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The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme
legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure i ...
of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, the
Crown dependencies#REDIRECT Crown Dependencies The Crown dependencies (french: Dépendances de la Couronne; gv, Croghaneyn-crooin) are three island territories off the coast of Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off t ...

Crown dependencies
and the
British overseas territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen all with a constitutional and historical link with the . They are remnants of the and do not form part of the United Kingdom its ...

British overseas territories
. It alone possesses
legislative supremacy Parliamentary sovereignty (also called parliamentary supremacy or legislative supremacy) is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, dem ...
and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interac ...
but has three parts, consisting of the
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descende ...
(
Crown-in-Parliament The Queen-in-Parliament (or, during the reign of a male monarch, King-in-Parliament), sometimes referred to as the Crown-in-Parliament, is a technical term of constitutional law in the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign ...
), the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, and the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...

House of Commons
(the primary chamber). Both houses of Parliament meet in separate chambers at the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
in the
City of Westminster The City of Westminster is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and London boroughs, borough in Inner London which forms a core part of Central London. It is the site of the United Kingdom's Houses of Parliament and much of the British gov ...

City of Westminster
, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city,
London London is the Capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary down to the North Sea, and has b ...

London
. The House of Lords includes two different types of members: the
Lords Spiritual The Lords Spiritual of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...
, consisting of the most senior bishops of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
; and the
Lords Temporal The Lords Temporal are secular members of the House of Lords The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons of the United K ...
, consisting mainly of
life peers In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerages in the United Kingdom, peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are cre ...
, appointed by the sovereign, and of 92
hereditary peer The hereditary peers form part of the peerage in the United Kingdom. As of 2021 there are 810 hereditary peers: 30 dukes (including six royal dukes), 34 marquesses, 191 earls, List of viscounts in the peerages of Britain and Ireland, 112 visco ...
s, sitting either by virtue of holding a royal office, or by being elected by their fellow hereditary peers. Prior to the opening of the
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...
in October 2009, the House of Lords also performed a judicial role through the
Law Lords Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, commonly known as Law Lords, were judges appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 ( 39 & 40 Vict. c.59) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The ...
. The House of Commons is an elected chamber with
elections An election is a formal group decision-makingGroup decision-making (also known as collaborative decision-making or collective decision-making) is a situation faced when individuals An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Indi ...
to 650
single-member constituencies A single-member district is an electoral district An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or e ...
held at least every five years under the
first-past-the-post system In a first-past-the-post (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP) electoral system, voters cast their vote for a candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins (irrespective ...
. By constitutional convention, all
government ministers A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assemb ...
, including
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
, are members of the House of Commons or, less commonly, the House of Lords and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
. Most cabinet ministers are from the Commons, whilst junior ministers can be from either house. With the global expansion of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
, the UK Parliament has shaped the political systems of many countries as ex-colonies and so it has been called the "
Mother of Parliaments "The mother of parliaments" is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase is a gro ...
". In theory, the UK's supreme legislative power is officially vested in the
Crown-in-Parliament The Queen-in-Parliament (or, during the reign of a male monarch, King-in-Parliament), sometimes referred to as the Crown-in-Parliament, is a technical term of constitutional law in the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign ...
. However,
the Crown The Crown is the state (polity), state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, overseas territories, Provinces and territorie ...

the Crown
normally acts on the advice of the prime minister, and the powers of the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
are limited to only delaying legislation; thus power is ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
'' vested in the House of Commons.


History

The
Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union 1707, Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The Acts ratified the treaty of Union which created a ...
was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the
Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometimes include individuals, business entities, and other L ...

Treaty of Union
by
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
passed by the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the mid 13th to 17th century. The first English Parliament was convened in 1215, with the creation and signing of the Magna Carta, which established the rights of ba ...
(established 1215) and the
Parliament of Scotland The Parliament of Scotland ( sco, Pairlament o Scotland; gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a ...
(c.1235), both Acts of Union stating, "That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament to be styled The Parliament of Great Britain." At the start of the 19th century, Parliament was further enlarged by
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
ratified by the Parliament of Great Britain and the
Parliament of Ireland The Parliament of Ireland ( ga, Parlaimint na hÉireann) was the of the , and later the , from 1297 until 1800. It was modelled on the and from 1537 comprised two chambers: the and the . The Lords were members of the (’’) and bisho ...
(1297) that abolished the latter and added 100 Irish MPs and 32 Lords to the former to create the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The
Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 (17 & 18 Geo. 5 c. 4) was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power ...
formally amended the name to the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", five years after the secession of the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of St ...
.


Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

The
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state that existed between 1801 and 1922. It was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into a unified state ...

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
was created on 1 January 1801, by the merger of the Kingdoms of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island, and the List of i ...

Great Britain
and
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
under the
Acts of Union 1800 The Acts of Union 1800 (sometimes referred to as a single Act of Union 1801) were parallel acts of the Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by ...
. The principle of ministerial responsibility to the
lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apache County *Chambers, Nebraska *Chambers, We ...
(Commons) did not develop until the 19th century—the House of Lords was superior to the House of Commons both in theory and in practice. Members of the House of Commons (MPs) were elected in an antiquated
electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are organized by governments, while non-political ele ...
, under which
constituencies An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, is a subdivision of a larger state Sta ...
of vastly different sizes existed. Thus, the borough of
Old Sarum Old Sarum, in Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordsh ...

Old Sarum
, with seven voters, could elect two members, as could the borough of
Dunwich Dunwich is a village and Civil parishes in England, civil parish in Suffolk, England. It is in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB around north-east of London, south of Southwold and north of Leiston, on the North Sea coast. In the Anglo-S ...
, which had almost completely disappeared into the sea due to land erosion. Many small constituencies, known as pocket or
rotten borough Old Sarum in Wiltshire, an uninhabited hill which until 1832 elected two Members of Parliament. Painting by John Constable, 1829 A rotten or pocket borough, also known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a parliamentary borough ...
s, were controlled by members of the House of Lords, who could ensure the election of their relatives or supporters. During the reforms of the 19th century, beginning with the
Reform Act 1832 The Representation of the People Act 1832 (also known as the 1832 Reform Act, Great Reform Act or First Reform Act) was an Act of Parliament, Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom (indexed as 2 & 3 Will. IV c. 45) that introduced major chang ...
, the electoral system for the House of Commons was progressively regularised. No longer dependent on the Lords for their seats, MPs grew more assertive. The supremacy of the British House of Commons was reaffirmed in the early 20th century. In 1909, the Commons passed the so-called "
People's Budget The 1909/1910 People's Budget was a proposal of the Liberal government that introduced unprecedented taxes on the lands and incomes of Britain's wealthy to fund new social welfare programmes. It passed the House of Commons The House of Commo ...
," which made numerous changes to the taxation system which were detrimental to wealthy landowners. The House of Lords, which consisted mostly of powerful landowners, rejected the Budget. On the basis of the Budget's popularity and the Lords' consequent unpopularity, the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, ...
narrowly won two general elections in 1910. Using the result as a mandate, the Liberal Prime Minister,
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
, introduced the Parliament Bill, which sought to restrict the powers of the House of Lords. (He did not reintroduce the land tax provision of the People's Budget.) When the Lords refused to pass the bill, Asquith countered with a promise extracted from the King in secret before the second general election of 1910 and requested the creation of several hundred Liberal peers, so as to erase the
Conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aest ...

Conservative
majority in the House of Lords. In the face of such a threat, the House of Lords narrowly passed the bill. The
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make l ...

Parliament Act 1911
, as it became, prevented the Lords from blocking a
money bill In the Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary system of government that incorporates a series of Parliamentary procedure, procedures for operating a legislature that was first developed in Eng ...
(a bill dealing with taxation), and allowed them to delay any other bill for a maximum of three sessions (reduced to two sessions in 1949), after which it could become law over their objections. However, regardless of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, the House of Lords has always retained the unrestricted power to veto any bill outright which attempts to extend the life of a parliament.


Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The
Government of Ireland Act 1920 The Government of Ireland Act 1920 (10 & 11 Geo. 5 c. 67) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the au ...
created the parliaments of
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
and Southern Ireland and reduced the representation of both parts at Westminster. The number of Northern Ireland seats was increased again after the introduction of
direct ruleDirect rule is when an imperial or central power takes direct control over the legislature, executive and civil administration of an otherwise largely self-governing territory. Examples Chechnya In 1991, Chechnya declared independence and was named ...
in 1973. The
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of St ...
became independent in 1922, and in 1927 parliament was renamed the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Further reforms to the House of Lords were made in the 20th century. The
Life Peerages Act 1958 The Life Peerages Act 1958 established the modern standards for the creation of life peers by the British monarchy, Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Background This Act was made during the Conservative Government 1957–1964, Conservative governme ...
authorised the regular creation of
life peerage In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerages in the United Kingdom, peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are cre ...
dignities. By the 1960s, the regular creation of hereditary peerage dignities had ceased; thereafter, almost all new peers were life peers only. The
House of Lords Act 1999 The House of Lords Act 1999 (c. 34) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was given Royal Assent on 11 November 1999. The Act Lords Reform, reformed the House of Lords, one of the chambers of Parliament. For ...
removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, although it made an exception for 92 of them to be elected to life-terms by the other hereditary peers, with by-elections upon their death. The House of Lords is now a chamber that is subordinate to the House of Commons. Additionally, the
Constitutional Reform Act 2005 The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (c 4) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, relevant to UK constitutional law. It provides for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the previous appellate jurisdictio ...
led to abolition of the
judicial functions of the House of Lords Whilst the House of Lords The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, House of Commons, it meets ...
with the creation of the new
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The Supreme Court (initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical ...
in October 2009.


Composition and powers

The legislative authority, the
Crown-in-Parliament The Queen-in-Parliament (or, during the reign of a male monarch, King-in-Parliament), sometimes referred to as the Crown-in-Parliament, is a technical term of constitutional law in the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign ...
, has three separate elements: the Monarch, the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, and the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...

House of Commons
. No individual may be a member of both Houses, and members of the House of Lords are legally barred from voting in elections for members of the House of Commons. Formerly, no-one could be a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliaments, this term implies members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different titl ...
(MP) while holding an
office of profit An office of profit means a position that brings to the person holding it some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit. It may be an office or place of profit if it carries some remuneration, financial advantage, benefit etc. It’s a term used i ...
under the Crown, thus maintaining the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' ( ...
, but the principle has been gradually eroded. Until 1919, Members of Parliament who were appointed to ministerial office lost their seats in the House of Commons and had to seek re-election; the rule was abolished in 1926. Holders of offices are ineligible to serve as a Member of Parliament under the
House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United ...
. Royal Assent of the Monarch is required for all Bills to become law, and certain delegated legislation must be made by the Monarch by
Order in Council An Order in Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent state, ...
. The Crown also has executive powers which do not depend on Parliament, through prerogative powers, including the power to make treaties, declare war, award honours, and appoint officers and civil servants. In practice these are always exercised by the monarch on the advice of the
Prime Minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
and the other ministers of
HM Government The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government A central government is the government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized com ...
. The Prime Minister and government are directly accountable to Parliament, through its control of public finances, and to the public, through the election of members of parliament. The Monarch also appoints the Prime Minister, who then forms a government from members of the Houses of Parliament. This must be someone who could command a majority in a confidence vote in the House of Commons. In the past the monarch has occasionally had to make a judgement, as in the appointment of
Alec Douglas-Home Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, (; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government i ...
in 1963 when it was thought that the incumbent Prime Minister,
Harold Macmillan Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, (10 February 1894 – 29 December 1986) was a British Conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nat ...

Harold Macmillan
, had become ill with terminal cancer. However, today the monarch is advised by the outgoing Prime Minister as to whom he or she should offer the position to next. The House of Lords is known formally as, "The Right Honourable The Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament Assembled," the Lords Spiritual being bishops of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
and the Lords Temporal being
Peers of the Realm Peers may refer to: People * Donald Peers * Edgar Allison Peers, English academician * Gavin Peers * John Peers, Australian tennis player * Kerry Peers * Mark Peers * Michael Peers * Steve Peers * Teddy Peers (1886–1935), Welsh internation ...
. The Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal are considered separate "
estates Estate or The Estate may refer to: Law * Estate (law), a term in common law for a person's property, entitlements and obligations * Estates of the realm, a broad social category in the histories of certain countries. ** The Estates, representative ...
," but they sit, debate and vote together. Since the
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom ...
, the powers of the House of Lords have been very much less than those of the House of Commons. All bills except money bills are debated and voted upon in the House of Lords; however, by voting against a bill, the House of Lords can only delay it for a maximum of two parliamentary sessions over a year. After that time, the House of Commons can force the Bill through without the Lords' consent, under the Parliament Acts. The House of Lords can also hold the government to account through questions to government ministers and the operation of a small number of select committees. The highest court in England & Wales and in Northern Ireland used to be a committee of the House of Lords, but it became an independent
supreme court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...
in 2009. The Lords Spiritual formerly included all of the senior clergymen of the Church of England—archbishops, bishops, abbots and mitred priors. Upon the
Dissolution of the Monasteries#REDIRECT Dissolution of the monasteries {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
under Henry VIII the abbots and mitred priors lost their positions in Parliament. All
diocesan bishop A diocesan bishop, within various Christian traditions, is a bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Wit ...
s continued to sit in Parliament, but the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, and later Acts, provide that only the 26 most senior are Lords Spiritual. These always include the incumbents of the "five great sees," namely the
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Cat ...
, the
Archbishop of York The Archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a List of Christian denominations, Christian church which is the established church of England. The archbishop of Canterbury is the most ...
, the
Bishop of London The Bishop of London is the Ordinary (church officer), ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese covers of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the Thames, River Thames (historically the ...
, the
Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham is the Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junc ...
and the
Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Winchester The Diocese of Winchester forms part of the Province of Canterbury The Province of Canterbury, or less formally the Southern Province, is one of two ecclesiastical ...
. The remaining 21 Lords Spiritual are the most senior diocesan bishops, ranked in order of
consecration Consecration is the solemn Solemn may refer to: *"Solemn", a song by Tribal Tech from the album ''Dr. Hee'' 1987 *"Solemn", a song by Arcane Roots from the album ''Melancholia Hymns'' 2017 See also * Solemnity, a feast day of the highest rank i ...

consecration
, although the
Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015 The Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015 is an Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most ...
makes time-limited provision for vacancies to be filled by women who are bishops. The Lords Temporal are life peers created under the
Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c.59) was an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that altered the judicial functions of the House of Lords. The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1887 allowed senior judges t ...
and the
Life Peerages Act 1958 The Life Peerages Act 1958 established the modern standards for the creation of life peers by the British monarchy, Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Background This Act was made during the Conservative Government 1957–1964, Conservative governme ...
, in addition to 92 hereditary peers under the
House of Lords Act 1999 The House of Lords Act 1999 (c. 34) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was given Royal Assent on 11 November 1999. The Act Lords Reform, reformed the House of Lords, one of the chambers of Parliament. For ...
. Formerly, the Lords Temporal were exclusively hereditary peers. The right of some hereditary peers to sit in Parliament was not automatic: after Scotland and England united into Great Britain in 1707, it was provided that all peers whose dignities had been created by English kings could sit in Parliament, but those whose dignities had been created by Scottish kings were to elect a limited number of "
representative peers In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer ...
." A similar arrangement was made in respect of Ireland when it was united with Great Britain in 1801, but when southern Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922 the election of Irish representative peers ceased. By the
Peerage Act 1963 The Peerage Act 1963 (c. 48) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, ...
, the election of Scottish representative peers also ended, and all Scottish peers were granted the right to sit in Parliament. Under the House of Lords Act 1999, only life peerages (that is to say, peerage dignities which cannot be inherited) automatically entitle their holders to seats in the House of Lords. Of the hereditary peers, only 92—the
Earl Marshal Earl Marshal (alternatively Marschal or Marischal) is a hereditary Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduct ...
, the
Lord Great Chamberlain The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable of England, Lord High Constable. The Lord Great Ch ...
and the 90 elected by other peers—retain their seats in the House. The Commons, the last of the "estates" of the Kingdom, are represented in the House of Commons, which is known formally as, "The Honourable The Commons in Parliament Assembled" ("commons" coming not from the term "commoner," but from ', the old French term for a municipality or local district). As of 2019, the House consists of 650 members, however one seat is left vacant by the Speaker of the House, who must remain politically impartial, and so does not get a vote on the passing of bills. Each Member of Parliament (MP) is chosen by a single constituency by the
First-Past-the-Post In a first-past-the-post electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are org ...
electoral system. There are 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom, each made up of an average of 65,925 voters. The First-Past-the-Post system means that every constituency elects one MP each (except the constituency of the Speaker, whose seat is uncontested). Each voter assigns one vote for one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes in each constituency is elected as MP to represent their constituency. A party needs win 326 constituencies (known as "seats") to win a majority in the House of Commons. If no party achieves a majority, then a situation of no overall control occurs – commonly known as a "Hung Parliament". In case of a Hung Parliament, the party with the most seats has the opportunity to form a coalition with other parties, so their combined seat tally extends past the 326-seat majority. Universal adult
suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (although the term is sometimes used for any right to ). In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called activ ...

suffrage
exists for those 18 and over; citizens of the United Kingdom, and those of the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 Counties of Ireland, counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern ...

Republic of Ireland
and
Commonwealth nations The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 54 sovereign states. Nearly all of them are former Crown colony, British colonies or dependencies of those colonies. No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the othe ...

Commonwealth nations
resident in the United Kingdom, are qualified to vote, unless they are in prison at the time of the election. The term of members of the House of Commons depends on the term of Parliament, a maximum of five years; a general election, during which all the seats are contested, occurs after each dissolution (see below). All legislation must be passed by the House of Commons to become law and it controls taxation and the supply of money to the government. Government ministers (including the Prime Minister) must regularly answer questions in the House of Commons and there are a number of
select committees Select or SELECT may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Select'' (album), an album by Kim Wilde * ''Select'' (magazine), a British music magazine * '' MTV Select'', a television program * ''Select Live {{Infobox television , name = S ...
that scrutinise particular issues and the workings of the government. There are also mechanisms that allow members of the House of Commons to bring to the attention of the government particular issues affecting their constituents.


State Opening of Parliament

The State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
Chamber. Before 2012, it took place in November or December, or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembled. From 2012 onwards, the ceremony has taken place in May or June. Upon the signal of the Monarch, the
Lord Great Chamberlain The Lord Great Chamberlain of England is the sixth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State, ranking beneath the Lord Privy Seal and above the Lord High Constable of England, Lord High Constable. The Lord Great Ch ...
raises their wand of office to signal to
Black Rod Black Rod (officially known as the Lady Usher of the Black Rod or, if male, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod) is an official in the parliaments of several Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political communit ...
, who is charged with summoning the House of Commons and has been waiting in the Commons lobby. Black Rod turns and, under the escort of the Door-keeper of the House of Lords and an
inspector of police
inspector of police
, approaches the doors to the Chamber of the Commons. In 1642, King
Charles ICharles I may refer to: Kings and emperors * Charlemagne (742–814), numbered Charles I in the lists of French and German kings * Charles I of Anjou (1226–1285), also king of Albania, Jerusalem, Naples and Sicily * Charles I of Hungary (1288 ...

Charles I
stormed into the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporat ...
in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest the
Five Members The Five Members were those five Members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with Bicameralism, bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifi ...
, who included the celebrated English patriot and leading Parliamentarian
John Hampden John Hampden (24 June 1643) was an English landowner and politician whose opposition to arbitrary taxes imposed by Charles I of England, Charles I made him a national figure. An ally of Roundhead, Parliamentarian leader John Pym, and cousin to Ol ...

John Hampden
. This action sparked the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governance and issues of re ...
. The wars established the constitutional rights of Parliament, a concept legally established in the
Glorious Revolution The Glorious Revolution of November 1688 ( ga, An Réabhlóid Ghlórmhar; gd, Rèabhlaid Ghlòrmhor; cy, Chwyldro Gogoneddus), the invasion also known as the ''Glorieuze Overtocht'' or Glorious Crossing by the Dutch, was the deposition of ...
in 1688 and the subsequent
Bill of Rights 1689 The Bill of Rights 1689, also known as the Bill of Rights 1688, is a landmark Act in the constitutional law The principles from the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen still have constitutional importance Constitutiona ...
. Since then, no British monarch has entered the House of Commons when it is in session. On Black Rod's approach, the doors are slammed shut against them, symbolising the rights of parliament and its independence from the monarch. They then strike, with the end of their ceremonial staff (the Black Rod), three times on the closed doors of the Commons Chamber. They are then admitted, and announce the command of the monarch for the attendance of the Commons. The monarch reads a speech, known as the
Speech from the Throne Speech is human vocal communication using language. Each language uses Phonetics, phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words (that is, all English words sound different from all French words, even if the ...
, which is prepared by the
Prime Minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
and the
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
, outlining the Government's agenda for the coming year. The speech reflects the legislative agenda for which the Government intends to seek the agreement of both Houses of Parliament. After the monarch leaves, each Chamber proceeds to the consideration of an "Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech." But, first, each House considers a bill ''
pro forma The term ''pro forma'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...
'' to symbolise their right to deliberate independently of the monarch. In the House of Lords, the bill is called the
Select Vestries Bill A bill for the better regulating of Select Vestries, usually referred to as the Select Vestries Bill, is customarily the first bill introduced and debated in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, common ...
, while the Commons equivalent is the Outlawries Bill. The Bills are considered for the sake of form only, and do not make any actual progress.


Legislative procedure

:''See also the Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom#Stages of a bill, stages of a bill section in Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom'' Both houses of the British Parliament are presided over by a speaker, the Speaker of the House of Commons (United Kingdom), Speaker of the House for the Commons and the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords. For the Commons, the approval of the Sovereign is theoretically required before the election of the Speaker becomes valid, but it is, by modern convention, always granted. The Speaker's place may be taken by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the First Deputy Chairman, or the Second Deputy Chairman. (The titles of those three officials refer to the Committee of Ways and Means, a body which no longer exists.) Prior to July 2006, the House of Lords was presided over by a Lord Chancellor (a Cabinet member), whose influence as Speaker was very limited (whilst the powers belonging to the Speaker of the House of Commons are vast). However, as part of the
Constitutional Reform Act 2005 The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (c 4) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, relevant to UK constitutional law. It provides for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the previous appellate jurisdictio ...
, the position of Speaker of the House of Lords (as it is termed in the Act) was separated from the office of Lord Chancellor (the office which has control over the judiciary as a whole), though the Lords remain largely self-governing. Decisions on points of order and on the disciplining of unruly members are made by the whole body, but by the Speaker alone in the Lower House. Speeches in the House of Lords are addressed to the House as a whole (using the words "My Lords"), but those in the House of Commons are addressed to the Speaker alone (using "Mr Speaker" or "Madam Speaker"). Speeches may be made to List of people who have addressed both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament, both Houses simultaneously. Both Houses may decide questions by voice vote; members shout out "Aye!" and "No!" in the Commons—or "Content!" and "Not-Content!" in the Lords—and the presiding officer declares the result. The pronouncement of either Speaker may be challenged, and a recorded vote (known as a division (vote), division) demanded. (The Speaker of the House of Commons may choose to overrule a frivolous request for a division, but the Lord Speaker does not have that power.) In each House, a division requires members to file into one of the two lobbies alongside the Chamber; their names are recorded by clerks, and their votes are counted as they exit the lobbies to re-enter the Chamber. The Speaker of the House of Commons is expected to be non-partisan, and does not cast a vote except in the case of a tie; the Lord Speaker, however, votes along with the other Lords. Both Houses normally conduct their business in public, and there are galleries where visitors may sit.


Duration

Originally there was no fixed limit on the length of a Parliament, but the Triennial Act 1694 set the maximum duration at three years. As the frequent elections were deemed inconvenient, the Septennial Act 1715 extended the maximum to seven years, but the
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make l ...

Parliament Act 1911
reduced it to five. During the Second World War, the term was temporarily extended to ten years by Acts of Parliament. Since the end of the war the maximum has remained five years. Modern Parliaments, however, rarely continued for the maximum duration; normally, they were dissolved earlier. For instance, the Fifty-Second Parliament of the United Kingdom, 52nd, which assembled in 1997, was dissolved after four years. The Septennial Act was repealed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which established a presumption that a Parliament will last for five years, unless two thirds of the House of Commons votes for an early general election, or the government loses the confidence of the House. Summary history of terms of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Following a general election, a new Parliamentary session begins. Parliament is formally summoned 40 days in advance by the Sovereign, who is the source of parliamentary authority. On the day indicated by the Sovereign's proclamation, the two Houses assemble in their respective chambers. The Commons are then summoned to the House of Lords, where Lords Commissioners (representatives of the Sovereign) instruct them to elect a Speaker. The Commons perform the election; on the next day, they return to the House of Lords, where the Lords Commissioners confirm the election and grant the new Speaker the royal approval in the Sovereign's name. The business of Parliament for the next few days of its session involves the taking of the Oath of Allegiance (United Kingdom), oaths of allegiance. Once a majority of the members have taken the oath in each House, the State Opening of Parliament may take place. The Lords take their seats in the House of Lords Chamber, the Commons appear at the Bar (at the entrance to the Chamber), and the Sovereign takes his or her seat on the throne. The Sovereign then reads the
Speech from the Throne Speech is human vocal communication using language. Each language uses Phonetics, phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words (that is, all English words sound different from all French words, even if the ...
—the content of which is determined by the Ministers of the Crown—outlining the Government's legislative agenda for the upcoming year. Thereafter, each House proceeds to the transaction of legislative business. By custom, before considering the Government's legislative agenda, a bill is introduced ''pro forma'' in each House—the
Select Vestries Bill A bill for the better regulating of Select Vestries, usually referred to as the Select Vestries Bill, is customarily the first bill introduced and debated in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, common ...
in the House of Lords and the Outlawries Bill in the House of Commons. These bills do not become laws; they are ceremonial indications of the power of each House to debate independently of the Crown. After the ''pro forma'' bill is introduced, each House debates the content of the Speech from the Throne for several days. Once each House formally sends its reply to the Speech, legislative business may commence, appointing committees, electing officers, passing resolutions and considering legislation. A session of Parliament is brought to an end by a legislative session#Procedure in Commonwealth realms, prorogation. There is a ceremony similar to the State Opening, but much less well known to the general public. Normally, the Sovereign does not personally attend the prorogation ceremony in the House of Lords; he or she is represented by Lords Commissioners. The next session of Parliament begins under the procedures described above, but it is not necessary to conduct another election of a Speaker or take the oaths of allegiance afresh at the beginning of such subsequent sessions. Instead, the State Opening of Parliament proceeds directly. To avoid the delay of opening a new session in the event of an emergency during the long summer recess, Parliament is no longer prorogued beforehand, but only after the Houses have reconvened in the autumn; the State Opening follows a few days later. Each Parliament comes to an end, after a number of sessions, in anticipation of a general election. Dissolution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Parliament is dissolved by virtue of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Prior to that, dissolution was effected by the Sovereign, always on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister could seek dissolution at a time politically advantageous to his or her party. If the Prime Minister loses the support of the House of Commons, Parliament will dissolve and a new election will be held. Parliaments can also be dissolved if two-thirds of the House of Commons votes for an early election. Formerly, the demise of the Sovereign automatically brought a Parliament to an end, the Crown being seen as the ' (beginning, basis and end) of the body, but this is no longer the case. The first change was during the reign of William and Mary, when it was seen to be inconvenient to have no Parliament at a time when succession to the Crown could be disputed, and an Act was passed that provided that a Parliament was to continue for six months after the death of a Sovereign, unless dissolved earlier. Under the Representation of the People Act 1867 Parliament can now continue for as long as it would otherwise have done in the event of the death of the Sovereign. After each Parliament concludes, the Crown issues writs to hold a general election and elect new members of the House of Commons, though membership of the House of Lords does not change.


Legislative functions

Laws can be made by Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament. While Acts can apply to the whole of the United Kingdom including Scotland, due to the continuing separation of Scots law many Acts do not apply to Scotland and may be matched either by equivalent Acts that apply to Scotland alone or, since 1999, by legislation set by the Scottish Parliament relating to devolved matters. This has led to a paradox known as the West Lothian question. The existence of a devolved Scottish Parliament means that while Westminster MPs from Scotland may vote directly on matters that affect English constituencies, they may not have much power over their laws affecting their own constituency. Since there is no devolved "English Parliament," the converse is not true. While any Act of the Scottish Parliament may be overturned, amended or ignored by Westminster, in practice this has yet to happen. Legislative Consent Motions enables the UK Parliament to vote on issues normally devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, as part of United Kingdom legislation. Laws, in draft form known as bills, may be introduced by any member of either House. A bill introduced by a Minister is known as a "Government Bill"; one introduced by another member is called a "Private Members' Bills in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Private Member's Bill." A different way of categorising bills involves the subject. Most bills, involving the general public, are called "public bills." A bill that seeks to grant special rights to an individual or small group of individuals, or a body such as a local authority, is called a "Local and Personal Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Private Bill." A Public Bill which affects private rights (in the way a Private Bill would) is called a "Hybrid Bill," although those that draft bills take pains to avoid this. Private Members' Bills make up the majority of bills, but are far less likely to be passed than government bills. There are three methods for an MP to introduce a Private Member's Bill. The Private Members' Ballot (once per Session) put names into a ballot, and those who win are given time to propose a bill. The Ten Minute Rule is another method, where MPs are granted ten minutes to outline the case for a new piece of legislation. Standing Order 57 is the third method, which allows a bill to be introduced without debate if a day's notice is given to the Table Office. Filibustering is a danger, as an opponent of a bill can waste much of the limited time allotted to it. Private Members' Bills have no chance of success if the current government opposes them, but they are used in moral issues: the bills to decriminalise homosexuality and abortion were Private Members' Bills, for example. Governments can sometimes attempt to use Private Members' Bills to pass things it would rather not be associated with. "Handout bills" are bills which a government hands to MPs who win Private Members' Ballots. Each Bill goes through several stages in each House. The first stage, called the first reading, is a formality. At the second reading, the general principles of the bill are debated, and the House may vote to reject the bill, by not passing the motion "That the Bill be now read a second time." Defeats of Government Bills in the Commons are extremely rare, the last being in 2005, and may constitute a motion of no confidence. (Defeats of Bills in the Lords never affect confidence and are much more frequent.) Following the second reading, the bill is sent to a committee. In the House of Lords, the Committee of the Whole House or the Grand Committee are used. Each consists of all members of the House; the latter operates under special procedures, and is used only for uncontroversial bills. In the House of Commons, the bill is usually committed to a Public Bill Committee, consisting of between 16 and 50 members, but the Committee of the Whole House is used for important legislation. Several other types of committees, including Select Committees, may be used, but rarely. A committee considers the bill clause by clause, and reports the bill as amended to the House, where further detailed consideration ("consideration stage" or "report stage") occurs. However, a practice which used to be called the "kangaroo" (Standing Order 32) allows the Speaker to select which amendments are debated. This device is also used under Standing Order 89 by the committee chairman, to restrict debate in committee. The Speaker, who is impartial as between the parties, by convention selects amendments for debate which represent the main divisions of opinion within the House. Other amendments can technically be proposed, but in practice have no chance of success unless the parties in the House are closely divided. If pressed they would normally be casually defeated by acclamation. Once the House has considered the bill, the third reading follows. In the House of Commons, no further amendments may be made, and the passage of the motion "That the Bill be now read a third time" is passage of the whole bill. In the House of Lords further amendments to the bill may be moved. After the passage of the third reading motion, the House of Lords must vote on the motion "That the Bill do now pass." Following its passage in one House, the bill is sent to the other House. If passed in identical form by both Houses, it may be presented for the Sovereign's Assent. If one House passes amendments that the other will not agree to, and the two Houses cannot resolve their disagreements, the bill will normally fail. Since the passage of the Parliament Act 1911 the power of the House of Lords to reject bills passed by the House of Commons has been restricted, with further restrictions were placed by the Parliament Act 1949. If the House of Commons passes a public bill in two successive sessions, and the House of Lords rejects it both times, the Commons may direct that the bill be presented to the Sovereign for his or her Assent, disregarding the rejection of the Bill in the House of Lords. In each case, the bill must be passed by the House of Commons at least one calendar month before the end of the session. The provision does not apply to Private bills or to Public bills if they originated in the House of Lords or if they seek to extend the duration of a Parliament beyond five years. A special procedure applies in relation to bills classified by the Speaker of the House of Commons as "Money Bills." A Money Bill concerns ''solely'' national taxation or public funds; the Speaker's certificate is deemed conclusive under all circumstances. If the House of Lords fails to pass a Money Bill within one month of its passage in the House of Commons, the Lower House may direct that the Bill be submitted for the Sovereign's Assent immediately. Even before the passage of the Parliament Acts, the Commons possessed pre-eminence in cases of financial matters. By ancient custom, the House of Lords may not introduce a bill relating to taxation or Westminster System, Supply, nor amend a bill so as to insert a provision relating to taxation or Supply, nor amend a Supply Bill in any way. The House of Commons is free to waive this privilege, and sometimes does so to allow the House of Lords to pass amendments with financial implications. The House of Lords remains free to reject bills relating to Supply and taxation, but may be over-ruled easily if the bills are Money Bills. (A bill relating to revenue and Supply may not be a Money Bill if, for example, it includes subjects other than national taxation and public funds). The last stage of a bill involves the granting of the Royal Assent. Theoretically, the Sovereign may either grant or withhold Royal Assent (make the bill a law or veto the bill). In modern times the Sovereign always grants the Royal Assent, using the Anglo-Norman language, Norman French words "La Reyne le veult" (the Queen wishes it; "Le Roy" instead in the case of a king). The last refusal to grant the Assent was in 1708, when Anne, Queen of Great Britain, Queen Anne withheld her Assent from a bill "for the settling of Militia in Scotland," in the words "" (the Queen will think it over). Thus, every bill obtains the assent of all three components of Parliament before it becomes law (except where the House of Lords is over-ridden under the
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom ...
). The words "BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's [King's] most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-," or, where the House of Lords' authority has been over-ridden by use of the Parliament Acts, the words "BE IT ENACTED by The Queen's [King's] most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-" appear near the beginning of each Act of Parliament. These words are known as the enacting formula.


Judicial functions

Prior to the creation of the
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The Supreme Court (initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical ...
in 2009, Parliament was the highest court in the realm for most purposes, but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Privy Council had jurisdiction in some cases (for instance, appeals from ecclesiastical courts). The jurisdiction of Parliament arose from the ancient custom of petitioning the Houses to redress grievances and to do justice. The House of Commons ceased considering petitions to reverse the judgements of lower courts in 1399, effectively leaving the House of Lords as the court of last resort. In modern times, the
judicial functions of the House of Lords Whilst the House of Lords The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, House of Commons, it meets ...
were performed not by the whole House, but by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (judges granted life peerage dignities under the
Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c.59) was an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that altered the judicial functions of the House of Lords. The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1887 allowed senior judges t ...
) and by Lords of Appeal (other peers with experience in the judiciary). However, under the
Constitutional Reform Act 2005 The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (c 4) is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, relevant to UK constitutional law. It provides for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the previous appellate jurisdictio ...
, these judicial functions were transferred to the newly created
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...
in 2009, and the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became the first Justices of the Supreme Court. Peers who hold high judicial office are no longer allowed to vote or speak in the Lords until they retire as justices. In the late 19th century, Acts allowed for the appointment of ''Scottish Lords of Appeal in Ordinary'' and ended appeal in Scottish criminal matters to the House of Lords, so that the High Court of Justiciary became the highest criminal court in Scotland. There is an argument that the provisions of Article XIX of the Union with England Act 1707 prevent any Court outside Scotland from hearing any appeal in criminal cases: "And that the said Courts or any other of the like nature after the Unions shall have no power to Cognosce Review or Alter the Acts or Sentences of the Judicatures within Scotland or stop the Execution of the same." The House of Lords judicial committee usually had a minimum of two Scottish Judges to ensure that some experience of Scots law was brought to bear on Scottish appeals in civil cases, from the Court of Session. The Supreme Court now usually has at least two Scottish judges, together with at least one from Northern Ireland. As Wales is developing its own judicature, it is likely that the same principle will be applied. Certain other judicial functions have historically been performed by the House of Lords. Until 1948, it was the body in which peers had to be tried for felony, felonies or high treason; now, they are tried by normal juries. The last occasion of the trial of a peer in the House of Lords was in 1935. When the House of Commons impeachment, impeaches an individual, the trial takes place in the House of Lords. Impeachments are now possibly defunct, as the last one occurred in 1806. In 2006, a number of MPs attempted to revive the custom, having signed a motion for the impeachment of Tony Blair, but this was unsuccessful.


Relationship with the UK Government

The British Government is answerable to the House of Commons. However, neither the Prime Minister nor members of the Government are elected by the House of Commons. Instead, the Queen requests the person most likely to command the support of a majority in the House, normally the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, to form a government. So that they may be accountable to the Lower House, the Prime Minister and most members of the
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
are, by convention, members of the House of Commons. The last Prime Minister to be a member of the House of Lords was Alec Douglas-Home, Alec Douglas-Home, 14th Earl of Home, who became Prime Minister in 1963. To adhere to the convention under which he was responsible to the Lower House, he disclaimed his peerage and procured election to the House of Commons within days of becoming Prime Minister. Governments have a tendency to dominate the legislative functions of Parliament, by using their in-built majority in the House of Commons, and sometimes using their patronage power to appoint supportive peers in the Lords. In practice, governments can pass any legislation (within reason) in the Commons they wish, unless there is major dissent by MPs in the governing party. But even in these situations, it is highly unlikely a bill will be defeated, though dissenting MPs may be able to extract concessions from the government. In 1976, Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone, Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone created a now widely used name for this behaviour, in an academic paper called "elective dictatorship." Parliament controls the executive by passing or rejecting its Bills and by forcing Ministers of the Crown to answer for their actions, either at Prime Minister's Questions, "Question Time" or during meetings of the List of Committees of the United Kingdom Parliament, parliamentary committees. In both cases, Ministers are asked questions by members of their Houses, and are obliged to answer. Although the House of Lords may scrutinise the executive through Question Time and through its committees, it cannot bring down the Government. A ministry must always retain the confidence and support of the House of Commons. The Lower House may indicate its lack of support by rejecting a Motion of no confidence votes in the United Kingdom, Motion of Confidence or by passing a Motion of no confidence votes in the United Kingdom, Motion of No Confidence. Confidence Motions are generally originated by the Government to reinforce its support in the House, whilst No Confidence Motions are introduced by the Opposition. The motions sometimes take the form "That this House has [no] confidence in Her Majesty's Government" but several other varieties, many referring to specific policies supported or opposed by Parliament, are used. For instance, a Confidence Motion of 1992 used the form, "That this House expresses the support for the economic policy of Her Majesty's Government." Such a motion may theoretically be introduced in the House of Lords, but, as the Government need not enjoy the confidence of that House, would not be of the same effect as a similar motion in the House of Commons; the only modern instance of such an occurrence involves the 'No Confidence' motion that was introduced in 1993 and subsequently defeated. Many votes are considered votes of confidence, although not including the language mentioned above. Important bills that form part of the Government's agenda (as stated in the Speech from the Throne) are generally considered matters of confidence. The defeat of such a bill by the House of Commons indicates that a Government no longer has the confidence of that House. The same effect is achieved if the House of Commons "Loss of supply, withdraws Supply," that is, rejects the budget. Where a Government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, in other words has lost the ability to secure the basic requirement of the authority of the House of Commons to tax and to spend Government money, the Prime Minister is obliged either to resign, or seek the dissolution of Parliament and a new general election. Otherwise the machinery of government grinds to a halt within days. The third choice – to mount a coup d'état or an anti-democratic revolution – is hardly to be contemplated in the present age. Though all three situations have arisen in recent years even in developed economies, international relations have allowed a disaster to be avoided. Where a Prime Minister has ceased to retain the necessary majority and requests a dissolution, the Sovereign can in theory reject his or her request, forcing a resignation and allowing the Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition to be asked to form a new government. This power is used extremely rarely. The conditions that should be met to allow such a refusal are known as the Lascelles Principles. These conditions and principles are Constitutional convention (political custom), constitutional conventions arising from the Sovereign's reserve powers as well as longstanding tradition and practice, not laid down in law. In practice, the House of Commons' scrutiny of the Government is very weak. Since the first-past-the-post electoral system is employed in elections, the governing party tends to enjoy a large majority in the Commons; there is often limited need to compromise with other parties. Modern British political parties are so tightly organised that they leave relatively little room for free action by their MPs. In many cases, MPs may be expelled from their parties for voting against the instructions of party leaders. During the 20th century, the Government has lost confidence issues only three times—twice in 1924, and once in 1979.


Parliamentary questions

In the United Kingdom, question time in the House of Commons lasts for an hour each day from Monday to Thursday (2:30 to 3:30 pm on Mondays, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 9:30 to 10:30 am on Thursdays). Each Government department has its place in a rota which repeats every five weeks. The exception to this sequence are the Business Questions (Questions to the Leader of House of Commons), in which questions are answered each Thursday about the business of the House the following week. Also, Questions to the Prime Minister takes place each Wednesday from noon to 12:30 pm. In addition to government departments, there are also questions to the Church commissioners. Additionally, each Member of Parliament is entitled to table questions for written answer. Written questions are addressed to the Ministerial head of a government department, usually a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), Secretary of State, but they are often answered by a Minister of State or Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. Written Questions are submitted to the Clerks of the Table Office, either on paper or electronically, and answers are recorded in ''Hansard, The Official Report (Hansard)'' so as to be widely available and accessible. In the House of Lords, a half-hour is set aside each afternoon at the start of the day's proceedings for Lords' oral questions. A peer submits a question in advance, which then appears on the Order Paper for the day's proceedings. The peer shall say: "''My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper''." The Minister responsible then answers the question. The peer is then allowed to ask a supplementary question and other peers ask further questions on the theme of the original put down on the order paper. (For instance, if the question regards immigration, peers can ask the Minister any question related to immigration during the allowed period.)


Parliamentary sovereignty

Several different views have been taken of Parliament's sovereignty. According to the jurist William Blackstone, Sir William Blackstone, "It has sovereign and uncontrollable authority in making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws, concerning matters of all possible denominations, ecclesiastical, or temporal, civil, military, maritime, or criminal… it can, in short, do every thing that is not naturally impossible." A different view has been taken by the Scottish judge Thomas Cooper, 1st Baron Cooper of Culross, Thomas Cooper, 1st Lord Cooper of Culross. When he decided the 1953 case of ''MacCormick v. Lord Advocate'' as Court of Session, Lord President of the Court of Session, he stated, "The principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law." He continued, "Considering that the Act of Union 1707, Union legislation extinguished the Parliaments of Scotland and England and replaced them by a new Parliament, I have difficulty in seeing why the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish." Nevertheless, he did not give a conclusive opinion on the subject. Thus, the question of Parliamentary sovereignty appears to remain unresolved. Parliament has not passed any Act defining its own sovereignty. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 states "It is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is sovereign." without qualification or definition. A related possible limitation on Parliament relates to the Scottish legal system and Presbyterian faith, preservation of which were Scottish preconditions to the creation of the unified Parliament. Since the Parliament of the United Kingdom was set up in reliance on these promises, it may be that it has no power to make laws that break them. Parliament's power has often been eroded by its own Acts. Acts passed in Church of Scotland Act 1921, 1921 and 1925 granted the Church of Scotland complete independence in ecclesiastical matters. From 1973 to 2020, its power had been restricted by membership of the European Union, which has the power to make laws enforceable in each member state. In the Factortame case, the European Court of Justice ruled that British courts could have powers to overturn British legislation contravening European law. Parliament has also created national devolved parliaments and an assembly with differing degrees of legislative authority in Scotland, Wales and
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Northern Ireland
, but not in England, which continues to be governed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Parliament still has the power over areas for which responsibility lies with the devolved institutions, but would ordinarily gain the agreement of those institutions to act on their behalf. Similarly, it has granted the power to make regulations to Ministers of the Crown, and the power to enact religious legislation to the General Synod of the Church of England. (Measures of the General Synod and, in some cases proposed statutory instruments made by ministers, must be approved by both Houses before they become law.) In every case aforementioned, authority has been conceded by Act of Parliament and may be taken back in the same manner. It is entirely within the authority of Parliament, for example, to abolish the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or — as happened in 2020 — to leave the EU. However, Parliament also revoked its legislative competence over Australia and Canada with the Australia Act, Australia and Canada Act 1982, Canada Acts: although the Parliament of the United Kingdom could pass an Act reversing its action, it would not take effect in Australia or Canada as the competence of the Imperial Parliament is no longer recognised there in law. One well-recognised consequence of Parliament's sovereignty is that it cannot bind future Parliaments; that is, no Act of Parliament may be made secure from amendment or repeal by a future Parliament. For example, although the Act of Union 1800 states that the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland are to be united "forever," Parliament permitted southern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom in 1922.


Privileges

Each House of Parliament possesses and guards various ancient privileges. The House of Lords relies on inherent right. In the case of the House of Commons, the Speaker goes to the Lords' Chamber at the beginning of each new Parliament and requests representatives of the Sovereign to confirm the Lower House's "undoubted" privileges and rights. The ceremony observed by the House of Commons dates to the reign of King Henry VIII. Each House is the guardian of its privileges, and may punish breaches thereof. The extent of parliamentary privilege is based on law and custom. Sir William Blackstone states that these privileges are "very large and indefinite," and cannot be defined except by the Houses of Parliament themselves. The foremost privilege claimed by both Houses is that of freedom of speech in debate; nothing said in either House may be questioned in any court or other institution outside Parliament. Another privilege claimed is that of freedom from arrest; at one time this was held to apply for any arrest except for high treason, felony or breach of the peace but it now excludes any arrest on criminal charges; it applies during a session of Parliament, and 40 days before or after such a session. Members of both Houses are no longer privileged from service on jury, juries. Both Houses possess the power to punish breaches of their privilege. Contempt of Parliament—for example, disobedience of a subpoena issued by a committee—may also be punished. The House of Lords may imprison an individual for any fixed period of time, but an individual imprisoned by the House of Commons is set free upon Parliamentary session#Prorogation, prorogation. The punishments imposed by either House may not be challenged in any court, and the Human Rights Act does not apply. Until at least 2015, members of the House of Commons also had the privilege of a separate seating area in the Palace of Westminster canteen, protected by a false partition labelled "MPs only beyond this point," so that they did not have to sit with canteen staff taking a break. This provoked mockery from a newly elected 20-year-old MP who described it as "ridiculous" snobbery.


Emblem

The quasi-official emblem of the Houses of Parliament is a crowned portcullis. The portcullis was originally the badge of various English noble families from the 14th century. It went on to be adopted by the kings of the Tudor dynasty in the 16th century, under whom the Palace of Westminster became the regular meeting place of Parliament. The crown was added to make the badge a specifically royal symbol. The portcullis probably first came to be associated with the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
through its use as decoration in the rebuilding of the Palace after the fire of 1512. However, at the time it was only one of many symbols. The widespread use of the portcullis throughout the Palace dates from the 19th century, when Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin used it extensively as a decorative feature in their designs for the new Palace built following the disastrous 1834 fire. The crowned portcullis came to be accepted during the 20th century as the emblem of both houses of parliament. This was simply a result of custom and usage rather than a specific decision. The emblem now appears on official stationery, publications and papers, and is stamped on various items in use in the Palace of Westminster, such as cutlery, silverware and china. Various shades of red and green are used for visual identification of the
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House of Lords
and the
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House of Commons
.


Broadcast media

All public events are broadcast live and on-demand via parliamentlive.tv, which maintains an archive dating back to 4 December 2007. There is also a related official YouTube channel. They are also broadcast live by the independent Euronews English channel. In the UK the BBC has its own dedicated parliament channel, BBC Parliament, which broadcasts 24 hours a day and is also available on BBC iPlayer. It shows live coverage from the House of Commons, House of Lords, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Assembly.


See also

* Act of Parliament (United Kingdom), Act of Parliament * Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom relating to the European Communities and the European Union * History of democracy * ''The History of Parliament'' * List of Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom * List of British governments * List of Parliaments of the United Kingdom * Parliament in the Making, a programme of anniversary events in 2015 * Parliament of the United Kingdom relocation * Parliamentary agent * ''Parliamentary Brief'' * Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology Service * Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology * Parliamentary records of the United Kingdom * Records of members of parliament of the United Kingdom * TheyWorkForYou * United Kingdom Parliament constituencies * UK Parliament Week


Lists of MPs elected

* List of MPs elected in the 1966 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1970 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the February 1974 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the October 1974 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1979 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1983 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1987 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1992 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 1997 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2001 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2005 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2010 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2015 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2017 United Kingdom general election * List of MPs elected in the 2019 United Kingdom general election


References


Notes


Sources

* * * * * * * * * *


External links

*
Public Policy Hub – Parliament and law making

''Hansard'' from 1803 to 2005

Parliament Live TV

"A–Z of Parliament"
The British Broadcasting Corporation (2005).
Topic: Politics
''The Guardian''
Topic: House of Lords
''The Guardian''

at Leeds University
British House of Commons people
(C-SPAN) * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Parliament of United Kingdom Parliament of the United Kingdom, 1801 establishments in the United Kingdom National legislatures, United Kingdom Parliaments by country, United Kingdom Bicameral legislatures, United Kingdom Politics of the United Kingdom Westminster system parliaments, United Kingdom