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The House of Commons (domestically known as the Commons) is the
lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apache County *Chambers, Nebraska *Chambers, Wes ...
and ''de facto'' primary chamber of the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is but has three parts, consisting of the ...
. Like the upper house, the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, it meets in the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
. The Commons is an elected body consisting of 650 members known as
members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) p ...
(MPs). MPs are elected to represent
constituencies An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, is a subdivision of a larger state Sta ...
by the
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are org ...
system and hold their seats until Parliament is dissolved. The
House of Commons of England The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England (which incorporated Wales) from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of G ...
started to evolve in the 13th and 14th centuries. It became the
House of Commons of Great Britain The House of Commons of Great Britain was the lower house of the Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Pa ...
after the political union with Scotland in 1707, and assumed the title of "House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland" after the political union with Ireland at the start of the 19th century. The "United Kingdom" referred to was the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereig ...

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
from 1800, and became the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
after the independence of the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of St ...
in 1922. Accordingly, the House of Commons assumed its current title. Under the
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom ...
, the Lords' power to reject legislation was reduced to a delaying power. The government is solely responsible to the House of Commons and the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpar ...
stays in office only as long as they retain the confidence of a majority of the Commons.


Role


Relationship with Her Majesty's Government

Although the House of Commons does not formally elect the prime minister, by convention and in practice, the prime minister is answerable to the House, and therefore must maintain its support. In this way, the position of the parties in the House is of overriding importance. Thus, whenever the office of prime minister falls vacant, the monarch appoints the person who has the support of the house, or who is most likely to command the support of the housenormally the leader of the largest party in the housewhile the leader of the second-largest party becomes the
leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest party not in government in a parliamentary democracy. The Leader of the Opposition is seen as the alternative Prime Minister, Premier, First Minister, or Ch ...
. Since 1963, by convention, the prime minister has always been a member of the House of Commons, rather than the House of Lords. The Commons may indicate its lack of support for the government by rejecting a
motion of confidence A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, manager ...
or by passing a motion of no confidence. Confidence and no confidence motions are phrased explicitly: for instance, "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government." Many other motions were until recent decades considered confidence issues, even though not explicitly phrased as such: in particular, important bills that were part of the government's agenda. The annual Budget is still considered a matter of confidence. When a Government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, the prime minister is obliged either to resign, making way for another MP who can command confidence, or request the monarch to dissolve Parliament, thereby precipitating a general election. Before 2011, Parliament sat for anything up to five years. This was a maximum: the prime minister could, and often did, choose an earlier time to dissolve parliament, with the permission of the monarch. Since the
Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (c. 14) (FTPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make ...
, the term has been fixed at five years. However, an early general election can be brought about (''inter alia'') by the approval of MPs holding at least two-thirds of all seats (whether vacant or entitled to vote, or not) or by a vote of no confidence in the government that is not followed within fourteen days by a vote of confidence (which may be for confidence in the same government or in a different one). By the second of these mechanisms, the UK's government can change its political composition without an intervening general election. As of 31 October 2019, four of the nine last prime ministers have attained office as the immediate result of a general election; the others have gained office upon the resignation of a prime minister of their own party. A prime minister will resign after party defeat at an election if unable to form a
coalition The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal. The word coalition connotes a co ...
, or obtain a
confidence and supply In a parliamentary system, parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster system, confidence and supply are required for a ruling party to retain power in the lower house. A confidence-and-supply agreement is one whereby a party or independen ...
arrangement. He or she may also resign after a motion of no confidence in the prime minister or for personal reasons. In such cases, the premiership goes to whoever can command a majority in the House, unless there is a
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no particular political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an absolute majority of legislators (co ...
and a coalition is formed; the new prime minister will by convention be the new leader of the resigner's party. It has become the practice to write the constitutions of major UK political parties to provide a set way to appoint a new party leader.


Peers as ministers

By convention, ministers are members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. A handful have been appointed from outside Parliament, but in most cases they then entered Parliament in a by-election or by receiving a peerage (being made a peer). Since 1902, all prime ministers have been members of the Commons; the sole exception was during the long summer recess in 1963:
Alec Douglas-Home Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, (; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government i ...
, then the 14th Earl of Home, disclaimed his peerage (under a new mechanism which remains in force) three days after becoming prime minister. The new session of Parliament was delayed to await the outcome of his by-election, which happened to be already under way due to a recent death. As anticipated, he won that election, which was for the highest-majority seat in Scotland among his party; otherwise he would have been constitutionally obliged to resign. Since 1990, almost all cabinet ministers, save for three whose offices are an intrinsic part of the House of Lords, have belonged to the Commons. Few major
cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
positions (except
Lord Privy Seal The Lord Privy Seal (or, more formally, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) is the fifth of the Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inherit their posit ...
,
Lord Chancellor The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking among the in in the , nominally outranking the . The lord chancellor is appointed by the on the advice of the prime minister. Prior to their i ...
and
Leader of the House of Lords The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown in the government of the United Kingdom. A committee of the Privy C ...
) have been filled by a peer in recent times. Notable exceptions are Peter Carington, 6th Lord Carrington, who served as Foreign Secretary from 1979 to 1982; David Young, Lord Young of Graffham, who was appointed Employment Secretary in 1985;
Lord Mandelson Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson (born 21 October 1953) is a British Labour politician who served as First Secretary of State from 2009 to 2010. A member of the Labour Party, he was President of the Board of Trade in 1998 and from ...

Lord Mandelson
, who served as Business Secretary; Lord Adonis, who served as Transport Secretary; Baroness Amos, who served as International Development Secretary; Baroness Morgan of Cotes, who served as
Culture Secretary The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, also referred to as the Culture Secretary, is a cabinet rank office with overall responsibility for strategy and policy across the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. T ...
; and Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, who is serving as Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and
Minister of State for International Development Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity), a Christian cleric * Minister (government), a member of government who heads a ministry (government department) ** Minister without portfolio, a member of government with the rank of a normal minist ...
. The elected status of members of the Commons (as opposed to the unelected Lords) and their direct accountability to that House, together with empowerment and transparency, ensures ministerial accountability.
Responsible government Responsible government is a conception of a system of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ' ...
is an international constitutional paradigm. The prime minister chooses the ministers, and may decide to remove them at any time, although the appointments and dismissals are formally made by the Sovereign.


Scrutiny of the government

The House of Commons formally scrutinises the Government through its Committees and
Prime Minister's Questions Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs, officially known as Questions to the Prime Minister, while colloquially known as Prime Minister's Question Time) is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
, when members ask questions of the prime minister; the house gives other opportunities to question other cabinet ministers. Prime Minister's Questions occur weekly, normally for half an hour each Wednesday. Questions must relate to the responding minister's official government activities, not to his or her activities as a party leader or as a private Member of Parliament. Customarily, members of the Government party/coalition and members of the Opposition alternate when asking questions. Members may also make inquiries in writing. In practice, this scrutiny can be fairly weak. Since the first-past-the-post electoral system is employed, the governing party often enjoys a large majority in the Commons, and ministers and departments practise defensive government, outsourcing key work to third parties. If the government has a large majority, it has no need or incentive to compromise with other parties. Major modern British political parties tend to be so tightly orchestrated that their MPs often have little scope for free action. A large minority of ruling party MPs are paid members of the Government. Since 1900 the Government has lost confidence motions three times — twice in 1924, and once in 1979. However, the threat of rebellions by their own party's backbench MPs often forces governments to make concessions (under the Coalition, over foundation hospitals and under Labour over
top-up fees Tuition fees were first introduced across the entire United Kingdom in September 1998 under the Labour government of Tony Blair to fund tuition for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities; students were required to pa ...
and compensation for failed company pension schemes). Occasionally Government bills are defeated by backbench rebellions (
Terrorism Act 2006 The Terrorism Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown ...
). However, the scrutiny provided by the
Select committees Select or SELECT may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Select'' (album), an album by Kim Wilde * ''Select'' (magazine), a British music magazine * '' MTV Select'', a television program * ''Select Live {{Infobox television , name = S ...
is more serious. The House of Commons technically retains the power to impeach Ministers of the Crown (or any other subject, even if not a public officer) for their crimes. Impeachments are tried by the House of Lords, where a simple majority is necessary to convict. But this power has fallen into disuse: the House of Commons exercises its checks on the government through other means, such as no confidence motions; the last impeachment was that of
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, PC, FRSE Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and Literature, letters, jud ...
in 1806.


Legislative functions

Bills may be introduced in either house, though bills of importance generally originate in the House of Commons. The supremacy of the Commons in legislative matters is assured by the Parliament Acts, under which certain types of bills may be presented to the Queen for Royal Assent without the consent of the House of Lords. The Lords may not delay a money bill (a bill that, in the view of the Speaker of the House of Commons, solely concerns national taxation or public funds) for more than one month. Moreover, the Lords may not delay most other public bills for more than two parliamentary sessions, or one calendar year. These provisions, however, only apply to public bills that originate in the House of Commons. Moreover, a bill that seeks to extend a parliamentary term beyond five years requires the consent of the House of Lords. By a custom that prevailed even before the Parliament Acts, only the House of Commons may originate bills concerning taxation or
Supply Supply may refer to: *The amount of a resource Resource refers to all the materials available in our environment which help us to satisfy our needs and wants. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified in ...
. Furthermore, supply bills passed by the House of Commons are immune to amendments in the House of Lords. In addition, the House of Lords is barred from amending a bill so as to insert a taxation or supply-related provision, but the House of Commons often waives its privileges and allows the Lords to make amendments with financial implications. Under a separate convention, known as the Salisbury Convention, the House of Lords does not seek to oppose legislation promised in the Government's election
manifesto A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a ...

manifesto
. Hence, as the power of the House of Lords has been severely curtailed by statute and by practice, the House of Commons is clearly the more powerful chamber of Parliament.


History

The British parliament of today largely descends, in practice, from the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who u ...
, although the 1706
Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometimes include individuals, business entities, and other L ...

Treaty of Union
, and the
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
that ratified the Treaty, created a new
Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to m ...
to replace the Parliament of England and the
Parliament of Scotland The Parliament of Scotland ( sco, Pairlament o Scotland; gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereig ...
, with the addition of 45 MPs and sixteen Peers to represent Scotland. Later still the
Acts of Union 1800 The Acts of Union 1800 (sometimes referred to as a single Act of Union 1801) were parallel acts of the Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union 17 ...
brought about the abolition of the
Parliament of Ireland The Parliament of Ireland ( ga, Parlaimint na hÉireann) was the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city ...
and enlarged the Commons at Westminster with 100 Irish members, creating the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
word ''common'' or ''commune'', which is derived from the
Anglo-NormanAnglo-Norman may refer to: *Anglo-Normans The Anglo-Normans ( nrf, Anglo-Normaunds, ang, Engel-Norðmandisca) were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Bretons, Flemish people, F ...
''commune'', meant "of general, public, or non-private nature" as an adjective and, as a substantive, "the common body of the people of any place; the community or commonalty" in the singular; "the common people, the commonalty; the lower order, as distinguished from those of noble or knight or gentle rank", or "the burgers of a town; the body of free citizens, bearing common burdens, and exercising common rights; (hence) the third estate in the English constitution; the body of people, not ennobled, and represented by the Lower House of Parliament" in the plural. The word has survived to this day in the original Anglo-Norman phrase ''soit baillé aux communes'', with which a bill is transmitted from the House of Lords to the House of Commons. The historian
Albert Pollard Albert Frederick Pollard, FBA (16 December 1869 – 3 August 1948) was a British historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person ...
held a somewhat different view on the word's origins in 1920. He agreed that ''commons'' could be derived from Anglo-Norman ''communes'', but that it referred to "civil associations" or "the counties". However, the ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historica ...
'', the historical dictionary of the English language, can only attest to the word meaning advocated by Pollard from the 19th and 20th centuries onwards, whereas sources for the meaning given in the previous section date from the late Middle Ages, i.e. the time of the establishment of the House of Commons.


Layout and design

The current Commons'
layout Layout may refer to: * Page layout 300px, Consumer magazine sponsored advertisements and covers rely heavily on professional page layout skills to compete for visual attention. In graphic design Graphic design is the art, profession and ...
is influenced by the use of the original St. Stephen's Chapel in the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
. The rectangular shape is derived from the shape of the chapel. Benches were arranged using the configuration of the chapel's choir stalls whereby they were facing across from one another. This arrangement facilitated an adversarial atmosphere representative of the British parliamentary approach. The distance across the floor of the house between the government and opposition benches is , said to be equivalent to two swords' length, though this is likely to be purely symbolic given weapons have been banned in the chamber for hundreds of years.


19th century

The House of Commons underwent an important period of reform during the 19th century. Over the years, several anomalies had developed in borough representation. The constituency boundaries had not been changed since 1660, so many towns whose importance had declined by the 19th century still retained their ancient right of electing two members, in addition to other boroughs that had never been important, such as Gatton. Among the most notorious of these "
rotten borough A rotten or pocket borough, also known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a parliamentary borough In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK ...
s" were
Old Sarum Old Sarum, in Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordsh ...
, which had only six voters for two MPs, and
Dunwich Dunwich is a village and Civil parishes in England, civil parish in Suffolk, England. It is in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB around north-east of London, south of Southwold and north of Leiston, on the North Sea coast. In the Anglo-S ...
, which had largely collapsed into the sea from
coastal erosion Coastal erosion is the loss or displacement of land, or the long-term removal of sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering Weathering is the deterioration of rocks A roc ...
. At the same time, large cities such as
Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguis ...

Manchester
received no separate representation (although their eligible residents were entitled to vote in the corresponding county seat). Also notable were the pocket boroughs, small constituencies controlled by wealthy landowners and aristocrats, whose "nominees" were invariably elected. The Commons attempted to address these anomalies by passing a Reform Bill in 1831. At first, the House of Lords proved unwilling to pass the bill, but it was forced to relent when the prime minister, Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, advised
King William IV William IV (William Henry; 21 August 1765 – 20 June 1837) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union A political un ...

King William IV
to flood the House of Lords by creating pro-Reform peers. To avoid this, the Lords relented and passed the bill in 1832. The
Reform Act 1832 The Representation of the People Act 1832 (also known as the 1832 Reform Act, Great Reform Act or First Reform Act) was an Act of Parliament, Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom (indexed as 2 & 3 Will. IV c. 45) that introduced major chang ...
, also known as the "Great Reform Act", abolished the rotten boroughs, established uniform voting requirements for the boroughs, and granted representation to populous cities, but still retained some anomalies. In the ensuing years, the Commons grew more assertive, the influence of the House of Lords having been reduced by the Reform Bill crisis, and the power of the patrons reduced. The Lords became more reluctant to reject bills that the Commons had passed with large majorities, and it became an accepted political principle that the confidence of the House of Commons alone was necessary for a government to remain in office. Many more reforms were introduced in the latter half of the 19th century. The
Reform Act 1867 250px, Contemporary cartoon of Disraeli outpacing Gladstone (left) at The Derby, parodying the perceived victor in debates in a split Liberal-led Commons while Disraeli's fellow Conservative, Lord Derby led as Prime Minister from the House of L ...
lowered property requirements for voting in the boroughs, reduced the representation of the less populous boroughs, and granted parliamentary seats to several growing industrial towns. The electorate was further expanded by the
Representation of the People Act 1884 Representation may refer to: Law and politics *Representation (politics), political activities undertaken by elected representatives, as well as other theories ** Representative democracy, type of democracy in which elected officials represent a g ...
, under which property qualifications in the counties were lowered. The Redistribution of Seats Act of the following year replaced almost all multi-member constituencies with single-member constituencies.


20th century

In 1908, the
Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...
Government under
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928), generally known as H. H. Asquith, was a British statesman and Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liber ...
introduced a number of
social welfare Welfare (or commonly, social welfare) is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and ...
programmes, which, together with an expensive
arms race An arms race occurs when two or more groups compete in increases in military personnel and materiel. Simply defined as a competition between two or more State (polity), states to have superior armed forces; a competition concerning production o ...
, forced the Government to seek higher taxes. In 1909, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and the chief executive officer of HM Treasury, Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Grea ...
,
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinat ...

David Lloyd George
, introduced the "People's Budget", which proposed a new tax targeting wealthy landowners. This measure failed in the heavily Conservative House of Lords, and the government resigned. The resulting
general election A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from by-election ...
returned a
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no particular political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an absolute majority of legislators (co ...
, but Asquith remained prime minister with the support of the smaller parties. Asquith then proposed that the powers of the Lords be severely curtailed. After a further election in December 1910, the Asquith Government secured the passage of a bill to curtail the powers of the House of Lords after threatening to flood the house with 500 new Liberal peers to ensure the passage of the bill. Thus the
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make l ...

Parliament Act 1911
came into effect, destroying the legislative equality of the two Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords was permitted only to delay most legislation, for a maximum of three parliamentary sessions or two calendar years (reduced to two sessions or one year by the
Parliament Act 1949 The Parliament Act 1949 (12, 13 & 14 Geo. 6 c. 103) is an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It reduced the power of the House of Lords to delay certain types of legislation – specificall ...

Parliament Act 1949
). Since the passage of these Acts, the House of Commons has become the dominant branch of Parliament. Since the 17th century, government ministers were paid, while other MPs were not. Most of the men elected to the Commons had private incomes, while a few relied on financial support from a wealthy patron. Early Labour MPs were often provided with a salary by a trade union, but this was declared illegal by a House of Lords judgement of 1909. Consequently, a resolution was passed in the House of Commons in 1911 introducing salaries for MPs. In 1918, women over 30 who owned property were given the right to vote, as were men over 21 who did not own property, quickly followed by the passage of a law enabling women to be eligible for election as members of parliament at the younger age of 21. The only woman to be elected that year was an Irish
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
candidate,
Constance Markievicz Constance Georgine Markievicz ( pl, Markiewicz ; ; 4 February 1868 – 15 July 1927), known as Countess Markievicz, was an Irish politician, revolutionary, Irish nationalism, nationalist, Suffrage, suffragist, Socialism, socialist, and the first ...
, who therefore became the first woman to be an MP. However, owing to Sinn Féin's policy of abstention from Westminster, she never took her seat. Women were given equal voting status as men in 1928, and with effect from the General Election in 1950, various forms of
plural votingPlural voting is the practice whereby one person might be able to vote multiple times in an election. It is not to be confused with a plurality voting system which does not necessarily involve plural voting. Weighted voting is a generalisation of plu ...
(i.e. some individuals had the right to vote in more than one constituency in the same election), including
University constituencies A university constituency is a constituency, used in elections to a legislature, that represents the members of one or more universities rather than residents of a geographical area. These may or may not involve plural voting, in which voters ...
, were abolished.


21st century

In May and June 2009 revelations of MPs' expenses claims caused a major scandal and loss of confidence by the public in the integrity of MPs, as well as causing the first forced resignation of the Speaker in 300 years. In 2011, a
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct Direct may refer to: Mathematics * Directed set In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number th ...
was held, asking whether to replace the present "
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP; sometimes called choose-one voting for single-member districts, in contrast to ranked voting, ranked-choice voting), voter ...
" system with the "
alternative vote Instant-runoff voting (IRV), also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), preferential voting, or, in the United States, ranked-choice voting (RCV), though these names are also used for other systems, is a type of ranked preferential ...
" (AV) method. The proposal to introduce AV was overwhelmingly rejected by 67.9% of voters on a national turnout of 42%. The
Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (c. 14) (FTPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make ...
was passed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, transferring the power to call an early election from the Prime Minister to parliament, and setting out the procedure for this. Under the act, calling an early election requires a two-thirds
supermajority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority, or special majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority A majority, also calle ...
of the house. These provisions were first used by
Theresa May Theresa Mary, Lady May (; ' Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician who served as and from 2016 to 2019. May served as from 2010 to 2016 in the and has been the (MP) for in since . Ideologically, she identifies herself as ...

Theresa May
to trigger the 2017 snap election. In 2019, MPs used "standing order 24" (a parliamentary procedure that triggers emergency debates) as a means of gaining control of the parliamentary order paper for the following day, and passing legislation without the incumbent government. This unusual process was achieved through tabling amendments to the "motion in neutral terms", a non-binding statement released by parliament after the debate. This new technique was used to pass the
European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, commonly referred to as the Cooper–Letwin Act, was an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made provisions for extensions to the period defined under Withdrawal from the ...
in March, as well as the No. 2 Act in September, both relating to
Brexit Brexit (; a portmanteau of "British exit") was the Withdrawal from the European Union, withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) at 23:00 31 January 2020 Green ...

Brexit
. In 2020, new procedures for hybrid proceedings were introduced from 22 April. These mitigated the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, coronavirus pandemic with measures including a limit of 50 MPs in the chamber, physical distancing and remote participation using video conferencing. Hybrid proceedings were abolished in August 2021.


Members and elections

Since 1950, every constituency has been represented by a single Member of Parliament. There remains a technical distinction between county constituency, county and borough constituency, borough constituencies; its only effects are on the amount of money candidates are allowed to spend during campaigns and the rank of the local authority co-opted Returning Officer who presides over the count. Geographic boundaries are determined by four permanent and independent Boundary Commissions (United Kingdom), Boundary Commissions, one each for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The commissions conduct general reviews of electoral boundaries once every 8 to 12 years, and interim reviews. In drawing boundaries, they are required to prefer local government boundaries, but may deviate from these to prevent great disparities in electorate; such disparities are given the formal term malapportionment. The proposals of the Boundary Commissions are subject to parliamentary approval, but may not be amended. After their next Periodic Reviews, the Boundary Commissions will be absorbed into the Electoral Commission (UK), Electoral Commission, which was established in 2000. As of 2019, the UK is divided into List of Parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom, 650 constituencies, with 533 in England, 40 in Wales, 59 in Scotland, and 18 in Northern Ireland. United Kingdom general elections, General elections occur whenever Parliament is dissolved. The timing of the dissolution was normally chosen by the Prime Minister (see #Relationship with Her Majesty's Government, relationship with the Government above); however, because of the
Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (c. 14) (FTPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make ...
, Parliamentary terms are now fixed at five years, except when the House of Commons sustains a vote of no confidence or passes an "early election" motion, the latter having to be passed by a two-thirds vote; or, as in 2019, by an Enabling Act which overrides the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. The first use of this procedure was in April 2017, when MPs voted in favour of
Theresa May Theresa Mary, Lady May (; ' Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician who served as and from 2016 to 2019. May served as from 2010 to 2016 in the and has been the (MP) for in since . Ideologically, she identifies herself as ...

Theresa May
's call for a 2017 United Kingdom general election, snap election to be held that June. All elections in the UK have for some years been held on a Thursday. The Electoral Commission is unsure when this practice arose, but dates it to 1931, with the suggestion that it was made to coincide with market day; this would ease voting for those who had to travel into the towns to cast their ballot. A candidate for a seat must submit nomination papers signed by ten registered voters from that area, and pay £500, which is refunded if the candidate wins at least five per cent of the vote. Such a Election deposit, deposit seeks to discourage frivolity and very long ballot papers which would cause vote splitting (and arguably voter confusion). Each constituency is also called a seat (as it was Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, in 1885), as it returns one member, using the First Past the Post electoral system, first-past-the-post electoral system, under which the candidate with a Plurality (voting), plurality of votes wins, that is greatest number of votes. Minors (that is, anyone under the age of 18), members of the House of Lords, and prisoners are not qualified to become members of the House of Commons. To vote, one must be a UK resident and a British citizen, or a citizen of a British overseas territory, of the Republic of Ireland, or of a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. British citizens living abroad are allowed to vote for 15 years after leaving. It is a criminal offence for a person to vote in the ballot of more than one seat which is vacant at any election. This has not always been the case: before 1948
plural votingPlural voting is the practice whereby one person might be able to vote multiple times in an election. It is not to be confused with a plurality voting system which does not necessarily involve plural voting. Weighted voting is a generalisation of plu ...
was permitted as voters qualified by home ownership or residence and could vote under both entitlements simultaneously, as well as for a university constituency if a university graduate. Once elected, Members of Parliament normally continue to serve until the next dissolution of Parliament. But if a member dies or ceases to be qualified (see #Qualifications, qualifications below), his or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the House of Commons to expel a member, a power exercised only in cases of serious misconduct or criminal activity. In each case, the vacancy is filled by a UK Parliamentary by-elections, by-election in the constituency, with the same electoral system as in general elections. The term "Member of Parliament" by modern convention means a member of the House of Commons. These members may, and almost invariably do, use the post-nominal letters "MP". The annual salary of each member is £81,932, effective from 1 April 2020. Members may also receive additional salaries for other offices they hold (for instance, the Speakership). Most members also claim for various office expenses (staff costs, postage, travelling, etc.) and, in the case of members for seats outside London, for the costs of maintaining a home in the capital.


Qualifications

There are numerous qualifications that apply to Members of Parliament. One must be aged at least 18 (the minimum age was 21 until s.17 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 came into force), and must be a citizen of the United Kingdom, of a British overseas territory, of the Republic of Ireland, or of a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. These restrictions were introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981, but were previously far more stringent: under the Act of Settlement 1701, only natural-born subjects were qualified. Members of the House of Lords may not serve in the House of Commons, or even vote in parliamentary elections (just as the Queen does not vote); however, they are permitted to sit in the chamber during debates (unlike the Queen, who cannot enter the chamber). A person may not sit in the Commons if he or she is the subject of a Bankruptcy in the United Kingdom, Bankruptcy Restrictions Order (applicable in England and Wales only), or if she or he is adjudged bankrupt (in Northern Ireland), or if his or her estate is Sequestration (law), sequestered (in Scotland). Previously, MPs detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 for six months or more would have their seat vacated if two specialists reported to the Speaker that the member was suffering from a mental disorder. However, this disqualification was removed by the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013. There also exists a common law precedent from the 18th century that the deaf-mute are ineligible to sit in the Lower House; this precedent, however, has not been tested in recent years. Anyone found guilty of high treason may not sit in Parliament until she or he has either completed the term of imprisonment or received a full pardon from the Crown. Moreover, anyone serving a prison sentence of one year or more is ineligible, per Representation of the People Act 1981. Finally, members of the Senedd, formerly the National Assembly for Wales until May 2020, and Northern Ireland Assembly are disqualified since 2014, and sitting MPs are expelled from Parliament if sentenced to a one-year imprisonment or greater. Article 159, Section 2 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 formerly disqualified for ten years those found guilty of certain election-related offences, until this section was repealed in 2001. Several other disqualifications are codified in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975: holders of high judge, judicial offices, civil servants, members of the regular armed forces, members of foreign legislatures (excluding the Republic of Ireland and Commonwealth countries), and holders of several Crown offices. Ministers, even though they are paid officers of the Crown, are not disqualified. The rule that precludes certain Crown officers from serving in the House of Commons is used to circumvent a resolution adopted by the House of Commons in 1623, under which members are not permitted to resign their seats. In practice, however, they always can. Should a member wish to Resignation from the British House of Commons, resign from the Commons, she or he may request appointment to one of two ceremonial Crown offices: that of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, or that of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. These offices are sinecures (that is, they involve no actual duties); they exist solely to permit the "resignation" of members of the House of Commons. The
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and the chief executive officer of HM Treasury, Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Grea ...
is responsible for making the appointment, and, by convention, never refuses to do so when asked by a member who desires to leave the House of Commons.


Officers

At the beginning of each new parliamentary term, the House of Commons elects one of its members as a presiding officer, known as the Speaker. If the incumbent Speaker seeks a new term, then the house may re-elect him or her merely by passing a motion; otherwise, a secret ballot is held. A Speaker-elect cannot take office until she or he has been approved by the Sovereign; the granting of the royal approbation, however, is a formality. The Speaker is assisted by three Deputy Speakers, the most senior of whom holds the title of Chairman of Ways and Means. The two other Deputy Speakers are known as the First and Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. These titles derive from the Committee of Ways and Means, a body over which the chairman once used to preside; even though the committee was abolished in 1967, the traditional titles of the Deputy Speakers are still retained. The Speaker and the Deputy Speakers are always members of the House of Commons. Whilst presiding, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker traditionally wears ceremonial dress. The presiding officer may also wear a wig, but this tradition was abandoned by Speaker Betty Boothroyd. Her successor, Michael Martin, Baron Martin of Springburn, Michael Martin, also did not wear a wig while in the chamber. His successor, John Bercow, chose to wear a gown over a lounge suit, a decision that sparked much debate and opposition; he also did not wear a wig. The Speaker or deputy presides from a chair at the front of the house. This chair was designed by Augustus Pugin, who initially built a prototype of the chair at King Edward's School, Birmingham: that chair is called Sapientia (Latin for "wisdom") and is where the chief master sits. The Speaker is also chairman of the House of Commons Commission, which oversees the running of the house, and controls debates by calling on members to speak. A member who believes that a rule (or Standing Order) has been breached may raise a "point of order", on which the Speaker makes a ruling not subject to any appeal. The Speaker may discipline members who fail to observe the rules of the house. The Speaker also decides which proposed amendments to a motion are to be debated. Thus, the Speaker is far more powerful than his or her Lords counterpart, the Lord Speaker, who has no disciplinary powers. Customarily, the Speaker and the deputies are non-partisan; they do not vote (with the notable exception of tied votes, where the Speaker votes in accordance with Speaker Denison's rule, Denison's rule), or participate in the affairs of any political party. By convention, a Speaker seeking re-election to parliament is not opposed in his or her constituency by any of the major parties. The lack of partisanship continues even after the Speaker leaves the House of Commons. The Clerk of the House of Commons is both the house's chief adviser on matters of procedure and chief executive of the House of Commons. She or he is a permanent official, not a member of the house itself. The Clerk advises the Speaker on the rules and procedure of the house, signs orders and official communications, and signs and endorses bills. The Clerk also chairs the Board of Management, which consists of the heads of the six departments of the house. The Clerk's deputy is known as the Clerk Assistant. Another officer of the house is the Serjeant-at-Arms, whose duties include the maintenance of law, order, and security on the house's premises. The Serjeant-at-Arms carries the ceremonial mace, a symbol of the authority of the Crown and of the House of Commons, into the house each day before the Speaker, and the mace is laid upon the table of the house during sittings. The Librarian is head of the House of Commons Library, the house's research and information arm.


Procedure

Like the Lords, the Commons meets in the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
in London. The Commons chamber is small and modestly decorated in green, unlike the large, lavishly furnished red Lords chamber. Benches sit on both sides of the chamber and are divided by a centre aisle. This arrangement reflects the design of St Stephen's Chapel, which served as the home of the House of Commons until destroyed by fire in 1834. The Speaker's chair is at one end of the chamber; in front of it, is the table of the house, on which the mace rests. The clerks sit at one end of the table, close to the Speaker so that they may advise him or her on procedure when necessary. Members of the Government occupy the benches on the Speaker's right, whilst members of the Opposition occupy the benches on the Speaker's left. In front of each set of benches a red line is drawn, which members are traditionally not allowed to cross during debates. The Prime Minister and the government ministers, as well as the leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Cabinet sit on the front rows, and are known as ''frontbenchers''. Other members of parliament, in contrast, are known as ''backbenchers''. Not all Members of Parliament can fit into the chamber at the same time, as it only has space to seat approximately two thirds of the Members. According to Robert Rogers, Baron Lisvane, Robert Rogers, former Clerk of the House of Commons and Chief Executive, a figure of 427 seats is an average or a finger-in-the-wind estimate. Members who arrive late must stand near the entrance of the house if they wish to listen to debates. Sittings in the chamber are held each day from Monday to Thursday, and also on some Fridays. During times of national emergency, the house may also sit at weekends. Sittings of the house are open to the public, but the house may at any time vote to sit in private, which has occurred only twice since 1950. Traditionally, a Member who desired that the house sit privately could shout "I spy strangers!" and a vote would automatically follow. In the past, when relations between the Commons and the Crown were less than cordial, this procedure was used whenever the house wanted to keep its debate private. More often, however, this device was used to delay and disrupt proceedings; as a result, it was abolished in 1998. Now, members seeking that the house sit in private must make a formal motion to that effect. Public debates are recorded and archived in Hansard. The post war redesign of the house in 1950 included microphones, and debates were allowed to be broadcast by radio in 1975. Since First televised speech in the UK Parliament, 1989, they have also been broadcast on television, which is now handled by BBC Parliament. Sessions of the House of Commons have sometimes been disrupted by angry protesters throwing objects into the chamber from the galleries—items thrown include leaflets, manure, flour, and a canister of CS gas, chlorobenzylidene malonitrile (tear gas). Even members have been known to disturb proceedings of the house. For instance, in 1976, Conservative MP Michael Heseltine seized and brandished the mace of the house during a heated debate. However, perhaps the most famous disruption of the House of Commons was caused by Charles I of England, Charles I, who entered the Commons Chamber in 1642 with an armed force to arrest five members for high treason. This action was deemed a breach of the privilege of the house, and has given rise to the tradition that the monarch does not set foot in the House of Commons. Each year, the parliamentary session begins with the State Opening of Parliament, a ceremony in the Lords Chamber during which the Sovereign, in the presence of Members of both Houses, delivers an address outlining the Government's legislative agenda. The Gentleman or Lady Usher of the Black Rod (a Lords official) is responsible for summoning the Commons to the Lords Chamber. When he arrives to deliver his summons, the doors of the Commons Chamber are traditionally slammed shut in his face, symbolising the right of the Lower House to debate without interference. He then knocks on the door three times with his Black Rod, and only then is granted admittance, where he informs the MPs that the Monarch awaits them, after which they proceed to the House of Lords for the Queen's Speech. During debates, Members may speak only if called upon by the Speaker (or a Deputy Speaker, if the Speaker is not presiding). Traditionally, the presiding officer alternates between calling Members from the Government and Opposition. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and other leaders from both sides are normally given priority. All Privy Council of the United Kingdom, Privy Counsellors used to be granted priority; however, the modernisation of Commons procedure in 1998 led to the abolition of this tradition. Speeches are addressed to the presiding officer, using the words "Mr Speaker", "Madam Speaker", "Mr Deputy Speaker", or "Madam Deputy Speaker". Only the presiding officer may be directly addressed in debate; other members must be referred to in the third person. Traditionally, members do not refer to each other by name, but by constituency, using forms such as "the Honourable Member for [constituency]", or, in the case of Privy Counsellors, "the Right Honourable Member for [constituency]". Members of the same party (or allied parties or groups) refer to each other as "my (Right) Honourable friend". A currently serving, or ex-member of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Armed Forces is referred to as "the Honourable and Gallant Member" (a barrister used to be called "the Honourable and Learned Member", and a woman "the Honourable Lady the Member".) This may not always be the case during the actual oral delivery, when it might be difficult for a member to remember another member's exact constituency, but it is invariably followed in the transcript entered in the Hansard. The Speaker enforces the rules of the house and may warn and punish members who deviate from them. Disregarding the Speaker's instructions is considered a breach of the rules of the House and may result in the suspension of the offender from the house. In the case of List of incidents of grave disorder in the British House of Commons, grave disorder, the Speaker may adjourn the house without taking a vote. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons do not establish any formal time limits for debates. The Speaker may, however, order a member who persists in making a tediously repetitive or irrelevant speech to stop speaking. The time set aside for debate on a particular motion is, however, often limited by informal agreements between the parties. Debate may also be restricted by the passage of "allocation of time motions", which are more commonly known as "guillotine motions". Alternatively, the house may put an immediate end to debate by passing a motion to invoke cloture, closure. The Speaker is allowed to deny the motion if she or he believes that it infringes upon the rights of the minority. Today, bills are scheduled according to a timetable motion, which the whole house agrees in advance, negating the use of a guillotine. When the debate concludes, or when the closure is invoked, the motion is put to a vote. The house first votes by voice vote; the Speaker or Deputy Speaker puts the question, and Members respond either "Aye!" (in favour of the motion) or "No!" (against the motion). The presiding officer then announces the result of the voice vote, but if his or her assessment is challenged by any member or the voice vote is unclear, a recorded vote known as a division (vote), division follows. The presiding officer, if she or he believes that the result of the voice vote is clear, may reject the challenge. When a division occurs, members enter one of two lobbies (the "Aye" lobby or the "No" lobby) on either side of the chamber, where their names are recorded by clerks. A member who wishes to pointedly abstain from a vote may do so by entering both lobbies, casting one vote for and one against. At each lobby are two tellers (themselves members of the house) who count the votes of the members. Once the division concludes, the tellers provide the results to the presiding officer, who then announces them to the house. If the votes are tied, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker has a casting vote. Traditionally, this casting vote is exercised to allow further debate, if this is possible, or otherwise to avoid a decision without a majority (e.g. voting 'No' to a motion or the third reading of a bill). Ties rarely occur: more than 25 years passed between the last two ones in July 1993 and April 2019. The quorum of the House of Commons is 40 members for any vote, including the Speaker and four tellers. If fewer than 40 members have participated, the division is invalid. Formerly, if a member sought to raise a point of order during a division, suggesting that some of the rules governing parliamentary procedure are violated, he was required to wear a hat, thereby signalling that he was not engaging in debate. Collapsible top hats were kept in the chamber just for this purpose. This custom was discontinued in 1998. The outcome of most votes is largely known beforehand, since political parties normally instruct members on how to vote. A party normally entrusts some members of parliament, known as whip (politics), whips, with the task of ensuring that all party members vote as desired. Members of Parliament do not tend to vote against such instructions, since those who do so jeopardise promotion, or may be deselected as party candidates for future elections. Ministers, junior ministers and parliamentary private secretaries who vote against the whips' instructions usually resign. Thus, the independence of Members of Parliament tends to be low, although "backbench rebellions" by members discontent with their party's policies do occur. A member is also traditionally allowed some leeway if the particular interests of his constituency are adversely affected. In some circumstances, however, parties announce "free votes", allowing members to vote as they please. Votes relating to issues of conscience such as Abortion debate, abortion and Capital punishment debate, capital punishment are typically free votes. Pair (parliamentary convention), Pairing is an arrangement where a member from one party agrees with a member of another party not to vote in a particular division, allowing both MPs the opportunity not to attend. A bisque is permission from the Whips given to a member to miss a vote or debate in the house to attend to constituency business or other matters.


Committees

The British Parliament uses committees for a variety of purposes, e.g., for the review of Acts of Parliament, bills. Committees consider bills in detail, and may make amendments. Bills of great constitutional importance, as well as some important financial measures, are usually sent to the "Committee of the Whole House", a body that includes all members of the Commons. Instead of the Speaker, the chairman or a Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means presides. The committee meets in the House of Commons Chamber. Most bills were until 2006 considered by standing committees, which consisted of between 16 and 50 members. The membership of each standing committee roughly reflected the strength of the parties in the House. The membership of standing committees changed constantly; new Members were assigned each time the committee considered a new bill. The number of standing committees was not limited, but usually only ten existed. Rarely, a bill was committed to a Special Standing Committee, which investigated and held hearings on the issues raised. In November 2006, standing committees were replaced by public bill committees. The House of Commons also has several departmental select committee (United Kingdom), select committees. The membership of these bodies, like that of the standing committees, reflects the strength of the parties. The chairman of each committee is voted on in a secret ballot of the whole house during the first session of a parliamentary term, or when a vacancy occurs. The number of select committee chairmanships allocated to each party reflects the strength of the parties, and the parties allocate the positions through agreement. The primary function of a departmental select committee is to scrutinise and investigate the activities of a particular government department. To fulfil these aims, it is permitted to hold Hearing (law), hearings and collect evidence. Bills may be referred to Departmental Select Committees, but such a procedure is seldom used. A separate type of select committee is the Domestic Committee. Domestic Committees oversee the administration of the House and the services provided to Members. Other committees of the House of Commons include Joint Committees (which also include members of the House of Lords), the Committee on Standards and Privileges (which considers questions of parliamentary privilege, as well as matters relating to the conduct of the members), and the Committee of Selection (which determines the membership of other committees).


Commons symbol

The symbol used by the Commons consists of a portcullis topped by St Edward's Crown. The portcullis has been one of the Royal Badges of England since the accession of the Tudors in the 15th century, and was a favourite symbol of Henry VII of England, King Henry VII. It was originally the badge of Beaufort, his mother's family; and a pun on the name Tudor, as in tu-''door''. The original badge was of gold, but nowadays is shown in various colours, predominantly green or black.


In film and television

In 1986, the British television production company Granada Television created a near-full size replica of the post-1950 House of Commons debating chamber at its studios in
Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguis ...

Manchester
for use in its adaptation of the Jeffrey Archer novel ''First Among Equals (novel), First Among Equals''. The set was highly convincing, and was retained after the production—since then, it has been used in nearly every British film and television production that has featured scenes set in the chamber. From 1988 until 1999 it was also one of the prominent attractions on the Granada Studios Tour, where visitors could watch actors performing mock political debates on the set. The major difference between the studio set and the real House of Commons Chamber is that the studio set has just four rows of seats on either side whereas the real Chamber has five. In 2002, the set was purchased by the scriptwriter Paul Abbott so that it could be used in his BBC drama serial ''State of Play (TV serial), State of Play''. Abbott, a former Granada Television staff writer, bought it because the set would otherwise have been destroyed and he feared it would take too long to get the necessary money from the BBC. Abbott kept the set in storage in Oxford.Abbott, Paul. Audio commentary (DVD), Audio commentary on the DVD release of ''State of Play (TV serial), State of Play''. BBC Worldwide. BBCDVD 1493. The pre-1941 Chamber was recreated in Shepperton Studios for the Ridley Scott/Richard Loncraine 2002 biographical film on Winston Churchill, Churchill, ''The Gathering Storm (2002 film), The Gathering Storm''.


See also

* Adjournment debate * Australian House of Representatives * Early day motion * House of Commons of Canada * Introduction (British House of Commons) * List of Stewards of the Chiltern Hundreds * List of United Kingdom Parliament constituencies * New Zealand House of Representatives * Parliament in the Making * Parliament Week * Parliamentary Archives * Parliamentary Brief * Records of members of parliament of the United Kingdom * Relocation of the Parliament of the United Kingdom * Salaries of Members of the United Kingdom Parliament * Vote Bundle


Notes


References


Bibliography

* Erskine May, May, Erskine. (1896). ''Constitutional History of England since the Accession of George the Third'', 11th ed. London: Longmans, Green and Co. * Kenneth R. Mackenzie, Mackenzie, K. R., "The English Parliament", (1950) Pelican Books. * "Parliament" (1911). ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', 11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press. * Pollard, Albert F. (1926). ''The Evolution of Parliament'', 2nd ed. London: Longmans, Green and Co. * Porritt, Edward, and Annie G. Porritt. (1903). ''The Unreformed House of Commons: Parliamentary Representation before 1832.'' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * Raphael, D. D., Donald Limon, and W. R. McKay. (2004). ''Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice'', 23rd ed. London: Butterworths Tolley.


External links

* *
The Parliamentary Archives
*
Find Your MP
*
Parliament Live TV
(Silverlight is required to watch) *
Podcast tour of the Commons chamber with photos

Guide to the Commons
*
British House of Commons coverage on C-SPAN

British House of Commons people on C-SPAN
{{DEFAULTSORT:House Of Commons Of The United Kingdom House of Commons of the United Kingdom, 1801 establishments in the United Kingdom Government of the United Kingdom National lower houses, United Kingdom Parliament of the United Kingdom, Westminster system