Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondDifferent types of parliamentary Bill. A Bill is a proposal for a new law or a proposal to change an existing law. There are three types of Bill. Public Bills are the most common and can begin their journey in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. They relate to laws affecting the general population. There are two types of Public Bill, either a government Bill that is introduced by a government minister or a Private Member's Bill, which is introduced by an individual MP or a member of the House of Lords. You can have your say on Public Bills by writing to your MP or to the relevant Public Bill Committee.

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 secondsYou can also contact a relevant member of the House of Lords or the government department responsible for the Bill. Private Bills are usually promoted by organisations like local authorities or public bodies when they want Parliament to allow them to do something that they don't normally do. Private Bills only change the law as it applies to specific individuals or organisations, rather than the general public. Groups or individuals potentially affected by these changes can petition Parliament against the proposed Private Bill. Occasionally, a Bill affects the public at large but also affects certain individuals in particular. These are known as Hybrid Bills.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsAn example of a Hybrid Bill would be the Bill to set up high speed rail links in the UK, which significantly affects those homeowners living along the proposed route. Find out more about the different types of Bills at www.parliament.uk/billtypes.

Making or changing the law: Bills and Acts

A proposal for a new law is known as a Bill. If Parliament approves a Bill it becomes an Act of Parliament – but why do we need to make changes to the law and what different types of Bill are there? In this section we will also explain what a Bill looks like.

Why do we need new laws?

We live in a society that is constantly evolving. Changes in attitude and lifestyles, new inventions and medical advances are just some of the things that might prompt the need to create a completely new law or make changes to existing laws.

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 suggesting new laws, and may wish to pursue a particular policy agenda, it is the House of Commons and the House of Lords that pass, alter, or reject them.

Different types of Bill

This week we will be focusing on a type of Bill known as a Public Bill.

The vast majority of Bills that come before Parliament are Public Bills which change the law as it applies to the general population. Parliament devotes most of its time in each parliamentary session debating and scrutinising Public Bills put forward by the Government.

These Government Bills are more likely than other Bills to make progress because more time is allocated for them, and – although significant changes may be made to them before they are passed – they will normally receive Royal Assent and become law.

Backbenchers’ Bills, also known as Private Members’ Bills, are Public Bills put forward by other MPs or Lords (backbenchers). They are far greater in number but only a handful of these will progress beyond their first stages as very little time is set aside for them. We cover these types of Bills later in the week.

The other types of Bill that come before Parliament are Private Bills and Hybrid Bills. These Bills are fewer in number and are subject to different procedures in Parliament and, unlike Public Bills which must normally be passed within a single session, they can take many years to complete their stages and become law.

A Private Bill only changes the law as it applies to certain organisations or specific individuals. For example, a change to the management of Transport for London (TfL) would be a Private Bill that could, very specifically, change the legal powers of that individual organisation.

A Hybrid Bill mixes characteristics of both Public and Private Bills. They affect the general public but also have a significant impact for specific individuals or groups. For example, legislation around the infrastructure of a new train line could affect both the general public and individuals/businesses living or working on land proposed for development of the track.

What does a Bill look like?

Bills vary enormously in size and scope but all must conform to a set format, and include:
• A short title – by which the Bill is generally known. This includes the parliamentary session in which the Bill was introduced and
• A long title – which conveys the purpose and the scope of the Bill

For example

Short title: Childcare Bill 2015-16
Long title: A Bill to make provision about free childcare for young children of working parents and about the publication of information about childcare and related matters by local authorities in England.

The provisions of the Bill are then arranged into separate Clauses which are numbered in sequence. Larger Bills may be further subdivided into Parts. There will often be a number of Schedules at the end which flesh out the detail of particular Clauses in the Bill.

Bills are drafted by a team of specialist lawyers who ensure that words and terms are used precisely and consistently to avoid ambiguity and any possible misinterpretation.

If members of Parliament want to make a change to a Bill they do this by proposing that words be removed, replaced or added to the text, known as ‘tabling’ an amendment or a New Clause.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to the UK Parliament: People, Processes and Public Participation

Houses of Parliament

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: