult all those involved in the issue.
The Report stage is where the amended Bill are relayed to the House.
They are then again discussed and debated in the 3rd reading. They will then have a vote on whether the legislation should pass any further. If it is passed it will go to the House of Lords (or House of Commons if it started in the HOL) who will go through the same process. The House of Lords will go through the statute line by line and scrutinize the wording of the Bill.
It may then go back and forth between the HOC and HOL making amendments until both Houses agree, which is known as the ping pong process.
Once agree, the Bill will be passed the Monarch who will, by convention, give Royal Ascent to the Bill, enacting it into UK Law. All that is left is it to be written onto the Official Roll.
The Parliament Act 1911 and 1949
These acts have been subject to much critical debate. The Acts allow the House of Commons, after 1 year of delay from the House of Lords, to pass legislation. It took away the HOL power to Veto to only delay. This power has been used to pass such Laws and the War Damages Act and the Hunting Act. The 1949 Parliament Act was created by way of the 1911 Act which has been highly criticized as it was giving themselves more power by the power granted to themselves 38 years earlier. The courts discussed the 1949’s validity in the Jackson case, in relation to the validity of the Hunting Act. Arguing that if the 1949 act was invalid because it was a product of its own power, then so would the legislation that was enacted by way of that 1949 Act. This failed and only enforced the supremacy of Parliament, and the Elected House of Commons to make whatever laws they wish.
Post Legislative Scrutiny
Legislation can only really be judges as being successful if it works in practice after the law comes into force in the UK. There are certain ways in which legislation can be criticized after it has been enforcing in order to lead to it being amended.
The general presumption is that nobody or person can question the validity of the Act in question. However, if there is strong support from the electorate against the Legislation, they will vote for the Party or the MP’s who are also against the legislation. This concept is oversimplified but is a key principle of democracy in the UK.
This has been debated by many Legal experts. Lord styne believes Nuremburg takes the view that parliament Legilsation can never be invalidated or challenged. However Lord Hope takes the view that if legislation is contrary to the Rule of Law, it may be challenged.