Reading (legislature)

(Redirected from Second reading)

A reading of a bill is a stage of debate on the bill held by a general body of a legislature.

In the Westminster system, developed in the United Kingdom, there are generally three readings of a bill as it passes through the stages of becoming, or failing to become, legislation. Some of these readings may be formalities rather than actual debate.

The procedure dates back to the centuries before literacy was widespread. Since many members of Parliament were illiterate, the Clerk of Parliament would read aloud a bill to inform members of its contents. By the end of the 16th century, it was practice to have the bill read on three occasions before it was passed. [1]

Preliminary readingEdit

In the Israeli Knesset, private member bills do not enter the house at first reading. Instead, they are subject to a preliminary reading, where the members introducing the bill present it to the Knesset, followed by a debate on the general outlines of the bill followed by a vote on whether to send it to committee to be prepared for first reading or to remove it from the agenda.

First readingEdit

A first reading is when a bill is introduced to a legislature.

Typically, in the United States, the title of the bill is read and the bill is immediately assigned to a committee. The bill is then considered by committee between the first and second readings. In the United States Senate and most British-influenced legislatures, the committee consideration occurs between second and third readings.


In the Australian House of Representatives, a bill is automatically read a first time without any question being proposed upon presentation of the bill or it being received from the Senate.[2]

However, in the Australian Senate, the question on the first reading is always moved immediately after introduction (which is a separate motion altogether) or receipt from the House of Representatives and may be voted on. Amendments to or debate on the first reading is not permitted, except for bills subject to section 53 of the Constitution (i.e. appropriation and money bills), in which case debate is permitted. The first readings of most ordinary bills are almost always a formality and are passed "on the voices".[3] In extremely rare circumstances however, the Senate may vote against the first reading, which prevents the bill from proceeding further. This has happened as recently as June 2021, when the Ministerial Suitability Commission of Inquiry Bill 2021 (Cth), introduced by Greens Senator Larissa Waters in relation to the 1988 rape allegation against the Attorney-General Christian Porter, was narrowly negatived in a division.[4]

Similar arrangements are in place in the parliaments of the states and territories.


In the House of Commons of Canada, in addition to the usual introduction of a bill by a member for first reading, a member of the cabinet may move a motion to appoint or to instruct a committee to prepare a bill.

Republic of IrelandEdit

In the Oireachtas of Ireland, the first stage of a bill is by either of two methods:[5][6][7]

  • introduction by a private member moving a motion "that leave be given to introduce" the bill—the bill goes to second stage if the motion is carried
  • presentation on behalf of either the government (unlimited numbers) or a parliamentary group (one at a time per group in the Dáil, three in the Seanad)—the bill automatically goes to second stage


In the Israeli Knesset, the committee consideration occurs between first and second readings and (for private member bills) between preliminary and first readings, and the first reading includes a debate on the general outlines of the bill followed by a vote on whether or not to send it to committee.

New ZealandEdit

In New Zealand, once a bill passes first reading it is normally referred to a select committee. However, the government can have a bill skip the select committee stage by a simple majority vote in Parliament.

Even if the first reading does not require a formal vote, a bill can nonetheless be defeated on first reading if a member introduces it and no one seconds it.

Second readingEdit

A second reading is the stage of the legislative process where a draft of a bill is read a second time.

In most Westminster-style legislatures, a vote is taken on the general outlines of the bill before being sent to committee.

Republic of IrelandEdit

In the Oireachtas, the second reading is referred to as "second stage", though the subheading "second reading" is used in Dáil standing orders, and the motion at second stage is still "that the Bill is to be read a second time". A bill introduced in one house enters the other house at second stage, except that the Seanad second stage is waived for Dáil consolidation bills. Once the bill passes second stage it is referred to a select committee of that house or taken in committee stage by the whole house.[5][8][9]


In the Knesset, the bill's detailed provisions are considered in the second reading, and then voted on clause by clause. However, continuous stretches of clauses without any proposed amendments, or even different wordings written in the bill itself, are voted as a single bloc. The starting point for the bill considered in second reading is its post-committee consideration text, which can vary widely from the bill voted on in first reading, even to the point of mergers and splits.

United StatesEdit

In the United States Senate, a bill is either referred to committee or placed on the Calendar of Business after second reading. No vote is held on whether to read the bill a second time. In U.S. legislatures where consideration in committee precedes second reading, the procedure varies as to how a bill reaches second reading. In Illinois, for example, legislation is automatically read a second time, after which amendments are in order.

New ZealandEdit

In New Zealand, once a bill passes a second reading it is then considered clause-by-clause by the whole Parliament. If a majority of Parliament agree, the bill can be considered part-by-part, saving considerable time. Because most bills must have majority support to pass a second reading, it is now very rare for a bill to be considered clause-by-clause.

Third readingEdit

A third reading is the stage of a legislative process in which a bill is read with all amendments and given final approval by a legislative body.

In legislatures whose procedures are based on those of the Westminster system, the third reading occurs after the bill has been amended by committee and considered for amendment at report stage (or, in Israel's case, second reading).

In bicameral legislatures, a bill must separately pass the third reading in both chambers. Once that happens, it is sent on for promulgation, such as royal assent in the Westminster system or signing by the president or governor in the U.S. model. In a unicameral legislature, after passing the third reading in the sole chamber, the bill goes on directly for promulgation.

Republic of IrelandEdit

In the Oireachtas of Ireland, the equivalent of the third reading is referred to as the "fifth stage" or "final stage". The motion is "That the Bill do now pass", except that the Seanad motion for a money bill is "That the Bill be returned to the Dáil". When a bill passes one house, it is sent to the other house and enters at second stage. After both houses have passed the bill, it is sent to the President of Ireland to be signed into law.[5][10][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A guide for Ministerial and Departmental Staff : 9.4 Overview and history associated with the stages of a Bill" (PDF). Parliament of Western Australia. 2021. pp. 58–59. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  2. ^ Elder, David Russell, ed. (2018). "10. Legislation". House of Representatives practice (7th ed.). Canberra: Parliament of Australia. p. 357. ISBN 978-1-74366-654-8. Retrieved 2 April 2022. As no question is proposed or put, no debate can take place at the first reading stage.
  3. ^ Laing, Rosemary, ed. (2016). "Chapter 12—Legislation". Odgers' Australian Senate practice (14th ed.). Canberra: Parliament of Australia. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-76010-503-7. Retrieved 2 April 2022. The motion for the first reading is put and determined without amendment or debate, except in relation to a bill which, under section 53 of the Constitution, the Senate may not amend. The Senate has the opportunity to reject a bill at the first reading stage, but in practice the first reading is normally passed without opposition and is regarded as a purely formal stage.
  4. ^ Clerk of the Senate (29 June 2021). "Procedural Information Bulletin No. 356". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c "A Brief Guide to the Legislative Process". Oireachtas. Retrieved 24 Nov 2017.
  6. ^ Dáil Standing Orders 147
  7. ^ Seanad Standing Orders 144–148
  8. ^ Dáil Standing Orders 148
  9. ^ Seanad Standing Orders 149, 180
  10. ^ Dáil Standing Orders 161
  11. ^ Seanad Standing Orders 163