Bill's rite of passage faces pitfalls

December 5, 1997

BY INTRODUCING the Teaching and Higher Education Bill in the House of Lords the government has left its legislation vulnerable to a major potential pitfall.

This is because bills introduced in the Lords do not attract the protection of the Parliament Act that governs the passage of proposed legislation through both the Lords and Commons.

Peers, many of whom are hostile to provisions in the bill, may reject it outright or object to one or more clauses. If the bill is thrown out the government can only reintroduce it with a different title or number.

If the peers object to certain clauses, the bill then goes to the Commons for consideration of any Lords' amendments. It is then put before the Lords a second time. The same can happen again and this to and fro between the two chambers continues until agreement is reached.

If the chambers fail to agree then the government could decide to drop the bill in favour of introducing it in the Commons. The bill then falls under the provisions of the Parliament Act. The bill would then make its way through its first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading in the Commons before going to the Lords.

Another rejection by the Lords would force the government to wait until the next session to reintroduce the same bill to the Lords. If rejected again the government could then invoke the Parliament Act, which would mean that on its return to the Commons it could pass the bill for Royal Assent without further delay.

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