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What happens in the Chamber at second reading

If you want to take part in second reading, you should write to the Speaker in advance and then stand when other MPs do to try to catch the Speaker’s eye during the debate.

For Government bills, a minister starts the second reading debate by moving that the bill “be now read a second time”, and outlines its purpose. After the minister’s speech, there are speeches from:

  • a spokesperson for the official Opposition
  • a spokesperson for the third largest party
  • backbench MPs (MPs who are not ministers or shadow ministers)

There are often time limits on backbench speeches to fit as many MPs in as possible.

A spokesperson for the official Opposition and then a minister make closing speeches. They are usually different from the people who started the debate.

Once the time for the debate has run out, or there are no more MPs who want to speak, the House needs to make a decision on second reading.

If the Speaker has chosen a reasoned amendment to the second reading, there will be a vote on this first. Any MP can submit a reasoned amendment setting out their reasons for disagreeing with the bill. If the reasoned amendment is agreed to, the bill’s progress is stopped, but this is very rare.

If the reasoned amendment is defeated, or if there is no reasoned amendment, the Speaker will say, “the question is that the bill be now read a second time”. If there’s no objection, the bill passes its second reading. If there are objections there will be a vote.