The Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons. According to press reports, this is not expected until May. Only the general principles of the Bill are debated at Second Reading and the Bill is voted on as a whole. Amendments cannot be tabled on specific issues.
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, expects all Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Bill at this stage.
The Bill then moves on to Committee Stage. Normally a small group of MPs debates and votes on the details of the Bill. But for this Bill it could be that a ‘Committee of the Whole House’ is convened. This means any MP may speak and vote. Amendments may be tabled at this stage.
Mr Brown has allowed Labour MPs to vote according to their conscience at Committee Stage on three issues only. The three issues are animal-human embryos, ‘saviour siblings’ and the importance of fatherhood for children created by IVF.
Although there are many Labour MPs who have ethical objections to the Bill, there are equally a number of MPs from the other major parties who support it.
This is where the findings of the Committee are reported to the whole house which then has an opportunity to debate and vote on the details of the Bill. This occurs even if a ‘Committee of the Whole House’ was convened at committee stage. Amendments may be tabled at this stage.
As with Committee Stage, Mr Brown will allow Labour MPs to vote according to their conscience on animal-human embryos, ‘saviour siblings’ and the importance of fatherhood for children created by IVF.
In the Commons this usually happens immediately after Report Stage (when this happens Report Stage and Third Reading are referred to together as the Remaining Stages). It will be a final chance to debate the Bill as a whole and decide whether or not to pass it.
Mr Brown has not allowed Labour MPs to have a free vote for this stage. He expects them to support the Bill.
The House of Lords has already approved the Bill. But if the Bill is changed by MPs then the Lords must approve those amendments before the Bill can become law. If the Lords and Commons disagree over the amendments then Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’ can ensue until a compromise is reached or until one House, usually the Lords, gives way.