Election Glossary

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Act of Parliament

An Act of Parliament is a piece of primary legislation which has been passed into law by Parliament. Acts of Parliament are also called statutes, and constitute the main source of law in the UK.

Acts of Parliament begin their lives as draft pieces of legislation called bills. When a bill is first introduced into parliament, usually into the House of Commons, it must pass through the following stages before it becomes an Act of Parliament:

Passage of a Bill 

First reading - an informal reading of the title of the bill and a brief outline of its contents
Second reading - the bill is debated in more detail
Committee stage - the bill is scrutinised by a ‘select committee’ made up of a small number of MPs
Report stage - the bill is read out again in parliament and amendments may be proposed
Third reading - the final text of the bill is debated

The bill must pass through all of these stages in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Once a bill has been passed by the House of Commons, the House of Lords may propose amendments which the House of Commons can accept or refuse. Once both houses of parliament have passed the bill, it must receive royal assent from the monarch before finally becoming an Act of Parliament.

See also: Parliament, Parliamentary Sovereignty


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