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Parliament Explained: What next for the Animal Sentience Bill?

Earlier this week the House of Lords finished its examination of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – which despite limited opposition passed without a vote. This landmark piece of legislation will see the definition of ‘animal’ extended to include decapod crustaceans for the first time. This is really great news and due in part to the support of both the government and opposition parties. Both the Minister Lord Benyon and Labour’s Baroness Hayman of Ullock spoke supportively of the move to include decapod crustaceans in the Bill and we are grateful for their support.

Before the provisions of the Bill can become law, however the Bill will now go through various stages in the House of Commons.

  • First Reading – this is a formality to alert MPs that a Bill is coming up for debate, there is no discussion or vote at this stage. The Sentience Bill received its First Reading on Tuesday 14 December.

  • Second Readingthis is where MPs will discuss the general principles of the Bill and have a chance to raise concerns. There is a vote at the end of the debate on whether the Bill should continue to Committee Stage, which Government sponsored Bills, such as the Sentience Bill, usually always do.

  • Committee Stagethe first chance for MPs to scruntinise the Bill in detail – usually taking place with a small number of MPs (proportionate to the make-up of the House of Commons) over a couple of weeks. MPs on the Committee have the chance to put forward specific amendments which can then be voted on.

  • Report StageBills return to the floor of the House of Commons for Report Stage where amendments can again be proposed by any MP. This is the final chance for amendments to be made.

  • Third Readingthe final debate about what the Bill looks like after amendment. There can be a vote on whether the Bill should pass, but this is usually a formality.

These stages broadly reflect what happens in the House of Lords. Any amendments made are then considered by the other chamber. If the Commons makes an amendment to a Lords Bill (or vice-versa) the other House votes on the issue again, if they insist on the amendment there is back-and-forth known as ‘ping-pong’ but the convention is that the House of Lords gives way to the elected House of Commons.

After all these stages have been completed Bills then have to be formally agreed by the Monarch where they are given Royal Accent. This is then reported to both Houses of Parliament.

As the Sentience Bill progresses through the House of Commons you’ll be able to stay up to date with everything that happens on our social media channels and don’t forget to make sure you are signed up to our mailing list too.


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