British Parliament


British Parliament Essay, Research Paper

The House of Commons and the House of Lords

The British parliament consists of the Queen and two chambers, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The functions of the parliament are to pass laws, to provide taxes and to control the actions of the government. The Queen still plays a role, but only a formal one. In law, she is the head of the executive, a part of the legislative and the head of the judiciary.

The house of commons

The members of the house of commons are elected directly by general majority in geographically defined parliamentary constituencies.The minimum age for franchise is 18 since 1969. At present, the house of commons is consisting of 659 MPs which are distributed on the base of the number of inhabitants (around 60.000 in each constituency in the United Kingdom) and the total number of MPs which is fixed only by the house of commons itself.

The parliament has a quorum when 40 MPs are present. The legislative period lasts 5 years by law in case of special national crisis, for example war, there can be exceptional decisions to break up the period earlier or lengthen it.

All of the members of the house of commons can be elected again. It is not possible for any member of the house of lords, certain clericals, employees of the government, peace lawyers or officers charged with realization of elections to be candidate for the house of commons.

Theoretically every member of parliament can initialize bills of law, practically most of the bills are initalized by the ministers in charge.The bills passed by parliament are mostly rather general they get passed more detailed either through royal prescriptions(decrets???) or are prepared by the ministries in charge and then proclaimed by the crown. The cabinet appears along the pinciple of collective responsibility as a unit. If the parliament votes against an important legislative intiative or puts up a vote of no confidence, the consequence is usually the resignation of the whole cabinet and new elections. The prime minister can also dismiss single ministers. This guarantees the prime ministers power as regards the ministers. Ministers of the cabinet have the possibility to resign from their position without giving up their membership in parliament.

House of lords

The house of lords consists of the clerical and the secular lords. The secular lords are hereditary peers, peers appointed for life who are especially in charge of some tasks in the field of justice and the lords of Appeal or Law Lords , honorous jurists plus some other peers who are usually appointed because of their achievements in politics or other important areas of life. The clerical lords are the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops of London, Durham and Winchester plus the 21 senior bishops of the church of England. The house of lords has around 1200 members of which only one third regulary take part in the sessions. It has a quorum when three members are present.

A draft bill can first be introduced to the house of lords by government. Financial bills always go first to the house of commons. If a bill is adopted by the house of commons it is led to the house of lords. There it has not to be voted on again to become law. The house of lords can+t block the passage of financial bills. Also any other bills since 1949 can+t be blocked by the house of lords in case they passed the house of commons within two following sessions. This means that the house of lords has only a put off- function. It can block the passage of a bill for one year maximum. The limited function of the house of lords makes clear that a non- elected chamber can only be in a consulting or revising function. This chamber is especially suitable for these tasks because its members are not involved in the classical obligations of party policies.

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