Act of Parliament (UK) - Wikipedia
Parliament is an essential part of UK politics and interacts on a daily basis with a number of What is the difference between Parliament and the Government?. The Cabinet is made up of the senior members of government. Every week during Parliament, members of the Cabinet (Secretaries of State from all departments. In the United Kingdom an Act of Parliament is primary legislation passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As a result of the Glorious Revolution and the assertion of parliamentary Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg. This article is part of a Foreign relations[show]. Foreign policy.
As ofthe United Kingdom is divided into constituencieswith in England, 40 in Wales, 59 in Scotland, and 18 in Northern Ireland. General elections occur whenever Parliament is dissolved. The timing of the dissolution was normally chosen by the Prime Minister see relationship with the Government above ; however, as a result of the Fixed-term Parliaments ActParliamentary terms are now fixed at five years, except in the event of the House of Commons passing a vote of no confidence or an "early election" motion, the latter having to be passed by a two-thirds majority.
All elections in the UK are held on a Thursday.
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The Electoral Commission is unsure when this practice arose, but dates it towith 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.
The deposit seeks to discourage frivolous candidates. Each constituency returns one member, using the first-past-the-post electoral system, under which the candidate with a plurality of votes wins.
Minors that is, anyone under the age of 18members of the House of Lords, prisoners, and insane persons are not qualified to become members of the House of Commons.
To vote, one must be a resident of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and a British citizen, or a citizen of a British overseas territoryof the Republic of Irelandor of a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. British citizens living abroad are allowed to vote for 15 years after moving from the United Kingdom.
House of Commons of the United Kingdom
No person may vote in more than one constituency. 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 belowhis or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the House of Commons to expel a member, but this power is exercised only in cases of serious misconduct or criminal activity.
In each case, the vacancy is filled by a by-election in the constituency, with the same electoral system as in general elections. The term "Member of Parliament" is normally used only to refer to members of the House of Commons, even though the House of Lords is also a part of Parliament.
Members of the House of Commons may use the post-nominal letters "MP". Most members also claim for various office expenses staff costs, postage, travelling, etc.An introduction to Parliament
Qualifications[ edit ] Another picture of the old House of Commons chamber. Note the dark veneer on the wood, which was purposely made much brighter in the new chamber.
There are numerous qualifications that apply to Members of Parliament. Most importantly, one must be aged at least 18 the minimum age was 21 until s. These restrictions were introduced by the British Nationality Actbut were previously far more stringent: 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 Restrictions Order applicable in England and Wales onlyor if he or she is adjudged bankrupt in Northern Irelandor if his or her estate is sequestered in Scotland.
Previously, MPs detained under the Mental Health Act 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 There also exists a common law precedent from the 18th century that the deaf and dumb 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 he or she 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. Finally, the Representation of the People Act disqualifies for ten years those found guilty of certain election-related offences.
Several other disqualifications are codified in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 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 inunder which members are not permitted to resign their seats.
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In practice, however, they always can. Should a member wish to resign from the Commonshe or she may request appointment to one of two ceremonial Crown offices: 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 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[ edit ] The Speaker presides over debates in the House of Commons, as depicted in the above print commemorating the destruction of the Commons Chamber by fire in 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 he or she 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. 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 inthe traditional titles of the Deputy Speakers are still retained.
Whilst presiding, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker wears ceremonial dress. The presiding officer may also wear a wig, but this tradition was abandoned by Speaker Betty Boothroyd. Her successor, Michael Martinalso did not wear a wig while in the chamber. The current Speaker, John Bercowhas chosen to wear a gown over a lounge suit, a decision that has sparked much debate and opposition.
The Speaker or deputy presides from a chair at the front of the House. This chair was designed by Augustus Puginwho initially built a prototype of the chair at King Edward's School, Birmingham: The Speaker is also chairman of the House of Commons Commissionwhich 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 that is not subject to any appeal. The Speaker may discipline members who fail to observe the rules of the House. Thus, the Speaker is far more powerful than his or her Lords counterpart, the Lord Speakerwho 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 Denison's ruleor 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 is both the House's chief adviser on matters of procedure and chief executive of the House of Commons. He or she 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-Armswhose duties include the maintenance of law, order, and security on the House's premises.
The Serjeant-at-Arms carries the ceremonial macea symbol of the authority of the Crown and of the House of Commons, into the House each day in front of the Speaker, and the Mace is laid upon the Table of the House during sittings. The Commons chamber is small and modestly decorated in green, in contrast to the large, lavishly furnished red Lords chamber.
There are benches on two sides of the chamber, divided by a centre aisle. This arrangement reflects the design of St Stephen's Chapelwhich served as the home of the House of Commons until destroyed by fire in 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. A photograph is taken of each new Cabinet in the garden or drawing room at 10 Downing Street.
Despite the custom of meeting on a Thursday, after the appointment of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister the meeting day was switched to Tuesday.
The Prime Minister normally has a weekly audience with the Queen thereafter. The Cabinet has numerous sub-committees which focus on particular policy areas, particularly ones which cut across several ministerial responsibilities, and therefore need coordination. These may be permanent committees or set up for a short duration to look at particular issues " ad hoc committees".
Junior ministers are also often members of these committees, in addition to Secretaries of State. The transaction of government business through meetings of the Cabinet and its many committees is administered by a small secretariat within the Cabinet Office.
Consequent Orders in Council are normally made by the Queen-in-Council with a quorum of the Privy Council, which meets monthly or ad hoc. The Institute for Government claims that the reduced number of full Cabinet meetings signify "that the role of Cabinet as a formal decision-making body has been in decline since the war. This view has been contradicted by Vernon Bogdanora British constitutional expert, who claims that "the Cabinet has, in fact, been strengthened by the decline in full meetings, as it allows more matters to be transferred to cabinet committees.
Thus, business is done more efficiently. In recent governments, generally from Margaret Thatcherand especially in that of Tony Blairit has been reported that many or even all major decisions have been made before cabinet meetings. This suggestion has been made by former ministers including Clare Short and Chris Smithin the media, and was made clear in the Butler Reviewwhere Blair's style of "sofa government" was censured. Location of Cabinet meetings[ edit ] Cabinet meetings are usually held in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Streetthe Prime Minister's official residence.
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Cabinet meetings have also been held at Chequersand in one case at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. There are two key constitutional conventions regarding the accountability of cabinet ministers to the Parliament of the United Kingdomcabinet collective responsibilityand individual ministerial responsibility. These are derived from the fact the members of the cabinet are Members of Parliamentand therefore accountable to the House of which they are a member.
The Queen will only appoint a Prime Minister whose Government can command the support of the House of Commons, which alone can grant supply to a Government by authorising taxes; and the House of Commons expects all ministers to be personally accountable to Parliament.
In practice, Cabinet ministers will usually have a junior minister to represent their department in the House of Lords. Cabinet collective responsibility means that members of the cabinet make major decisions collectively, and are therefore collectively responsible for the consequences of these decisions.
Therefore, no minister may speak against government decisions, and if a vote of no confidence is passed in Parliament, every minister and government official drawn from Parliament is expected to resign from the executive.
Cabinet ministers who disagree with major decisions are expected to resign, Robin Cook being a recent example over the decision to go to war with Iraq in The principle of collective responsibility is not impaired by the fact that decisions may be made in a cabinet committee rather than by the full cabinet.
Individual ministerial responsibility is the convention that in their capacity as head of department, a minister is personally responsible for the actions and failings of their department. Under circumstances of gross failure in their department, a minister is expected to resign and may be forced to do so by the Prime Ministerwhile their civil servants remain permanent and anonymous. This is relatively rare in practice, perhaps because administrative failure is of less interest to the media than personal scandal, and less susceptible to unequivocal proof.
The closest example in recent years is perhaps Estelle Morriswho resigned as Secretary of State for Education and Skills in following severe problems and inaccuracies in the marking of A-level exams.
The circumstances under which this convention is followed are not possible to define strictly, and depend on many other factors. If a minister's reputation is seen to be tarnished by a personal scandal for example when it was luridly revealed that David Mellor had an extramarital affair they very often resign. This often follows a short period of intense media and opposition pressure for them to do so.
In general, despite numerous scandals, in Britain known cases of serious corruption e. These may be "planted" questions for the advantage of the Government, or antagonistic questions from the Opposition, or may genuinely seek information.
Cabinet ministers must respond, either themselves or through a deputy, although the answers do not always fully answer the question. Written answers, which are usually more specific and detailed than oral questions are usually written by a civil servant.
Answers to written and oral questions are published in Hansard. Parliament cannot dismiss individual ministers though members or a House may call for their resignation, or formally resolve to reduce their salary by a nominal amountbut the House of Commons is able to determine the fate of the entire Government. If a vote of no confidence in the Government passes, then the Queen will seek to restore confidence either by a dissolution of Parliament and the election of a new one, or by the acceptance of the resignation of her entire government.
In the United Kingdom's parliamentary system, the executive is not separate from the legislaturesince Cabinet members are drawn from Parliament. Moreover, the executive tends to dominate the legislature for several reasons: