top of page


All drafts of legislation - known as Bills - go through a scrutiny process that involves both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. For drafting convenience, we are here assuming that a  Bill would start its life in the House of Commons, and then goes to the House of Lords. But it could quite feasibly travel via the opposite route - and for the purposes of managing the process, it makes little difference.

All Bills go through the same steps in both Houses :

•    First Reading

•    Second Reading

•    Committee Stage (sometimes Grand Committee in the House of Lords)

•    Report Stage

•    Third Reading

•    Consideration of other House Amendments

•    Royal Assent


The route through the House of Commons

First Reading

This is normally a formality that takes just a few minutes. The short title of the Bill is read out on the floor of the House, an Order is made for it to be printed, and it is published for the first time.

The order in which Bills in a Queen’s Speech are selected for this process reflects the House Authorities’ view on the overall state of preparedness of the detailed content of it, and the ability of the Bill Team to make a prompt start on the more detailed stages of the Bill. 


Second Reading

This is the first opportunity that MPs have to debate the purpose of the Bill and the general principles that underpin it. That debate takes place on the floor of the House. 

The nature of Party based Parliamentary politics usually means that most Bills are vigorously contested by all parties, and the process is designed to reflect this adversarial reality.

It is customary therefore for the debate to be conducted along party political lines ; usually, it will be initiated by a Government Minister (or in some cases, by a sponsoring MP), who will make the case for it. In return, the relevant Opposition front-bench spokesman will respond. 

In the case of football governance, there should not be any assumption that the debate will run on traditional, adversarial Party lines - indeed, both of the main Parties are broadly in favour of the contents of the Crouch Review.  Opposition may be on the basis of constituency interest, or influenced by lobbying from interested groups, the most obvious ones being the EPL, but also possibly the FA and even UEFA.

Committee Stage

Ordinarily, there will be a minimum fourteen day delay between Second Reading and the beginning of Committee.

This is the real “meat” of the Parliamentary process, and in the House of Commons is carried out by a Committee convened especially for the purpose. That Committee will reflect the political composition of the House (with the Government having a majority) and may include MP’s who have a special interest in the subject. The more such MP’s there are, the more detailed the level of scrutiny and challenge is likely to be.

The Committee goes through the Bill, clause by clause, line by line, with a view to deciding whether - as drafted - it achieves the legislative effect intended. Prior to Committee starting, both Government and Opposition have the ability to propose amendments to the Bill.

For the DCMS Bill Team, this is the period of greatest risk and highest volume of work. If the Bill is in any way adversarial, or attracts concerted, organised opposition (from inside and outside Parliament), then those who oppose it may table a great many “wrecking” amendments that are designed to undermine the Bill or frustrate its purpose. Is is the Bill Team’s job to recognise such attempts, and advise the Minister accordingly, such that they are fought off. All amendments may potentially go to a vote.

Not all amendments tabled are hostile in nature. Some Committee members may genuinely try to improve the Bill, and the Government always has the option of suggesting amendments itself, if they are needed.

If the Bill is amended at Committee Stage, it is reprinted before it goes to the Report Stage.

Report Stage & Third Reading

In the House of Commons, these two stages of the process usually follow one another immediately as consecutive items of business on the same day. How long after the end of Committee they occur varies.

Report Stage is the final opportunity for MPs to examine the Bill and propose amendments to it. These may be pressed to a vote, if necessary. 

Third Reading follows immediately after. MPs are able to debate the Bill’s contents in general terms, but are not able to propose any further amendments. At the end of Third Reading, there is a vote to approve the Bill in its latest form. It is then sent to the House of Lords.

The route through the House of Lords


First Reading

As with the Commons, this is essentially a formality that reads the Bill Title into the record and allows for it to be published.

Second Reading

Again, the first opportunity for debate and usually takes place fairly shortly after First Reading.

Unlike in the Commons, in the Lords it is customary for their Lordships to indicate their desire to speak in the debate to the Speaker beforehand. It is a handy marker for DCMS of where the greatest input is likely to come from, and the aspects of the Bill that will attract the most  scrutiny at Committee stage. For a Bill of modest size, it is unlikely that this stage will take more than one day.

Committee Stage

In the Lords, this is typically around two weeks after Second Reading.

Again, it involves a line by line examination of the Bill, with a marshalled list of potential amendments being compiled by the House Authorities before Committee and then again before every subsequent session of it. 

There are two different ways in which the Committee of the Lords may be formed. If the Committee meets on the floor of the House, then all peers may attend and contribute.

Alternatively, a small group of peers may meet in Grand Committee in an alternative venue. This has the benefit of being less unwieldy, often quicker, and easier to control. However, the Grand Committee process requires the Committee to endorse the Bill unanimously, and thus is far more susceptible to wrecking or blocking tactics.

There is no time limit on Committee Stage in the Lords. When it is concluded, the Bill is reprinted, published and moves to Report Stage.

Report Stage

Typically, Report Stage follows around two weeks after Committee.

As with other stages, amendments to the bill can be tabled (and marshalled), they are debated on the floor of the House and all their Lordships may take part. Voting on amendments is common.

After Report Stage, the Bill moves to Third Reading. 

Third Reading

Unlike in the Commons, there is usually a gap between Report and Third Reading. 

The Third Reading stage in the Lords is also different in one crucial respect, which is that amendments can be tabled and voted on by peers.  This device is often used by the Government side, to tidy up the Bill and also make good on any political promises it may have made during the Bill’s passage through the Upper House.

This can have an impact on the length of the time gap between Report and Third Reading ; if the Government intends to table its own amendments, it will time Third Reading to take place when it is in a position to do so

Consideration of Amendments

Whichever route the Bill takes through both Houses, there is a strong possibility that it will be amended in some way in the second chamber that receives it ; and therefore the final stage is for the Bill to return to the first chamber that considered it, in order for that House to endorse (or otherwise) the changes that have been made.

The final stage for any Bill which gets through this stage is that it goes for Royal Assent, at which point the Bill becomes law, and takes force from whatever date is provided for on its face.

Not all the provisions in a Bill have to be commenced at the same time. In the case of a Regulator, the provisions that give it its main powers may come into effect on an agreed date in the future. Equally, powers that are useful in planning and organising itself to do its work may be commenced immediately. This could, for instance, include those provisions that allow it to hire staff, secure premises, carry out research and so on.

bottom of page