Second reading

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29.15The second reading is the stage at which the general principles of a bill are considered. As soon as the Clerk has read the notice for the second reading, the Lords Member in charge of the bill moves the motion for the second reading and explains the bill's purpose. Then the question ‘that this bill be now read a second time’ is proposed from the Woolsack and the debate follows. Discussion of the bill's details should be left to the committee stage. But Lords Members may indicate the points on which they think the bill needs amendment and the general nature of amendments which they will propose.

In the case of Law Commission bills, the second reading debate may be held off the floor of the House, in a ‘second reading committee’ meeting. The formal motion that the bill be read a second time is taken later, in the Chamber, but is not normally debated.1

With agreement of the House, bills may be referred to Grand Committee for debate before second reading.2 Such agreement is sought through a Business of the House motion of which the usual notice is given on the Order Paper. The House is then invited to give the bill a formal second reading in the Chamber, any time from the next sitting day. An italic notice of this may appear in Lords Business once a business motion is agreed, and formal notice is annotated ‘(Debated in Grand Committee on [date])’. It is not expected that this will be the occasion of further debate, but any Member may speak3 and amendments to the motion may be tabled. It is not expected that this procedure will be used frequently. Any such debate requires consultation with the Usual Channels and agreement by the House. It is expected that this procedure will be more appropriate for shorter, less complex and less controversial bills. Where a speakers’ list is expected to exceed the capacity of the Moses Room, the procedure is unlikely to be appropriate. The rule that no more than one bill may be considered in Grand Committee on a single day applies. Debate in Grand Committee counts as part of second reading for the purposes of Standing Orders 44 (no two stages on one day) and 48 (notice of second reading of Commons bills). Setting up an unplanned Grand Committee for this purpose at very short notice may be impossible in practical terms. Second reading debates are not formally time limited but the overall time limit for Grand Committee applies; if it is reached, debate is adjourned. Amendments to the bill may not be tabled until after formal second reading.


  1. 1. LJ (2007–08) 308, 446; Procedure Committee, Second Report of Session 2010–12, Law Commission Bills, HL 30; Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill 2009; Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Bill 2009; Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Bill [Lords] 2011; Trusts (Capital and Income) Bill [Lords] 2012; Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [Lords] 2012; Insurance Bill [Lords] 2014; Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill [Lords] 2017.
  2. 2. Procedure and Privileges Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2021–22, Debates before second reading in Grand Committee, Update on pass-reader voting, Leave of absence, HL 122, agreed 10 January 2022; HL Deb (2021–22) 817, cc 809–815. The procedure can be applied to a Private Member's Bill.
  3. 3. Including a Member who spoke in Grand Committee.