Parliament of the United Kingdom

Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
57th Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Houses(Queen-in-Parliament)
House of Commons · House of Lords
Leadership
Queen Elizabeth II
Since 6 February 1952
The Lord Fowler
Since 1 September 2016
Structure
Seats
UK House of Commons 2017.svg
Commons[1] political groups
Speaker
     Speaker (1)
HM Government
     Conservative Party (317)
Confidence and supply
     Democratic Unionist Party (10)
HM Most Loyal Opposition
     Labour Party (257)
Other opposition
     Scottish National Party (35)
     Liberal Democrats (11)
     Sinn Féin (7) (abstentionist)
     Plaid Cymru (4)
     Green Party (1)
     Independent (7)
Peers 2018.svg
Lords[2] political groups
Speaker
     Lord Speaker
Lords Spiritual
     Bishops (26)
(seated on the Government benches)
Lords Temporal
HM Government
     Conservative Party (248)
Confidence and supply
     Democratic Unionist Party (4)
HM Most Loyal Opposition
     Labour Party (188)
Other opposition
     Liberal Democrats (98)
     Ulster Unionist Party (2)
     UKIP (1)
     Green Party (1)
     Plaid Cymru (1)
     Non-affiliated (30)
     Independents (6)
Crossbench
     Crossbench (186)
Elections
Commons[1] last election
8 June 2017
Meeting place
Houses.of.parliament.overall.arp.jpg
www.parliament.uk

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, but is more generally known domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories.[3][4] It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and those other territories. Its seat is the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

The British parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign (the Queen-in-Parliament), an upper house (but in fact the second chamber)[5][6][7] called the House of Lords, and a so-called[8] "lower house" (but in fact the primary chamber)[9] called the House of Commons.[10]

The House of Lords includes two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual, consisting of the most senior bishops of the Church of England, and the Lords Temporal, consisting mainly of life peers, appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister,[11] and of 92 hereditary peers, 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 in October 2009, the House of Lords also performed a judicial role through the Law Lords.

The House of Commons is an elected chamber with elections to 650 single member constituencies held at least every five years under the first-past-the-post system.[12] The two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the Houses of Parliament) in London. By constitutional convention, all government ministers, including the Prime Minister, 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. Most cabinet ministers are from the Commons, whilst junior ministers can be from either House. However, the Leader of the House of Lords must be a peer.

The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Treaty of Union by Acts of Union passed by the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland, 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 Union ratified by the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland 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 formally amended the name to the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland",[13] five years after the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922.

With the global expansion of the 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".[14] However, John Bright – who coined the epithet – used it in reference to the political culture of "England" rather than just the parliamentary system.[15]

In theory, the UK's supreme legislative power is officially vested in the Crown-in-Parliament. However, the Crown normally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the powers of the House of Lords are limited to only delaying legislation; thus power is de facto vested in the House of Commons.[16]

History

Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created on 1 January 1801, by the merger of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland under the Acts of Union 1800. The principle of ministerial responsibility to the lower House 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, under which constituencies of vastly different sizes existed. Thus, the borough of Old Sarum, with seven voters, could elect two members, as could the borough of Dunwich, which had almost completely disappeared into the sea due to land erosion.

Many small constituencies, known as pocket or rotten boroughs, 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 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", 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 narrowly won two general elections in 1910.

Using the result as a mandate, the Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, 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 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, as it became, prevented the Lords from blocking a money bill (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.[17]

Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Government of Ireland Act 1920 created the parliaments of 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 rule in 1973. The Irish Free State 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 authorised the regular creation of life peerage 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 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the Upper House, 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 led to abolition of the judicial functions of the House of Lords with the creation of the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in October 2009.

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Парлямэнт Вялікабрытаніі
한국어: 영국 의회
Bahasa Indonesia: Parlemen Britania Raya
íslenska: Breska þingið
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ယူကေ ပါလီမန်
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Parlament Ujedinjenog Kraljevstva
粵語: 英國國會
中文: 英国议会