Short title and citation
26.6The short title is the title by which a bill is known during its passage through Parliament. It must describe the content of the bill in a straightforwardly factual manner. An argumentative title or slogan is not permitted.1 Abbreviations are occasionally used where the short title would otherwise be unwieldy.2
When the short title of a bill would otherwise be the same as that of a bill already introduced in the same session in either House, the identifying description ‘(No 2)’ is inserted.3 Such an identifying description will be removed by the Lords Public Bill Office at Royal Assent if no previous Act with the same short title has been passed during that calendar year. Similarly, an identifying description will be inserted at Royal Assent if an Act of the same title has been passed in the same calendar year. Thus, for example, in Session 2017–19, the Finance Bill became the Finance (No 2) Act 2017, and the Finance (No 2) Bill became the Finance Act 2018.4
While a bill is before Parliament, if it originates in the Lords all published versions of the bill in both Houses identify that origin by the letters ‘HL’ in square brackets, as for example the ‘Landlord and Tenant Bill [HL]’. While in the Commons such a bill is identified in the business papers of that House by the addition of the word ‘Lords’ in square brackets. Bills originating in the Commons carry no corresponding suffix in either House. The suffix does not appear in the citation clause and it is not retained when the bill is published as an Act after Royal Assent.
The title by which a bill is to be known once it has been enacted, and by which it will be cited amongst the statutes, is usually set out in the last clause—‘This Act may be cited as the … Act 20 …’.5
- Speaker's private ruling, 16 October 2001, that ‘Women's Representation Bill’ was not an appropriate title for a bill about sex discrimination in the selection of election candidates. Other proposed short titles which have given rise to objection have included ‘Fairness at Work’, ‘Modernisation of Justice’, ‘Safe Communities’ and ‘Constitutional Renewal’. Sometimes the short title of a bill as introduced may differ from that given to the bill in government policy papers at the time of the Queen's Speech: for example, such papers accompanying the 2016 Queen's Speech referred to the `Lifetime Savings Bill’, which was presented as the Savings (Government Contributions) Bill, and those accompanying the 2017 Queen's Speech referred to the `Repeal Bill’, which was presented as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
- For example, OECD Support Fund Bill 1975. In recent years, ‘NHS' and ‘UK Borders' have also been permitted.
- Bills with otherwise identical titles have been introduced in the two Houses on the same day: eg the Sports Discrimination Bill [Lords] and the Sports Discrimination (No 2) Bill 1995, LJ (1994–95) 341; CJ (1994–95) 281.
- By the Short Titles Act 1896 short titles were given to many public general Acts, passed between 1707 and 1896, which did not already possess them, and groups of Acts were given collective titles. Further short titles extending from 1236 to 1860 were conferred by the Statute Law Revision Act 1948.
- Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, Drafting Guidance (December 2017), paras 10.1.1, 10.1.3, 10.7.1. The citation clause is sometimes the first clause of the bill, eg Government of India Bill 1934; European Communities Bill 1972.