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Public Bills in United Kingdom

Public Bills Meaning, as used in the UK Parliament

Public Bills are proposed changes to the law as it applies to the population in general. Almost all Public Bills that are successfully passed by Parliament are those introduced by the Government.

The vast majority of Public Bills that come before Parliament each year, however, are backbenchers’ Bills (known as Private Members’ Bills) which are rarely passed but are often used as a method of campaigning for a change in the law by individual Members of the Parliament and members of the House of Lords.

Example: Quebec Bill

In May 1791 a public rupture between Burke and Fox took place in the House of Commons.

The scene is famous in English parliamentary annals. The minister had introduced a measure for the division of the province of Canada and for the establishment of a local legislature in each division. Fox in the course of debate went out of his way to laud the Revolution, and to sneer at some of the most effective passages in the Reflections. Burke was not present, but he announced his determination to reply. On the day when the Quebec Bill was to come on again, Fox called upon Edmund Burke (see his biography), and the pair walked together from Burke’s house in Duke Street down to Westminster. The Quebec Bill was recommitted, and Burke at once rose and soon began to talk his usual language against the Revolution, the rights of man, and Jacobinism whether English or French. There was a call to order. Fox, who was as sharp and intolerant in the House as he was amiable out of it, interposed with some words of contemptuous irony. Pitt, Grey, Lord Sheffield, all plunged into confused and angry debate as to whether the French Revolution was a good thing, and whether the French Revolution, good or bad, had anything to do with the Quebec Bill.

At length Fox, in seconding a motion for confining the debate to its proper subject, burst into the fatal question beyond the subject, taxing Burke with inconsistency, and taunting him with having forgotten that ever-admirable saying of his own about the insurgent colonists, that he did not know how to draw an indictment against a whole nation. Burke replied in tones of firm self-repression; complained of the attack that had been made upon him; reviewed Fox’s charges of inconsistency; enumerated the points on which they had disagreed, and remarked that such disagreements had never broken their friendship. But whatever the risk of enmity, and however bitter the loss of friendship, he would never cease from the warning to flee from the French constitution. “But there is no loss of friends,” said Fox in an eager undertone. “Yes,” said Burke, “there is a loss of friends. I know the penalty of toy conduct. I have done my duty at the price of my friend—our friendship is at an end.”

Fox rose, but was so overcome that for some moments he could not speak. At length, his eyes streaming with tears, and in a broken voice, he deplored the breach of a twenty years’ friendship on a political question. Burke was inexorable. To him the political question was so vivid, so real, so intense, as to make all personal sentiment no more than dust in the balance. Burke confronted Jacobinism with the relentlessness of a Jacobin. The rupture was never healed, and Fox and he had no relations with one another henceforth beyond such formal interviews as took place in the manager’s box in Westminster Hall in connexion with the impeachment.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


See Also

  • Government Bills
  • Private Members’ Bills

Further Reading

Law is our Passion

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Public Bills
  • Author: David Jane
  • Description: Public Bills Meaning, as used in the UK Parliament Public Bills are proposed changes to the law as it applies to the [...]

This entry was last updated: October 21, 2016


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