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Second reading moved

28.45The second reading is the first important stage through which the bill is required to pass; its whole principle is at issue, and is affirmed or denied by the House.

Once a day has been appointed for second reading, the bill stands upon the Order of Business amongst the other orders of the day, and when the day arrives, is called in its proper turn.

When the order for second reading is read, the Member in charge of the bill (or any other Member acting on their behalf)1 confirms that they wish to proceed with the order by saying ‘Now’ and then moves ‘That the bill be now read a second time’. In the case of government bills, confirmation of the intent to proceed is generally given by a Whip, and the motion for second reading is then moved by the appropriate Minister. Debate at this stage is not strictly limited to the bill's contents;2 the circumstances surrounding its presentation to the House and other methods of attaining the bill's object may be considered, and the inclusion of cognate objects may be recommended. But debate should not be extended, for example, to a general criticism of the administration3 or of the policies of other political parties,4 or of the provisions of other bills before the House.5 Debate on second reading should not extend to the details of the clauses,6 although it is common practice for a Minister or other Member in charge of a bill to give a brief explanation of the content of the principal clauses at this stage. For government bills where certain associated motions are taken forthwith after second reading (eg Money, Ways and Means, programme), reference may be made to those motions during the second reading debate.7

Opponents of a bill may, and commonly do, vote against the question for second reading, but an alternative way of opposing second reading is by moving a reasoned amendment to the question (see para 28.46 ). Defeat on second reading8 is fatal to a bill since no future day is appointed for that stage, and the introduction of a fresh bill in substantially the same terms in the same session has been ruled out of order.9 Other courses open to Members opposed to a bill at the second reading stage are described below.


  1. 1. HC Deb (1967–68) 759, cc 893–94; ibid (2002–03) 401, c 597.
  2. 2. Debate on the second reading of a tax law rewrite bill should not extend to general issues of taxation or budgetary policy, HC Deb (2000–01) 361, cc 113–14.
  3. 3. HC Deb (1935–36) 307, cc 1456–57; ibid (1941–42) 379, c 987.
  4. 4. HC Deb (2007–08) 474, c 1100.
  5. 5. HC Deb (1941–42) 379, c 996. But when four cognate Consolidation Bills were before the House on the same day, the Chair permitted a single debate to cover all four bills, HC Deb (1984–85) 74, c 557.
  6. 6. Parl Deb (1875) 224, c 1297; HC Deb (2000–01) 362, c 1209; ibid (2002–03) 400, c 1096.
  7. 7. HC Deb (1994–95) 252, c 47.
  8. 8. For example, CJ (1985–86) 298–99; ibid (1987–88) 251.
  9. 9. CJ (1976–77) 125 (see also para 28.17 ).