An excellent membership attendance enjoyed an afternoon of SLLG business, learning about the legislative processes of the UK Parliament and homemade cakes from our own top baking Secretary at our 2016 AGM.
Many members complimented the choice of venue this year, which was the Quaker meeting house in Edinburgh. The venue was centrally located in Edinburgh, of good size, amply equipped and accommodating to our needs.
Convenor Debra welcomed everyone as she opened the group business part of the afternoon.
Debra presented her convenor’s report for 2015, listing the activities and work undertaken. Debra took the opportunity to officially minute her appreciation to all who helped: those who kindly gave up time, volunteered venue spaces and generously gifted sponsorships.
Debra added her own wish, too, that all members will be encouraged in themselves to be active in the SLLG. From taking a lead role in a discussion or arranging a tour, through to writing for our blog or simply attending the events the SLLG put on, the message was aspirational for members to use the SLLG: get involved, continue to develop professionally and support one another.
If a member would like to do something for other SLLG members, please feel free to talk to the committee. All sorts of support and advice can be provided.
Kelly gave a run-through of the presented group accounts, which were accepted without query, before Debra announced some committee changes for 2016.
Kelly, committee member for 4 years and Treasurer for the requisite 3, has stepped down from the committee.
Lissie, committee member for 1 year, has stepped down from the committee as she pursues a career in law with our best wishes for her success.
Debra, herself, demits the office of Convenor, only to immediately take up office as Treasurer.
Alison, as the committee nomination to take office as Convenor in 2016, was heartily ratified by the membership in the hall.
The committee is also pleased to have a new committee member. Rona from Pinsent Masons was welcomed onto the committee.
This leaves 2 seats vacant on the committee. The committee cannot run as strong a group itinerary when not at full strength. Anyone interested in taking up one of the seats should get in touch with a current committee member.
With no further business from the committee to discuss or offered from the hall, Debra closed the business meeting as her final act of her convenorship.
All office reports and 2016 AGM business papers remain accessible by members through the group website (under Member Papers).
‘UK Parliament and the Law’ – Gary Hart, Senior Community Outreach and Engagement Officer, House of Parliament.
Gary’s talk on legislative procedure at Westminster was very informative; even those of us who thought they knew enough about legislation learned a fair bit more, and had questions to ask.
Gary kicked off with a couple of interesting facts:
- The House of Lords is the second biggest legislature in the world.
- Most legislation spends most of its time in the House of Lords as the Lords don’t have constitutional responsibilities and can therefore dedicate more time to it.
And below are some of the key points of his talk.
As well as bills introduced by the ruling government, any MP can introduce a private member’s bill. This can be through a ballot at the start of the parliamentary session which permits 20 names to be picked out and given parliamentary debating time for their bill. Or there is also the 10 minute rule which allows members to suggest a bill and talk about it for 10 minutes to try to gain support for it to be put forward. however, most MPs use this merely as a platform for raising awareness rather than having a realistic expectation of their bill progressing.
Bills may start in either House.
A bill’s first reading is simply that, it’s only at the second reading stage that MPs get to discuss the bill and vote on whether it should proceed. The second reading process is slightly different in the House of Lords in that any peers wishing to speak about the bill must register on the list of speakers first.
Bill Committees are proportionate in party make-up to that of the House of Commons. The Committee stage in each House differs slightly. In the Commons it is held in a separate room, but in the Lords it is held in the main chamber. Time limits apply to this stage in the House of Commons – they set ‘internal knives’ and when they are out of time they say ‘the knife has fallen’. The House of Lords Committee stage doesn’t need time limits. In the Commons, a regular MP acts as the Committee speaker.
At the third reading in the House of Commons, there can be no amendments to the text of the bill, but this is again not the case in the House of Lords. If the House of Lords amends a Bill after the House of Commons Third reading it must go back to the House of Commons for approval. Sometimes bills pass back and forth in this way, and this stage is known by the highly technical term “ping-pong”. If the House of Lords refuses to agree, the bill ceases to progress for a period of one year. It then gets re-introduced a year later for passing undebated and unopposed.
A bill isn’t classed as “passed” until it receives Royal Assent. Provisions coming into force upon Royal Assent are usually midnight at the start of the day of Royal Assent.
Some Bills have special procedures eg the Finance Bill can only be amended in the House of Commons.
For Statutory Instruments, there are three committees which can scrutinise it and report to the Houses if necessary. They are passed by affirmative or negative resolution in Parliament. Some people complain about the lack of democracy in the passing of so much legislation in this way, but there simply isn’t the time or facility to do it any other way as there is so much of it.
Select committees are playing an increasingly important part in legislation. Members are chosen by all fellow members of the House (it used to be the party whips who selected the members and therefore they weren’t seen as independent/transparent).
Lastly, we looked at the process for EVEL legislation (English votes for English laws). Before a bill starts the Committee stage, the House of Commons Speaker decides if it applies to England, or England and Wales only, and gives it a certificate if so. The Committee will then contain only MPs from the relevant constituencies. There are then three extra stages that a bill can go through after Report stage – Legislative Grand Committee, Reconsideration and Consequential Consideration. Whether a bill needs to go through all these stages depends on decisions made during its progress. If the Lords make an amendment, it goes to a vote and a majority of all MPs, then a majority of all English and/or English and Welsh MPs must agree to it which is known as a ‘double majority’ division.