Parliament is the supreme law-making body in the United Kingdom. It is made up of two Houses of Parliament, namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as the Sovereign. The Sovereign’s involvement in the life and working of Parliament is purely formal. Both Houses of Parliament meet at the Palace of Westminster. a)House of Commons While sometimes described as the “lower house”, the House of Commons is by far the most important of the two Houses of Parliament. Members of the House of Commons are known as Members of Parliament, or MPs.
Members of the Commons (MPs) debate political issues and proposals for new laws. The Commons alone is responsible for making decisions on financial Bills, such as proposed new taxes. The Lords can consider these Bills but cannot block or amend them b)House of Lords Generally speaking, membership of the House of Lords is by appointment for life. However, up until 1999, hereditary peers were also members of the Lords; when this right was abolished, a compromise measure allowed them to elect ninety of their number to continue as members. The House of Lords complements the work of the House of Commons.
It makes laws, holds government to account and investigates policy issues. The Lords only have the ability to delay a Bill by up to a year, excluding Bills prolonging the length of a Parliament beyond five years, Private Bills, Bills sent up to the Lords less than a month before the end of a session and Bills which start in the Lords. This enables the Commons to “force through” a Bill which has stalled by disagreements between the Houses. Privilege Each House has a body of rights that it asserts, or which are conferred by statute, with the aim of being allowed to carry out its duties without interference.
For example, members of both Houses have freedom of speech during parliamentary debates; what they have said cannot be questioned in any place outside Parliament, and so a speech made in Parliament cannot constitute slander. These rights are collectively referred to as Parliamentary Privilege. Furthermore, each House is the sole judge of the qualifications of its members. Collectively, each House has the right of access to the Sovereign. Individually, members must be left free to attend Parliament. 2. Terms and sessions As with most legislatures, Parliament does not continue in perpetual existence.
Typically, the “life” of a Parliament is around four years. By law, each Parliament must come to an end no later than five years from its commencement; this is known as dissolution. Parliament is initially summoned by the Sovereign after there has been a general election. Once assembled, and a Speaker has been chosen by the House of Commons, Parliament is formally opened by the Sovereign. The business of the two Houses is arranged into sessions, which usually last a year (running from around October or November each calendar year). However, there is usually a long recess during the summer months, when business is temporarily suspended.
Each session is ended by a prorogation. The Commons are formally summoned to the House of Lords, where another formal Speech is read out, summing up the work of the two Houses of Parliament over the course of the session. II. Parliament’s main roles 1. Legislation One of Parliament’s main roles is debating and passing statute law (legislation). a,Acts of Parliament Legislation passed by Parliament is in the form of an Act of Parliament. A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law that is presented for debate before Parliament.
Different types of Bills can be introduced by: The government, Individual MPs or Lords, Private individuals or organizations, followed by four equipvalent types of Bill: Public Bill, Private Members’ Bills, Private Bills and Hybrid Bills. A Bill can start in the Commons or the Lords and must be approved in the same form by both Houses before becoming an Act (law). Generally, it must go through the following steps (in both Houses) to become law: – First reading: Bill arrives. – Second reading: Main debate on purpose and key areas of the bill.
– Committee stage: Detailed line by line scrutiny of the text with amendments (proposed changes). Votes may take place to decide whether to make the changes. – Report stage: Further examination of the text. More amendments are debated and further votes take place to decide whether to make the changes. – Third reading: A ‘tidying up’ stage. Final chance for amendments and votes. Each House considers the other’s amendments. – Royal Assent: When both Houses agree the final content, a Bill is approved by the Queen and becomes a law or ‘Act of Parliament’. Exceptions.
The House of Commons is essentially the pre-eminent chamber in Parliament. The Commons can pass the same Bill in two successive sessions, in which case it can become law without the agreement of the Lords. Money Bill (A bill which solely relates to raise taxes or authorise government expenditure) are not opposed in the Lords and may only be delayed for a month. b,Delagated legislation Many Acts of Parliament authorise the use of Statutory Instruments (SIs) as a more flexible method of setting out and amending the precise details for new arrangements, such as rules and regulations.
This delegated power is given either to the Queen in Council, a Minister of the Crown, or to other named office holders. An Act may empower the Government to make a Statutory Instrument and lay it before both Houses, the SI to take legal effect if approved by a simple vote in each House; or in other cases, if neither House objects within a set time. In theory, Parliament does not lose control over such statutory instruments when delegating the power to make them, while being saved the necessity to debate and vote upon even quite trivial changes, unless members wish to raise objections.
2. Checking the work of the goverment Beside the legislation, another Parlianment’s role is examining and challenging the work of the Goverment. Both House of Commons and the House of Lords use similar methods of scrutiny, although the procedures vary. The principal methods are questioning Goverment ministers debating and the investigative work of committees. The Government can publicly respond to explain and justify polices and decisions. The Parlianment realizes these roles by these following ways: First, it is question.
Questions to Goverment ministers may be answered orally or in writing. Ministers from each Goverment department attend the Commons on a rota basis to answer oral questions. The Prime Minister answers questions every Wednesday. In the Lords, the House questions Goverment ministers at the start of each days business, but these are no set days for Goverment departments. Debate is the second way to carry out its role. Debates in the Commons look at the creation and amendment of laws as well as national and international issues and can be on any subjects.
Votes are often taken to see whether a majority of Members either suport or reject any discussed laws or proposals. So, there are three main types of debate: -General debates (usally on Thurdays): one longer debate or two short debates lasting around five hours. Each party is given opportunities throughout the year to initiate such debates and backbench members can enter a ballot to propose general debates. -Short debates: These take place at the end of business or during dinner time and should last 60 or 90 minutes. From October 2013, there will be a weekly one-hour slot for these debates.
-Debates on committee reports or general issues of the day with no set timing. Finally, it is committees. Committees of smaller group of MPs and/or Lords look at specific policy issues or legislation in detail. Different committees have different roles ranging from offering advice, to procuding reports or altering legislation. Both Houses have permanent and temporary committees MPs and Lords also work together in Joint Select Committees. The Goverment issues responses to most committee reports. Conclusion.
References 1. UK Constituition and Government/Parliament, http://en.wikibooks. org/wiki/UK_Constitution_and_Government/Parliament, accessed in 11/03/2014. 2. Making laws, http://www. parliament. uk/business/lords/work-of-the-house-of-lords/making-laws/, accessed in 11/03/2014/ 3. Legislation, http://www. parliament. uk/about/how/role/legislation/, 4. Parliament of the United Kingdom, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Parliament_of_the_United_Kingdom, accessed in 11/03/2014. 5. Checking and challenging the Government, http://www. parliament. uk/business/lords/work-of-the-house-of-lords/checking-a.