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How a Bill goes through the Northern Ireland Assembly to become a law

In order to become a law, a bill goes through up to 6 stages of debate, discussion and examination.

  1. First Stage
  2. Second Stage
  3. Committee Stage
  4. Consideration Stage
  5. Final Stage
  6. Royal Assent

Decorative image of the 6 stages of a bill described in the article below


A a proposal for a new law is called a bill and can be brought forward by Ministers, Committees or individual MLAs. All bills have to be passed by the Assembly before they become laws.


First Stage

The First Stage is a brief announcement in the Assembly Chamber by the bill sponsor that the bill has been introduced. Usually the sponsor is a Minister, but increasingly it may be a MLA who has put forward the bill. When the bill is sponsored by a Minister it’s called an Executive bill. When the sponsor is a MLA it’s called a Private Members’ bill.

 

Second Stage

Once the bill has been introduced, it will be scheduled for Second Stage. During the Second Stage all MLAs have a chance to debate the bill’s general principles. The sponsor will lead the debate and then all Members will have a chance to comment.

At the end of that debate MLAs will vote on whether they approve of the general principles. If they do, the bill then goes to the appropriate committee for closer examination.

 

Committee Stage

During this stage a committee will ask for comments on the bill from the public and others who have an interest in the issues covered by the bill. The committee can also take evidence (gather information) from groups and individuals who have expertise in the issues dealt with in the bill.

At the end of the Committee Stage, the committee members—all MLAs from the various parties—consider each part of the the bill, write a report for the Assembly and may recommend changes to the bill. These are called amendments.

Committee Stage is a very important part of the law making process. A committee takes time to thoroughly investigate all of the issues in a bill, the impacts on communities, businesses and others. This stage can last a number of months.

 

Consideration Stage

During Consideration Stage individual MLAs can suggest amendments to the proposed bill. They debate and vote in the Assembly Chamber on each amendment to decide whether it should be included in the final bill.

They then get a second chance to make amendments during the Further Consideration Stage. Just like at Consideration Stage, MLAs debate and vote on the amendments proposed.

 

Final Stage

At Final Stage, the whole bill, as amended, is discussed one final time and MLAs vote on whether or not it should become law. If the majority of MLAs vote in favour, the bill is passed.

 

Royal Assent

Once passed the bill goes to the Secretary of State who presents it for Royal Assent. Once this is granted, the bill becomes a law in Northern Ireland.

 

Bills that have become law 2017 to 2022

You can see all the laws passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly between 2017 and 2022 by following this link.

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