The two House of Parliament, the Lords and the Commons, share the same building, the Palace of Westminster.

THE HOUSE OF COMMONS The main principles.

The Commons debating chamber is usually called "the House".

One side of the House is occupied by the Government and the MPs who support it, the other, facing them, by Her Majesty's Opposition (shadow Cabinet) - all the MPs who are opposed to the Government of the day. The arrangement of the benches suggests a two-party system.

The front bench up to the gangway, nearest to the Speaker's right, is the Government front bench.

Each chamber has galleries, parts of which are kept for use of the public.

Standing Orders set out the main formal rules of procedure, but there are also practices established by custom and precedent that may be established by Speaker's decision on some particular point.

The choice of an MP as Speaker is made by vote of the House after the party leaders have consulted their supporters and privately agreed beforehand on the particular person.

The central rule of procedure is that every debate must relate to specific proposal ('motion'). An MP 'moves' a motion; the House debates it and finally decides whether to agree or to disagree with it.

When motion has been moved, another MP may propose to 'amend' it, and in that case his proposal is debated.

A debate ends either (1) when every MP who wants to speak has done so, or (2) at a time fixed in advance either by informal agreement between the parties or by a vote of the House, or (3) when the House votes that is shall end.

Then the Speaker asks the House to vote on this motion.

Members often vote without having heard a debate, and they vote almost automatically with their parties because of Whips control.

The House of Commons meets every Mon, Tue, Wed and Thu at 2.30 p.m. and seats until 10.30 p.m. (on Fri from 9.30 a.m. until 3.30 p.m.).

During the weekends many members go to their constituencies to see their local party organisers and to be available to citizens.

The life of Parliament is divided into periods called "sessions". At the end of every session Parliament is "prorogued".

The Parliamentary Day

1) Each day's business begins with "Question Time" during which Members may address questions to ministers, which ministers normally answer. Some are asked for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, some in order to try to persuade ministers to adopt new courses of action, either in dealing with individual cases or in their general policies.

2) The main business of the day normally continues until 10 p.m. Much time is spent on the main debates about the Government's policies.3) Finally, 30 min. are allowed for any MP to make speech on some subject and for the appropriate minister to reply.

Control of Government Expenditure, Taxation and Administration

The House of Commons has financial functions. One is to give permission in the form of Acts of Parliament authorising the payment of sums of money by Government. The taxes are authorised by a Finance Act, which is based on the Budget presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March.

A system of committees in Commons, corresponding with the main government departments was created in 1979-1980.


The power of the second chamber was formally restricted by the Parliament Act of 191 land 1949.

It existed long before House of Commons, and the basis of its membership has changed very little in 900 years. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and twenty-four bishops of the Church of England are still members.

The House of Lords has no elected members and no fixed numbers. All its members are lords who hold peerages. Approx. 1/3 - by personal appointment (lifetime peerage), and 2/3 - by heredity (Duke, Marquees, Earl, Viscount and Baron).

Until 1958 there was a rule, based only on custom, that eldest son of a peer succeeds the peerage. According to Life Peerages Act of 1958 lifetime peerage could be given without any hereditary rights.

A second modernisation was the introduction of payment of allowances paid to peers for each day's attendance at the House.

Another change was a law of 1963 making it possible for a peer to renounce his peerage (to be eligible to the Commons).

The last modernisation was the abolishing of hereditary peerage in 2000.

In the House of Lords party hostility is reasonably restrained, and common rules of politeness are well observed. The normal Monday to Thursday sittings begin with questions to the Government, after which the business proceeds. For many debates an order of speaking is published in advance. There are few formal rules.

With each bill brought from the Commons the Lords debate the principles on second reading but normally agree without any formal VQte. Their main work is to approve or reject proposals to amend bills. Whatever the party in power, the House makes most decisions without voting, according to the Government's advice.

One of the oldest functions of the House of Lords is judicial. It works as the highest and final Court of Appeal and consists of the senior judges. The ten Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are also full members for life of the House of Lords as a legislative body.

Nearly 1200 people, including more than sixty women, are entitled to membership of Lord. There are approximately 400 members who attend more than once a year.

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