UK Politics

What is left for Parliament to do before the election?

Commons chamber Image copyright PA

The election is approaching fast and both Houses of Parliament have put in some short days recently.

Many MPs are spending a lot of time in their constituencies preparing to contest the most closely-fought and unpredictable election in decades.

As early as last year Labour taunted the government that this was a "zombie" Parliament, as much of the legislation in the coalition's programme from 2010 had already been passed.

The opposition has repeated the allegation many times since. MPs on the government side have hit back with claims that Labour has given up scrutinising bills properly.

But as MPs look to the final few weeks before the dissolution of the Parliament elected in 2010, there are still a few bills left to deal with.

Armed Forces (Services Complaints etc) Bill

A bill to improve and strengthen the service complaints system and enable payments to be made to charities and other organisations that support the Armed Forces across the UK.

The bill began in the the Lords and has passed all stages in the upper house. It is awaiting its Commons report stage at a date to be confirmed.

It is likely that the third reading will also be taken on the same day. As the bill is not particularly controversial it is likely to see royal assent before Parliament is dissolved.

Consumer Rights Bill

A bill overhauling consumer rights law, covering contracts for goods, services, digital content and the law relating to unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Consideration of Commons amendments in the Lords was on 24 February, so this will make it to the statute book.

Corporation Tax (NI) Bill

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The Stormont House Agreement was published after talks between political leaders in December

A bill to devolve powers to set the rate of corporation tax to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It was due to have its remaining Commons stages - report stage and third reading - on 4 March.

The devolution of powers to set the corporation tax rate was a key demand of political leaders ahead of the Stormont House Agreement finalised in Belfast last month.

It is still to go through the Lords but the government aims to pass the law before May's general election and Labour has not opposed it.

Deregulation Bill

The bill makes a number of changes which would affect business generally and in particular areas including decriminalising non-payment of the BBC licence fee.

All Commons stages are complete, while its third reading in the Lords is due on 4 March.

However, peers defeated the government during report stage, voting for there to be no move to decriminalise non-payment of the fee before 2017.

It remains to be seen if MPs will overturn this amendment and another game of ping pong will ensue.

A guide to bill stages in Parliament

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First reading - the bill's formal introduction, in which the name of the bill is read out but no debate takes place.

Second reading - a debate on the general principles of a bill.

Committee stage - detailed scrutiny of the bill, either in a committee of the whole House or in a public bill committee.

Report stage - consideration of the report of the bill committee and a further chance for MPs or peers to table amendments.

Third reading - final consideration of the amended bill as a whole. In the House of Lords, there is a final chance to table amendments.

Ping pong - if one House rejects the other's amendments, the bill goes back and forth between the lower and upper Houses until agreement is reached.

House of Commons Commission Bill

A bill concerning the membership and functions of the House of Commons Commission, which is responsible for the administration and services of the House of Commons.

This bill was fast-tracked through the Commons, with all stages on one day - 24 February.

After that, it will need the approval of peers.

International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill

This is a private members' bill, which would put into legislation a target of spending at least 0.7% of national income on aid.

It has passed its Commons stages and had its report stage in the Lords on 27 February.

Unlike most private members' bills, Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore's bill stands a good chance of becoming law.

Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Right Reverend Libby Lane was made Bishop of Stockport in January

The bill to allow women Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords had its committee stage in the upper House on 26 February.

It sailed through its Commons stages and its second reading in the Lords. Basically, its passage is guaranteed.

The first woman bishop has already been consecrated. The Right Reverend Libby Lane became Bishop of Stockport in January.

Pension Schemes Bill

Image copyright PA

The bill to give people greater flexibility in accessing their pension benefits and to help them make informed decisions about what to do with benefits is at the ping pong stage.

MPs considered Lords amendments on 24 February.

Recall of MPs Bill

The bill provides for a recall petition to be triggered if an MP is sentenced to a prison term or is suspended from the House for at least 21 sitting days.

It is due to have its third reading in the Lords on 2 March, having passed all stages in the Commons.

Serious Crime Bill

This bill started in the Lords and had its Commons report stage and third reading on 23 February, with the Lords due to consider any amendments made by MPs in March.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill

This bill aims to improve access to finance for businesses and individuals and also concerns public procurement and the regulatory provisions relating to business and certain voluntary and community bodies.

It has passed all stages in the Commons and has its Lords report stage on 3 March.

Transport for London Bill

This private bill, which applies to Transport for London and its subsidiaries, started in the House of Lords and had its Commons report stage on 26 February.

Private bills are usually promoted by organisations, like local authorities or private companies, rather than the government.

They are distinct from private members' bills which are promoted by individual MPs or peers.

And spare a thought for those that are likely to fall by the wayside.

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill

Image copyright HS2
Image caption An image from HS2 shows its proposed route over the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct

A bill which would confer powers to acquire land and to construct and operate phase one of HS2 - a high speed rail line from London to Birmingham.

This is a hybrid bill, which features aspects of a public bill and a private bill. This means it is of general application but it contains provisions which have a different legal effect on the private interests of particular persons.

The hybrid bill procedure gives those persons who are directly and specially affected an opportunity to petition against the bill and be heard in select committee.

Following the bill's second reading it was sent to a select committee and has remained there ever since.

The government has admitted that the legislation will not be passed before the general election.

Medical Innovation Bill

This is private members' bill sponsored by Conservative peer Lord Saatchi.

It has passed all stages in the Lords and had its Commons second reading scheduled for 27 February, although it was too low down the day's schedule for MPs to even begin debating it.

Even if the bill manages a second reading, it might struggle to progress further in the time left before Parliament dissolves.

It has also faced some passionate opposition from other MPs and peers.

Mutuals' Deferred Shares Bill

Conservative MP Jonathan Evans' private members' bill has already completed its journey through the House of Lords and has its Commons report stage on 6 March.

However, it is likely that no time will be left for a third reading.

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