OSCOLA Basics: Citing Parliamentary Bills

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The previous blog post looked at citing UK Acts of Parliament, specifically the jurisdiction of England and Wales. In this post, I’ll drill down a little further to cover situations where you may need to cite a proposed law that has not yet come into force – a Bill.

Just to recap on the terms. Legislation is a catch-all term that encompasses statutes, bills and other regulations. An Act of Parliament or statute is simply law that is in force, or will come into force at a specific date because it has been passed into law by the parliamentary process. Proposals for new laws start out as Bills, then after debate and approval by both Houses of Parliament and receipt of Royal Assent the law comes into force. Thus, a Bill is a proposed law that is not yet in force.

Citing a Bill

All the details about a Bill can be found on the Parliament website. There’s a traffic light system which shows the stage the Bill has reached in its progress through the legislative process. It’s quite fascinating to see the volume of legislation proposed and the subject matter. You can while away a good half an hour or so perusing the things our elected representatives are debating. I’ve chosen an uncontroversial animal protection Bill for the example below.

The citation starts with the title of the Bill, followed by the appropriate abbreviation for the House in which it originated – either HC for House of Commons or HL for House of Lords. This is followed by the year of the parliamentary session in round brackets. All Bills have a running number, which can be updated if the Bill is revised. Numbers for Bills from the House of Commons are cited in square brackets, whereas those from the Lords do not take brackets. Another quirk to watch out for!

Bill title | abbreviation either HC or HL | (session year) | running number [in square brackets if HC]


Here’s an example from a House of Lords Bill, the Bat Habitats Regulation Bill:

Bat Habitats Regulation HL Bill (2017-19) 24

As with acts of parliament, Bills are divided into chapters and sections, depending on their length and the extent of law proposed. These are abbreviated in exactly the same way as when citing parts of Acts or statutes. For example, section is abbreviated to s – no punctuation, and clause is abbreviated to cl (again, no punctuation).

To complete our examination of citing UK legislation, in the next blog post I’ll cover the law from the other three UK jurisdictions, separate legislation for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Screenshot showing the progress of bills on parliamentary website