act of parliament
act of parliament defined in 1939 yearact of parliament - Act of Parliament;
act of parliament - Official name for a measure which, having passed through both Houses of Parliament and received the royal assent, has become the law of the land. In Rome records were usually known as acta, and the word has been carried from there into many legislatures of the world. The laws of the U.S.A. are called Acts of Congress, and in the Canadian, Australian, and other Parliaments of the British Empire the word act is used.
In the British Parliament, and in those bodies which have modelled their procedure upon it, the word bill is applied to a measure on its introduction, and for it to become an Act the following stages are necessary. It is introduced into one House or the other by one of its promoters, and is read a first time, a formal proceeding only; then comes the second reading, the critical stage when the decisive vote is taken. If approved, the bill is sent either to a committee of the whole House or to a standing committee much smaller in size; there it is examined clause by clause and not infrequently altered. All alterations are reported to the House and if approved, the bill is read a third time. It is then sent to the other House, where the same procedure is gone through, and finally, having received the royal assent, it becomes an Act.
Such is the usual procedure for public bills, and, with certain modifications, for private ones, but there are exceptions, chiefly those made by the Parliament Act of 1911. Money bills must originate in the House of Commons, and do not need the approval of the Lords in order to become law. Further, any bill which, under certain conditions, has passed the Commons three times in successive sessions becomes an Act whether the Lords will or no.
In olden times it was the custom for all the Acts passed in a single session of Parliament to form a single statute, and this still survives. The Acts of each session are arranged in chapters, and officially quoted according to the year of the reign in which they are passed; for example, the Act by which King Edward VIII abdicated is cited as 1 Edward VIII, ch. 3. To obviate the inconveniences of this system each Act is given a short title by which it is usually known. The Acts of the English Parliament go back to 1235. The Acts of the Scottish Parliament date from about 1430 to 1707.
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