Acts and Bills
The UK Parliament passes a variety of Acts every year that affect Wales. The extent to which Acts passed in Westminster effect Wales varies from Act to Act. Some Acts relate to all four nations of the UK, some just England and Wales. Changes to the powers of the National Assembly for Wales introduced through the Government of Wales Act 2006, are enabling the Assembly to legislate on more matters. Because of this there may be a decrease in the extent to which certain Acts apply to Wales.
Some subject areas are not devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. These include justice, courts, benefits and taxation. Acts that relate largely to these areas tend to cover Wales.
How Bills pass through Parliament
Before an Act becomes law it is known as a Bill. Bills of general affect are referred to as Public Bills and may be either introduced into Parliament by a Government Minister or by a backbench MP. Bills introduced by backbench MPs are called Private Members Bills. Bills may be introduced into either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Due to time constraints, only a limited number of Private Members Bills are introduced into the House of Commons each year.
Once introduced into Parliament a Bill has to pass through various stages. The following example shows the passage of a Bill introduced into the House of Commons, however if a Bill is introduced into the House of Lords the process is the same but the House of Commons stages must all be swapped with the House of Lords stages and visa versa.
House of Commons
- First Reading – this formally introduces the Bill to the House but it is not debated at this stage
- Second Reading – this is the opportunity to fully debate the Bill in the House
- Committee Stage – Bills referred to committee for clause by clause examination and amendments to them proposed. There are different types of Committee in Westminster through which this stage may take place
- Report Stage – Following the discussion of the Bill in Committee the Committee reports its decision for consideration by the whole House
- Third Reading – This often takes place straight after the Report Stage and is an opportunity for the whole House to discuss the Bill in its current form
House of Lords
- First Reading – the Bill is formally introduced to the House of Lords
- Second Reading – the House of Lords has an opportunity to fully debate the Bill
- Committee Stage – the Bill is considered by a Committee in the House of Lords
- Report Stage – the Committee reports its decisions on the Bill for consideration by the whole House
- Third Reading – Another opportunity for the whole House to discuss the Bill in its current form. In the House of Lords amendments may be made at this stage
- Agreement by both Houses – after completing its passage through both Houses the Bill has to be agreed in its current form by the House of Commons (or House of Lords if it started in the Lords), This is to ensure that both Houses agree on any amendments made before the Bill gains Royal Assent. Sometimes Bill contains contentious amendments and may pass between the Houses many times before agreement is reached. If agreement is not reached at all then the Bill will be lost.
- Royal Assent – once a Bill has completed all the stages it received Royal Assent from the Queen and becomes an Act
Subordinate Legislation in Westminster
Westminster also has the powers to make subordinate legislation in areas that are not devolved to the National Assembly for Wales.