Second Reading

A debate on the Second Reading of a Bill is a debate on its general principles (on the motion ‘that the Bill be now read a Second time).

It is normally held at least two weeks after the introduction of the Bill at First Reading.

The Government Minister, or Member of Parliament, responsible for the Bill opens the debate by outlining the Bill’s provision and making the case for its passage. If an Opposition Party or Member of Parliament wishes to oppose the Bill’s Second Reading, what is known as a ‘reasoned amendment’ is tabled. Put simply, this is an amendment that would decline the Bill its Second Reading and then gives the reasons why.

Second Reading debates for Government Bills normally take up one day’s Public Business (that is the time from the beginning of Public Business to the Moment of Interruption), although shorter Bills may receive shorter debates.

Debates on Second Reading for Private Members’ Bills tend to be shorter, their length being subject more to the availability of time than to the extent of their provision.

At the end of the debate, if a reasoned amendment has been tabled, the Chair puts it to the House and a division may be called. If the amendment is rejected, as is normal with Government Bills given the Government’s majority, then the question on Second Reading is put. Again, a Division may be called. If the motion for Second Reading is carried, the Bill proceeds to programming. If not, it falls.

A Bill’s Second Reading is normally accompanied by the approval of a Money Resolution. This permits any expenditure required by provision in the Bill if it becomes law.