Parliament, MP's, House of Lords? What is all that?
Big Building, Big Ideas.
The main work of Parliament is to make laws, debate topical issues and look at how taxes are spent to help run the country. The issues that are discussed in Parliament affect all: health, the environment, transport, jobs, schools, crime. For instance, Parliament has recently debated and voted on how long people arrested on suspicion of terrorism can be held without being charged.
The United Kingdom democratic country, which means all have a say in how the country is run. This is done by electing Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent everyone's views in the House of Commons. This part of Parliament has the greatest political power. The second part of Parliament is the House of Lords, whose non-elected members complement the work of the House of Commons. The third and final part of Parliament is the Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who signs the laws that Parliament votes for.
The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is in the center of London. As well as the home of the UK Parliament, it is also a royal palace and former residence of great kings. The Palace comprises many famous sites including the green-colored House of Commons Chamber and the red-colored House of Lords Chamber where political decisions are made to this day. It also includes the famous Clock Tower, popularly known as Big Ben now renamed the Elizabeth Tower.
To give the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland more say over what happens in their countries, the UK Parliament has given away some of its powers to other national and regional bodies. In Scotland, for example, there is the Scottish Parliament which has elected members who make some decisions for Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland have their own assemblies and there is also a London Assembly.
Former Pm Brown vs. Current PM Cameron
House of Commons
The Elected Ones
So What Exactly Do MP's Do?
MP's AKA Members of Parliament
The UK public elects Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs are involved in considering and proposing new laws, and can use their position to ask government ministers questions about current issues. MPs split their time between working in Parliament itself, working in the constituency that elected them and working for their political party.
When Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the House of Commons. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws. Most MPs are also members of committees, which look at issues in detail, from government policy and new laws, to wider topics like human rights.
In their constituency, MPs often hold a discussions in their office, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them. MPs also attend functions, visit schools and businesses and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster.
House of Lords
The Other Guys
The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the work of, the elected House of Commons. The Lords shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the government.
They have three main roles:
- Making laws
- In-depth consideration of public policy
- Holding government to account
So Who Are These Lords?
The Lords currently has around 830 Members, and there are three different types: life Peers, bishops and elected hereditary Peers. Unlike MPs, the public do not elect the Lords. The majority are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
Appointed for their lifetime only, these Lords' titles are not passed on to their children. The Queen formally appoints life Peers on the advice and recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Archbishops and Bishops
A limited number of 26 Church of England archbishops and bishops sit in the House, passing their membership on to the next most senior bishop when they retire. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York traditionally get life peerages on retirement.
Elected hereditary Peers
The right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords was ended in 1999 by the House of Lords Act but 92 Members were elected internally to remain until the next stage of the Lords reform process.
The State Opening
State Opening is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar, attracting large crowds, both in person and watching on television and the internet. The Queen's procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster is escorted by the Household Cavalry. The Queen arrives at the Sovereign's Entrance at about 11:15 am, and proceeds to the Robing Room, where she puts on the Imperial State Crown and parliamentary robe. A procession then leads through the Royal Gallery to the Chamber of the House of Lords, where the Queen takes the Throne.
The official known as 'Black Rod' is sent to summon the Commons. In a symbol of the Commons' independence, the door to their chamber is slammed in Black Rod's face and not opened until Black Rod has knocked on the door with the staff of office. The Members of the House of Commons follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords Chamber and stand behind the Bar of the House of Lords (at the opposite end of the Chamber from the Throne) to hear the Queen's Speech.
The Queen's Speech is delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords, in the presence of Members of both Houses. Although the Queen reads the Speech, the content is entirely drawn up by the Government and approved by the Cabinet. It contains an outline of the Government's policies and proposed new legislation for the new parliamentary session.
Debate on the Queen's Speech
Following the State Opening, a motion that the House sends a 'Humble Address' to the Queen thanking her for the Speech is introduced in both Houses. The Government's program, as presented in the Queen's Speech, is then debated by both Houses for four or five days. The debate on the first day is a general one, with the following day's debates on particular subjects. The Queen's Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.
The next State Opening will take place on Wednesday 8 May 2013.
© Ms. Stockman and Mrs. Collins 2013