|The Government is primarily responsible for proposing new legislation or amendments to existing legislation, in the form of bills which are considered by the Council for enactment. Subject to meeting certain conditions, Members of the Council may also introduce bills into the Council.
Passage of a bill
A bill is first published in the Gazette before it is introduced into the Council. It has to be given three readings for its passage by the Council. The First Reading is a formality, with the Clerk reading the short title of a bill at a Council meeting. The Second Reading of the bill starts with the government official or Member who introduces the bill moving the motion "That the bill be read the second time" and explaining the purpose of the bill. Usually, after the motion has been moved, the debate on it is adjourned and the bill is referred to the House Committee to allow Members more time to study it, either in the House Committee or in a bills committee set up by the House Committee specifically for it.
The debate on the Second Reading resumes at a subsequent Council meeting after the bill has been studied by the House Committee or a bills committee. During the debate, Members present their views on the general merits and principles of the bill and may indicate their support or otherwise. A vote is then taken by the Council on the motion "That the bill be read the second time". If the motion is not passed, the bill cannot proceed further. If it is passed, the bill is given the Second Reading, and the Council will then sit as a "Committee of the whole Council" during which the Committee goes through the clauses of the bill, making amendments where agreed to by the Committee. After the bill has passed through the Committee of the whole Council with or without amendments, it is reported back to the Council for it to consider whether to support the passage of the bill by giving it the Third Reading. Usually, the resumption of the Second Reading debate and the Third Reading (if the bill has been given the Second Reading) take place at the same Council meeting.
When a bill has been given three readings, it becomes an Ordinance enacted by the Legislative Council. Unless a later date is specified, it may take effect after it has been signed by the Chief Executive and published in the Gazette.