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Outlawries Bill

From Academic Kids

The Outlawries Bill (or, by its long title, A Bill for the more effectual preventing clandestine Outlawries) is customarily introduced in the United Kingdom's House of Commons at the start of each session of Parliament.

The bill is read after the Queen's Speech, after the Commons have returned to their chamber, but before any debate on the contents of the Speech. No Member of Parliament presents it, nor has it ever been ordered to be printed, and it is not intended to make any further progress. However, it bears symbolic import: the Commons is demonstrating that it can debate on whatever it chooses, and set its own business.

The practice of reading a bill before debating the Speech dates back to at least the 16th century. Various bills were used for the purpose—originally they were just normal bills and could progress to a second reading. The Outlawries Bill was first introduced in the 1727 session and has been used every year thereafter (except for 1741 and 1742).

John Wilkes interrupted the reading of the bill in 1763, to complain about his imprisonment, but the Speaker required the bill to be dealt with first. In 1794, Richard Sheridan used the reading of the bill to raise the subject of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.

The equivalent bill used by the House of Lords is the Select Vestries Bill.

Before the Commons procedure became established, two Outlawry Acts were passed into English law: the Outlawry Act 1331 and the Avoidance of Secret Outlawries Act 1588 (neither of which is still in force).

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