Although the focus in Westminster last week was on the Prime Minister’s honesty, or lack of it, in fact it has been a busy couple of weeks for legislation.

There is a looming deadline: at some point at the end of April, exact date to be determined, the Parliamentary year will end, with the new year starting with the State Opening of Parliament on May 10th. That’s when the Sovereign comes to Parliament to read the Queen’s Speech, written by the government to outline their programme for the coming year.

So before that, all existing bills must be agreed – although some will have a “carry-over clause” meaning they can be paused and re-introduced in the next session.

Every bill before Parliament must be agreed by both Houses, before going for final sign-off by Her Majesty – Royal Assent.

Some less controversial bills will start in the Lords but most go to the Commons first. They follow the same process in each House, which includes a formal introduction, a general debate on the bill, then committee stage with its detailed line-by-line consideration; and which with report stage is where you can amend the bill; and finally another debate and vote on the whole final version.

The key is, the same text has to be agreed by both houses. So once a bill goes to the Lords, if they amend it, then it gets sent back to the Commons for them to agree or reject the Lords’ changes.

The two chambers face each other at either end of the Palace of Westminster, and if all the doors are open, the Speaker at one end of the Commons can see the Throne at the far end of the Lords.

And bills are formally carried by clerks, dressed in gowns and wigs like barristers, walking from one chamber to the other to be formally handed over, while staff and public are told to stand out of the way with the cry “message from the Lords!”

In the last couple of weeks the Commons has been considering Lords amendments. One night last week we had twelve votes on the bounce, with each voting taking about fifteen minutes (longer when some of the electronic card readers for recording the voting broke down in the voting lobby!)

My side agreed with the Lords amendments but the government won the votes sending all the bills back to the Lords, in a process known as ping-pong. Eventually the Lords will concede to the elected House, and when all bills are agreed the government can prorogue Parliament until State Opening.

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