What it takes for a Bill to be passed by Par­lia­ment

By: Parliament Reporter

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.