A bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a
legislature A legislature is an assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. They are often contrasted with the executive and judicial powers of government. Laws enacted by legislatures are usually know ...
. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature as well as, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an '' act of the legislature'', or a '' statute''. Bills are introduced in the legislature and are discussed, debated and voted upon.


The word ''bill'' is primarily used in Anglophone United Kingdom and United States, the parts of a bill are known as ''clauses'', until it has become an act of parliament, from which time the parts of the law are known as ''sections''. In Napoleonic law nations (including
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Pac ...
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a small land ...
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = '' Plus ultra'' (Latin)(English: "Further Beyond") , national_anthem = (English: "Royal March") , ...
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a country whose mainland is located on the Iberian Peninsula of Southwestern Europe, and whose territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the ...
), a proposed law may be known as a "law project" (Fr. ''projet de loi''), which is a government-introduced bill, or a "law proposition" (Fr. ''proposition de loi''), a private member's bill. For example the Dutch parliamentary system does not make this terminological distinction (''wetsontwerp'' and ''wetsvoorstel'' being used interchangeably).


Bills generally include
title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted between the f ...
s, enacting provisions, statements of intent,
definition A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term (a word, phrase, or other set of symbols). Definitions can be classified into two large categories: intensional definitions (which try to give the sense of a term), and extensional defi ...
s, substantive provisions, transitional clauses, and dates which the bill will be put into effect. The preparation of a bill may involve the production of a draft bill prior to the introduction of the bill into the legislature. In the United Kingdom, draft bills are frequently considered to be confidential. Pre-legislative scrutiny is a formal process carried out by a parliamentary committee on a draft bill. In Parliament of India, the draft bill is sent to individual ministry relating to the matter. From there the bill goes to
Ministry of Law and Justice (India) The Ministry of Law and Justice in the Government of India is a cabinet ministry which deals with the management of the legal affairs, legislative activities and administration of justice in India through its three departments namely the Legi ...
and then is passed on to Cabinet committee which is headed by
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. Under those systems, a prime minister is ...
. Pre-legislative scrutiny is required in much of Scandinavia, occurs in Ireland at the discretion of the Oireachtas (parliament) and occurs in the UK at the government's discretion. In the Parliament of Ireland under Poynings' Law (1494–1782) legislation had to be pre-approved by the Privy Council of Ireland and Privy Council of England, so in practice each bill was substantively debated as "heads of a bill", then submitted to the privy councils for approval, and finally formally introduced as a bill and rejected or passed unamended.


In the Westminster system, where the executive is drawn from the legislature and usually holds a majority in the lower house, most bills are introduced by the executive ( government bill). In principle, the legislature meets to consider the demands of the executive, as set out in the Queen's Speech or ''Speech from the Throne''. While mechanisms exist to allow other members of the legislature to introduce bills, these are subject to strict timetables and usually fail unless a consensus is reached. In the US system, where the executive is formally separated from the legislature, all bills must originate from the legislature. Bills can be introduced using the following procedures: *Leave: A motion is brought before the chamber asking that leave be given to bring in a bill. This is used in the British system in the form of the '' Ten Minute Rule'' motion. The legislator has 10 minutes to propose a bill, which can then be considered by the House on a day appointed for the purpose. While this rule remains in place in the rules of procedure of the US Congress, it is seldom used. *Government motion: In jurisdictions where the executive can control legislative business a bill may be brought in by
executive fiat Executive ( exe., exec., execu.) may refer to: Role or title * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief executive officer (CEO), one of the highest-ranking corporate officers (executives) or administrators ** Executive di ...

Legislative stages

Bills are generally considered through a number of readings. This refers to the historic practice of the clerical officers of the legislature reading the contents of a bill to the legislature. While the bill is no longer read, the motions on the bill still refer to this practice.


India India, officially the Republic of India ( Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the ...
, for a law to be made it starts off as a bill and has to go through various stages: # There will be "first reading" of the bill where minister takes leave from the house and introduces title and objectives of the bill. Here, no discussion or voting takes place. And then the bill is published in Gazette of India. # After this there is a "second reading" of the bill, where the bill receives its final shape. # The bills first go through the 'stage of general discussion' where the bill is referred to select committee/ joint committee for detailed scrutiny through a motion. # Under 'committee stage' the bill is scrutinized in detail in the committee and a report is submitted in the respective house. # Under 'consideration stage' the bill is discussed in detail in the house and is voted upon. # Then under "third reading" the bill is voted upon as a whole and if majority of the house present and voting favours the bill, then the bill is considered passed and is authenticated by presiding officer. # The bill is then passed to the other house for its consideration. # And if both houses agree, the bill reaches the
President President most commonly refers to: * President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university * President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese f ...
where he can assent, withhold assent, return for consideration and can also sit on the bill.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, for a new law to be made it starts off as a bill and has to go through the seven stages of the legislative process: first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage, third reading, opposite house, and then royal assent. A bill is introduced by a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative in parliament of the people who live in their electoral district. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this term refers only to members of the lower house since upper house members of ...
(MP) in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. ...
or by a member of the
House Of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminst ...
. There will be a first reading of the bill, in which the proposition in the bill is read out, but there is minimal discussion and no voting. After this there is a second reading of the bill, in which the bill is presented in more detail and it is discussed between the MPs or Lords. The third stage is the committee stage, in which a committee is gathered. This may include MPs, Lords, professionals and experts in the field, and other people who the bill may affect. The purpose of this stage is to go into more detail on the bill and gather expert opinions on it (e.g. teachers may be present in a committee about a bill that would affect the education system) and amendments may be brought. After this is the report stage, in which the entire house reviews any and all changes made to the bill since its conception and may bring further amendments. The fifth stage is the third reading of the bill, in which the full bill is read out in the house along with all amendments and is given final approval by the House. The next stage is where the bill is handed over to the opposite house for approval. (If it started in the House of Commons it will be handed to the House of Lords and vice versa.) Here the bill will go through the exact same process as before, with amendments able to be brought. If amendments are brought the bill will again be handed to the opposite house, going through the same process, which repeats until both houses arrive at an agreement on the bill. (In the rare circumstance that the two houses cannot agree, the House of Commons has the final say as it is an elected body, whereas the House Of Lords is not). Once the bill is finalized, it will move to the final stage,
royal assent Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature, either directly or through an official acting on the monarch's behalf. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in oth ...
, when the monarch signs or otherwise signifies approval for the bill to become law. Theoretically, the monarch could refuse assent to a bill, but no monarch has done so since Queen Anne in 1708, and the royal veto has fallen into disuse. Once the assent is granted, the law comes into effect at the date and time specified within the act; if this is not specified within the act, it comes into effect at midnight on the same day it is granted royal assent.

Enactment and after

Where a piece of primary legislation is termed an act, the process of a bill becoming law may be termed enactment. Once a bill is passed by the legislature, it may automatically become law, or it may need further approval, in which case enactment may be effected by the approver's
signature A signature (; from la, signare, "to sign") is a Handwriting, handwritten (and often Stylization, stylized) depiction of someone's name, nickname, or even a simple "X" or other mark that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and ...
or proclamation.


Bills passed by the legislature usually require the approval of the head of state such as the monarch, president, or governor to become law. The refusal of such an approval is typically known as a ''
veto A veto is a legal power to unilaterally stop an official action. In the most typical case, a president or monarch vetoes a bill to stop it from becoming law. In many countries, veto powers are established in the country's constitution. Veto p ...
''. Exceptions are the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between th ...
from the abolition of the Governor-General in December 1936 to the creation of the office of
President President most commonly refers to: * President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university * President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese f ...
in December 1937, and
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
from its formation until today, during which period bills approved by the Oireachtas and
Knesset The Knesset ( he, הַכְּנֶסֶת ; "gathering" or "assembly") is the unicameral legislature of Israel. As the supreme state body, the Knesset is sovereign and thus has complete control of the entirety of the Israeli government (with ...
respectively became/become law immediately (though, in Israel's case, the laws are ceremonially signed after their passage by the President). In parliamentary systems, approval of the head of state is normally a formality since the head of state is a ceremonial figurehead. The exercise of the veto is considered a reserve power and is typically only used in rare circumstances, and the legislature can usually override the veto by a simple majority vote. However, in most cases, the executive - a cabinet of Ministers responsible to parliament - takes a veto by the head of state into account. In
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government, typically with the title of president, leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch in systems that use separati ...
s, the head of state is also the chief executive, and the need to receive approval can be used as a political tool by them. The legislature is only able to override the veto by means of a supermajority vote. In some jurisdictions, a bill passed by the legislature may also require approval by a constitutional court. If the court finds the bill would violate the
constitution A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these prin ...
it may annul it or send it back to the legislature for correction. In Ireland, the President has discretion under Article 26 of the Constitution to refer bills to the Supreme Court. In Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court has discretion to rule on bills. Some bills may require approval by
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct vote by the electorate on a proposal, law, or political issue. This is in contrast to an issue being voted on by a representative. This may result in the adoption o ...
. In Ireland this is obligatory for bills to amend the constitution; it is possible for other bills via a process that has never been used.


A bill may come into force as soon as it becomes law, or it may specify a later date to come into force, or it may specify by whom and how it may be brought into force; for example, by ministerial order. Different parts of an act may come into force at different times. An act is typically promulgated by being published in an official gazette. This may be required on enactment, coming into force, or both.

Numbering of bills

Legislatures give bills numbers as they progress.

United States

In the United States, all bills originating in the House of Representatives begin with "H.R." and all bills originating from the Senate begin with an "S.". Every two years, at the start of odd-numbered years, the United States Congress recommences numbering from 1, though for bills the House has an order reserving the first 20 bill numbers and the Senate has similar measures for the first 10 bills. Joint resolutions also have the same effect as bills, and are titled as "H. J. Res." or "S. J. Res." depending on whether they originated in the House or Senate, respectively. This means that two different bills can have the same number. Each two-year span is called a ''congress'', tracking the terms of Representatives elected in the nationwide biennial House of Representatives elections, and each congress is divided into year-long periods called ''sessions''.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, for example, the Coroners and Justice Act in 2009 started as Bill 9 in the House of Commons. Then it became Bill 72 on consideration by a
public bill committee In the British House of Commons, public bill committees (known as standing committees before 2006) consider Bills – proposed Acts of Parliament. The House of Lords does not have such committees, as Bills are usually considered by the House as ...
; after that it became House of Lords Bill 33. Then it became House of Lords Bill 77, returned to the House of Commons as Bill 160, before finally being passed as Act 29. Parliament recommences numbering from one at the beginning of each session. This means that two different bills may have the same number. Sessions of parliament usually last a year. They begin with the State Opening of Parliament, and end with Prorogation.


In the Irish Oireachtas, bills are numbered sequentially from the start of each calendar year. Bills originating in the Dáil and Seanad share a common sequence. There are separate sequences for public and private bills, the latter prefixed with "P". Although acts to amend the constitution are outside the annual sequence used for other public acts, bills to amend the constitution are within the annual sequence of public bills.


In the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
, all bills passed into law, regardless of whether they were introduced in the
House of Representatives House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the corresponding upper house often ca ...
or the Senate, are numbered sequentially beginning with the first Republic Act that became law on July 15, 1946. There have been 11,646 Republic Acts as of January 21, 2022. All Laws passed by Congress, once given Presidential Assent become law and are given a sequential number and are prefixed with "Republic Act" or "R.A." for short. They are also given a secondary sequential number by the chamber they are introduced in. Aforementioned numberings restart every 3 years after the formation of a new Congress.

See also

Legislation Legislation is the process or result of enrolling, enacting, or promulgating laws by a legislature, parliament, or analogous governing body. Before an item of legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill, and may be broadly referred to ...
* List of legislatures by country ''(most legislature articles have information on their processes)'' * Resolution (law) * White paper * Bill (United States Congress) *
Procedures of the United States Congress Procedures of the United States Congress are established ways of doing legislative business. Congress has two-year terms with one session each year. There are rules and procedures, often complex, which guide how it converts ideas for legislation ...
* Private bill


External links

Hong Kong

Bills Committees of the Legislative Council


The Indian Constitution


How laws are made

Find bills and acts
(since 1922; partial)
(since 1997; complete)

New Zealand

Parliamentary Counsel Office—Terminology: What are Acts, Bills, regulations, and Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs)?

List of current bills

United Kingdom

*UK Parliament Guide
Passage of a Bill
*BBC Parliament Guide:
Making new law

Types of bill

Bill procedure

First reading

Second reading

Commons committee stage

Lords committee stage

Report stage

Third reading

Passage through the other House

Royal assent

Delegated legislation

United States

Government 101: How a bill becomes a law
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Federal legislation
at GovTrack
How a law is made
at the North Carolina General Assembly {{Authority control Statutory law Legislatures