The Passage of Legislation

Laws made in Parliament are introduced through bills presented to Parliament are classified, Government bills (or bills introduced by Ministers) and Private Members’ bills. Bills can be further categorized in to two: those creating a new law for a particular new subject or a law to amend an already existing law. Nearly all bills introduced in Parliament are all Government bills.

Any member of Parliament may introduce a bill by submitting it to the Clerk of Parliament not less than 25 working days before the day it is to be presented in Parliament. This gives enough time for the Clerk to publish the bill and distribute copies to all members in their respective constituencies. The 25 days notice give members ample time to study the bill and discuss its contents in their constituencies before the bill is debated in Parliament.

Once the 25 days notice have lapsed the proposing member may present a motion for the first reading of the bill. However if a member wishes to present his bill earlier than that, he would present a motion to suspend this 25 days notice rule.

In the First Reading of the bill in Parliament, the member presenting the bill must confine his/her speech to explaining the purposes and principles of the bill. The discussion, or debate, that ensures are confined themselves to the principles and importance or otherwise of the proposed bill. Motions to make amendments to the bill are not allowed at this stage.

After the proposing member has made a summation on the bill at the conclusion of the debate, the Speaker then put the bill to a vote. If the First reading of the bill is hurdled, that is, it is supported by a simple majority, then it will move on to the next stage. But if the First Reading of the bill is not hurdled, no further proceedings on the bill can be taken for the rest of that meeting.

A bill that passed its First Reading is stand committed to a committee of the whole House in the next meeting of Parliament and no further proceedings on the bill is to be taken until the next meeting. However this is not the case with a bill signed by the President as urgent or a bill where the majority of all the members of Parliament have expressly resolved to proceed with the consideration of the bill. In these cases further proceedings on the bill will continue in the same meeting.

The purpose of having the bill committed to the next meeting of Parliament after its first reading is to enable members to have the opportunity to take the bill back to their respective constituencies and again discuss the contents of the bill with them before the next meeting of Parliament. But this is not the case with a bill which was signed by the President as urgent or where the majority of the members have resolved to proceed with the bill in the same meeting.

In a committee stage, Parliament resolves into a committee of the whole House and considers the bill clause by clause making amendments and corrections as it wishes. No debate is allowed at this stage. When the committee stage of the bill is completed, the bill straight away moves on to the second reading phase.

At the second reading the member proposing the bill simply move that the bill be read the second time and passed. If the second reading of the bill is supported by a simple majority, the bill is said to have been passed by Parliament and the Clerk make a note to that effect at the end of the bill. With regard to a bill to amend the Constitution, a two-third majority is required for the bill to pass its second reading.

Bills passed by Parliament must be assented by the President in order to become law and come into force and if the President is of the opinion that the Act will be unconstitutional he may withhold his assent. In such case the bill is sent back to Parliament for amendments. If it is passed again and the President is still have the opinion that the Act will be unconstitutional, the bill is referred to the High Court for its determination on its constitutionality. If the High Court declares that the bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution then the President must assent. Otherwise the bill is referred back to Parliament for further amendments. 

Kiribati legislation available online at the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute. An initiative of the University of the South Pacific School of Law to promote access to Pacific law.