What it takes for a Bill to be passed by Parliament
Article 79 of the constitution provides for the function areas that make parliament competent to make new laws, amend existing laws and repeal old laws. Laws normally come in form of a bill. A Bill is a draft piece of proposed legislation presented to the House for discussion before making it a law.
Rules of procedure of Parliament No 104 prescribes the form, publication and introduction of the bill to parliament as stipulated in article 94 of the constitution. There are two types of bills, a government bill which is moved by a government Minister and private members bill which is moved by any other member of parliament. The only unique feature between the two bills is in the drafting of the private members bill, where Rules of procedure No 111(2) provides for legal assistance by the Legal department of Government.
Parliament rules require a certificate of financial implication signed by the Minister of Finance showing specifically how it will be implemented to fit into the government programmes. It should also avail the source of financing, the total cost needed and how it will affect the existing budget.
In its progress a bill undergoes a number of stages before it becomes an Act of parliament. First and fore most the first reading which is mostly introduction of the bill. A member introduces a bill and in most cases provides copies for easy reference by other members. The clerk then reads the title of the Bill as stipulated under rule 108 and the bill is considered read for the first time. The bill is then sent to the appropriate committee for analysis before the second reading.
The committee responsible within a time frame of forty five days from the day the bill is read for the first time needs to report back to the house on the findings in regards to the bill. Any proposal to amend or to include new clauses shall be presented before the committee that will be scrutinized together with the bill and come up with a final report to the house.
The second reading is always moved by the Vice-President, Minister or private Member. At this stage the main principles, reasons and benefits of the bill as well as reviews of the most important clauses are outlined. The House will then proceed to receive the committee report as well as the opposition response and the debate is opened to other members and opposition parties.
When the house accepts and adopts the committee report then the bill is considered read for the second time. When a motion for a second reading is adopted, the house proceeds with the debate at the committee stage or fix another date for discussion. The Bill is examined in detail, considering one clause or sub clause at a time, agreed to, amended or rejected basing on the majority votes without altering the main principle of the bill.
This is when the speaker leaves the chair and assumes the chairmanship presiding over the committee of the whole house which includes all other members. (Thus a committee of the whole house). The process of passing the Bill Rule 23(1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament provides for the required quorum of parliament which is one third of all members of parliament entitled to vote.
In Sub-rule (2), it states that, ‘The quorum prescribed in sub-Rule (1) shall only be required at a time when Parliament is voting on any question’. One third of all MPs entitled to vote are 125 Members and therefore, in the case of passing of any bill a decision relies on this Rule. When the committee of the whole house has concluded its deliberations, it will report to the House that ‘the Committee has considered the Bill referred to it and agreed to the same with (or without) amendment and proceeds to the Third reading of the bill upon a motion.
The speaker will put a question that the Bill be read the Third time. Parliament at the final stage, passes the bill as an Act of Parliament, it is then sent to the president for assent where it becomes an Act of Uganda.