Intro to Parliament


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Intro to Parliament

  1. 1. Find your way... Almost everywhere we look and in every choice we make Parliament has played a role, from the laws that govern our CONTENTs day-to-day lives to the public services we use and the role of the UK in the global community. This guide takes you to the heart of Parliament and helps you find your way through the history, people and processes. You can also find out how to get Highlights Page 2 involved and make your voice heard. History Page 4 Whether you are studying for a qualification or simply Democracy Page 6 looking for more information about politics and The Constitution Page 8 Parliament, this guide is for you. The EU Page 10 Parliament Page 12 Look out for the topics and icons that suit you and the House of Commons Page 14 next steps you can take to find out more. House of Lords Page 16 Legislation Page 18 Key Elections and Voting Page 20 Political Parties Page 24 Pressure Groups Page 26 Get Involved Page 28 The Jargon Talking point Ten… Did you know? Next StepsDefinitions of key Debate and Ten facts Facts, statistics Where to go to words and phrases discussion points not to miss and quotations find out more
  2. 2. Highlights Westminster Hall History, page 4: Follow the history of Parliament, from its medieval origins through to votes for women and up to the present day. all Central Lobby stmi n st er H We Lobbying, page 26: Find out how pressure groups have their say in the political of process and what you can do se ns Hou mmo ber o am C h c to get your own voice heard.highlights highlights al ntr N’S Ce obby EIG L V ER ANCE SO NTR E 2 rds 3 us f Lo e o ber House of Commons Ho cham House of Commons, page 14: What happens in the chamber, what do MPs ry lG alle do, and who do they represent? R oya House of Lords House of Lords, page 16: Who are the Members of Royal Gallery the House of Lords The Monarch, page 12: and how does their How does the role of work impact on the the monarch fit into decisions made in Parliament? Parliament?
  3. 3. HISTORY The history of Parliament goes back nearly 1,000 years and there are many fascinating dates to pick from, so here are just a few to get you started. 1689 Bill of Rights 1836 The New Palace Charles Barry wins the competition to design Parliament’s new home after the fire in 1834. Augustus Welby Pugin takes the 1999 House of Lords Act Passing of the House You can delve deeper into the past by visiting the Next Steps links online. role of interior designer, creating everything of Lords Act changes 1099 from fireplaces and furniture to inkwells. the membership, In the Glorious reducing the number 1897–1928 Revolution of 1688–89, 1605 of hereditary Peers James II flees England 1295 to 92 and setting up and Parliament offers a new panel to select the crown to William III westminster hall and Mary II. Parliament independent Members. The Gunpowder Plot passes legislation setting Votes for Women Westminster Hall is out exactly what is commissioned by King model parliament expected of an English Guy Fawkes is caught The National Union of Women’s William II and completed monarch. The Bill of trying to blow up Suffrage Societies is formed in in 1099. The hall is the The first recognised Parliament is Rights helps to establish Parliament. 1897, gathering together different only part of the old made up of nobles, bishops and the constitutional groups campaigning for the right Palace of Westminster still two representatives for each monarchy and political to vote. The Representation of standing today. county and town – the model order which we still the People Act 1918 gives votes to for future Parliaments. have today.History History women – with certain conditions. The Equal Franchise Act 1928 finally gives women the same voting rights as men. 4 5 King John agrees to a Great Referendums on devolution are held, and King Charles I is executed in 1649. Ignatius Sancho Charter of Freedoms (“Magna results across the board lead to separate In 1653, Oliver Cromwell becomes (1729–80) makes Carta Libertatum” in Latin). devolved legislatures being established Lord Protector and establishes history as the This limits the king’s power – the Scottish Parliament and the National the Nominated Assembly, which first black voter over the Church and nobility. Assembly for Wales. The Northern Ireland introduces civil marriages and the on record. He also Assembly is established in 1998 following registration of births, marriages writes accounts of political events, referendums on the peace process in both Magna Carta and deaths. campaigns against the slave trade Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. and gives advice to MPs at his 1215 grocery shop in Westminster. The House of Oliver Cromwell Commons finds a Devolution referendums The First Black Voter 1653 permanent home 1997 in old St Stephen’s 1780 Chapel. The Commons Chamber 1547 Discover the whole fascinating story of Parliament with the Houses of History interactive online timeline: And for more insight into the political, social and cultural history of Parliament visit:
  4. 4. DEMOCRACY The Origins of UK Democracy DATES What would the UK be like if we didn’t live in a democracy? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the UK system of democracy? Get started What other options are there and where are they in place 1 1215: In England, the first step towards forging a democracy came in 1215 6 1832: The first changes were made to the voting system in 400 years. The right now? The way we are governed involves decisions about society and how we live with Magna Carta, which Reform Act 1832 made our lives. In the UK, we live in a democracy, with elected representatives limited the king’s power over representation and the the Church and nobility. franchise fairer and simpler. who make decisions on our behalf, so the power is ultimately in the hands It reworked constituency of the people. 2 1265: Simon de Montfort led a rebellion against Henry III – and boundaries and meant that one in seven men could vote. Further electoral In detail Types of democracy: briefly captured him. He reform followed in 1867 In a democracy, the government’s power is Representative Democracy then called a Parliament for and 1884. support and consultation. dependent upon the consent of the governed 7 In a representative democracy, the citizens For the first time, 1889: Thomas Hansard population. Abraham Lincoln described choose representatives to make decisions on representatives of towns began publishing democracy as ‘government of the people, by their behalf. Representative democracies can and counties across England transcripts of parliamentary the people, for the people’. The word has its be found in many parts of the world, including were consulted along debates in 1812. In 1889, origins in two Greek terms – demos (people) the UK, Germany, Greece, South Africa, Taiwan, with the great barons. the Commons began to payD E MO C RA C Y D E MO C RA C Y and kratia (rule by) and translates as ‘rule by for Hansard to be produced the USA, Canada and Australia. the people’. 3 1430: The 40-Shilling Franchise was established to determine as a permanent record of proceedings. For more than Direct Democracy 100 years, all debates have Watch ‘Democracy? You who had the right to vote been printed – and now In a direct democracy, the citizens assemble – this remained unchanged Decide’ online with author also put online – by the to make decisions for themselves, rather than 6 electing representatives to make decisions on and journalist Danny Wallace for the next 400 years. It following morning. 7 meant that everyone who taking a light-hearted their behalf. This type of democracy began in ancient Athens, where male Athenian citizens look at governance in the UK: owned or rented land with an income of 40 shillings or more per year could vote in 8 1918: The Representation of the People Act 1918 made had the chance to debate and decide issues of public importance. Examples of modern direct democracyyoudecide county elections. radical changes to the electoral system – and gave 4 democracy are the Swiss cantons and some 1512: Henry VIII votes to women over the BBC Democracy Live – The three main US states. abandoned the Palace age of 30 and all men over search, find and watch the of Westminster as a home principles in politics that interests you the age of 21. in favour of the nearby modern democracy: 1. ll citizens have the right A including recorded lectures, interviews and information: Palace of Whitehall and so the Palace of Westminster became the permanent 9 1928: The Equal Franchise Act 1928 finally meant both men and Politics: the activities and affairs to stand as candidates in home of Parliament. women over 21 years old of a government or state. local, regional and central could vote. 5 Watch live and archived 1689: The Bill of Rights government elections, Dictatorship: a form of where there is free competition between political parties. government in which one person (dictator) or small group exercises coverage of UK parliamentary proceedings from the last 12 was created, limiting the powers of the monarch and setting out the rights 10 1969: The age at which men and women could vote was lowered from months: www.parliamentlive. absolute power. of Parliament. 21 to 18, as it remains today. 2. It is the duty of citizens to actively participate tv/Main/Archive.aspx in the democratic process (vote in free Suffrage: the right to vote. and fair elections) where there is political These key dates set the scene for modern equality (‘one person, one vote’). 10 democracy. The system has continued 3. ll decisions should be made by majority vote. A to develop and will do so in the years to come, ensuring it continues to support an ever changing UK.
  5. 5. The Constitution Devolution – why did it happen and what does it mean? Following referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1997, and in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 1998, certain powers of UK Parliament have been devolved, or passed on, to the Assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales, and to Scotland’s Parliament. They have the power to decide on matters such as education, health and social services. Get started The Scottish Parliament has greater control over Scotland’s internal affairs. However, the UK Parliament remains the main law-making body The UK Constitution provides a framework of rules and in Britain and controls such matters as UK defence, broadcasting fundamental principles that govern the country. It defines the and space exploration. structure, procedures, powers and duties of the Government The devolved legislatures have the power to make laws or policy on and therefore encourages Government stability by enabling certain issues known as devolved matters. These include: everyone to understand the rules. • griculture, forestry, fishing and the environment A • Education and training The origins of the British Constitution go back to before • ealth, housing, home affairs and local government H 1066. It is an uncodified constitution and although many • Natural and built heritage of the constitutional rules have been written down, they • Police and fire services have never been collated in one place. It is also a flexible • ocial work, sport and the arts S constitution, which means that changes can be made throughthe constitution the constitution • tatistics and public records S Acts of Parliament and referendums. • ourism, economic development and transport T In detail u nb r Edi gh Parliamentary sovereignty Find out more Parliamentary sovereignty is the most about the important principle of the UK constitution. devolved 8 It makes Parliament the supreme legal legislatures 9 fa authority in the UK, which means that it can el s by visiting the t B create, change or end any law. No Parliament following websites: can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. However, over the years, Parliament Stormont The Welsh Assembly: has passed laws that limit the application of parliamentary sovereignty, such as: The Scottish Parliament: • he devolution of power to the Scottish T Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern The Northern Ireland Assembly: Ireland Assembly • The Human Rights Act 1998 • The UK’s entry to the European Union in 1972 • he decision to establish a UK Supreme Court T in 2009, which ended the House of Lords’ function as the UK’s final court of appeal Holyrood di ar ff C The senedd
  6. 6. The Constitution The European Parliament sits in both EU BY NUMBERS The eu EU – How does the UK fit in? 1 Six countries made up the EU when it was first established on the 23rd Brussels July 1952 – Belgium, France, The European Union (EU) is a partnership of Italy, the Netherlands, West 27 democratic countries, working together for Germany and Luxembourg. the benefit of all their citizens. It aims to promote social and economic progress, common foreign and security positions, police and judicial co-operation 2 Around 500 million people live in the EU – the largest population is in criminal matters, and European citizenship. Germany, with 82.1 million The European Parliament makes decisions on people, and the smallest is new European laws jointly with the Council of Malta, with 0.4 million people. the European Union. The Parliament is the only 3 23 official languages arethe constitution the constitution directly elected body of the European Union. spoken in the EU. It has 754 Members (MEPs), including 74 from the UK who represent people in different areas usse Strasbourg 4 754 Members sit in the Br ls of the country. European Parliament. bo Where EU member states have agreed to act as 5 €147.2 billion was the ur Str together, all laws passed at the European level g EU budget for 2012. are considered legally superior to domestic 10 law – in these circumstances, should European Community (EC) law and UK law conflict, 6 4,324,782 km2 is the total land mass of the EU. 11 EC law prevails, as was the case with the Working Time Directive. What do you think are the pros and cons for the UK of being a 7 One motto for the EU – ‘United in Diversity’. member of the EU? When has EC and UK law conflicted and what has been 8 9th May is the official ‘Europe Day’ each year. the outcome? 9 Two main bases for the European Parliament – 754 The European Parliament has Committee meetings are held in Brussels and plenary sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg. Additional 74 administration is located in Luxembourg. 10 17 out of the 27 member countries make up the Eurozone and use the Euro as their Members Find out more about the UK Constitution by official currency. Members clicking on ‘Find out about your rights’ here: from the UK 10 Explore Europa, the official website for the European Union:
  7. 7. Parliament Take a video tour of Parliament: podcasts/video-tours Find out more about the role and types of Committees: www. Get started In British parliamentary democracy, there are three elements: the House of Look out for lots of great books about Parliament, Commons, the House of Lords and the monarch. The main work of Parliament including ‘How Parliament Works’ by current Clerk of the House of Commons and Chief is to make laws (legislation), keep a check on the work of Government (scrutiny) Executive, Robert Rogers and Rhodri Walters. and represent the views of people across the country (representation). In detail Scrutiny and the role of Committees General Committees The two-House system Committees are a crucial tool for scrutinising The main role of General Committees is to The UK has a bicameral legislature, which means the work of Government. Most Committees consider proposed legislation in detail. Most that the business of Parliament takes place in fall into one of two categories: Bills are dealt with in Public Bill Committees, two Houses – the House of Commons and the which are unique to the House of Commons, as House of Lords. Both Houses of Parliament hold Select Committees the Lords generally meet as a whole House to debates in which Members discuss Government Made up of Backbench MPs or Members of the perform this function. A Committee usually hasParliament parliament policy, proposed legislation and current issues. House of Lords, Select Committees examine 15 to 50 members who reflect the make-up of The House of Commons is also responsible the spending, administration and policy of the House, with the Government always holding for granting money to the Government Government departments. a majority. through approving Bills that raise taxes. Over In the Commons, there is a Select Committee Public Bill Committees undertake in-depth 60 countries operate bicameralism because for every Government department. Each has a scrutiny of Bills. Activity focuses on discussion the existence of a second chamber is believed12 to offer several advantages, including more minimum of 11 members who decide upon a line and debate, but since 2006, Public Bill 13 of inquiry and call for written and oral evidence Committees have had the power to take thorough scrutiny of legislation. from people involved in or affected by the topic written and oral evidence from outside being examined. The outcome of the inquiry is officials and experts. presented as a report with recommendations, Once a Committee has finished looking at a Bill, which the Government usually responds to. it reports its conclusions and any amendments The role of the monarch Select Committees in the House of Lords to the House of Commons. Members debate In the UK, power lies with Parliament, not the investigate specialist subjects, taking advantage of the Bill again ‘on Report’ in the main Chamber, monarch. However, the monarch does play a the Lords’ experience and knowledge in specific where more amendments may be tabled. role in the processes of Parliament, including: areas. These Committees concentrate on four Other General Committees include Delegated • eeting the Prime Minister once a week to M main areas: Europe, science, economics, and the Legislation Committees, European Committees, discuss current business. UK constitution. and Grand Committees, which deal with matters • ormally opening Parliament and delivering F Joint Select Committees consist of both MPs and relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. ‘The Queen’s Speech’, which announces the Lords and have similar powers to Commons or Government’s plans for the year. Lords Select Committees. Some are set up on • ormally agreeing new laws by giving Royal F a permanent basis, like the Joint Committee on Assent to Bills that have completed their Human Rights, and others deal with a specific passage through both Houses of Parliament. matter, such as examining draft proposals for Bills on subjects ranging from gambling to stem cell research.
  8. 8. Parliament The House of Commons is the elected chamber of Parliament. – House of commons Government: The national Government in the UK has responsibility for developing and implementing policy and for drafting laws. It is also known as the Executive. Government Members sit on the Opposition: Includes the political parties other than the governing party or parties. They are called the Opposition because they sit on the benches opposite the Government in the House of Commons and House of benches to the right of the Speaker. Lords chambers. Members of the Commons debate the big political issues of the day and proposals for new laws. The Government is accountable to Parliament and the public. In the House of Commons, MPs can hold the Government to account in a number of ways. Prime Minister’s Questions and Ministerial Questions offer the opportunity to question and challenge the Government’s policies. Parliament – house of commons Parliament – house of commons Representation MPs represent their constituents (including those who didn’t vote for them) and their party. They split their time between working in Parliament itself and working in their constituency. Some MPs from the governing party (or parties) are chosen to become Government Ministers with specific responsibilities in areas such as health, 14 education or defence. 15 Cabinet: Made up of about 20 senior Speaker: The Speaker of the House Ministers chosen by the Prime Minister. of Commons chairs debates in the Backbencher: An MP who The Legislature: The group of people who It makes decisions on Government policy Commons chamber and ensures does not hold Government exercise legislative power, including making laws. and co-ordinates the work of the different that MPs follow the House’s rules office as a Minister or, in In the UK, this refers to the two parliamentary Government departments. Ministers sit on and traditions. the Opposition, does not sit chambers of the Westminster Parliament, as the front bench in the Chamber. A full list as a frontbench spokesperson in the Shadow well as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and can be found here: Cabinet. In the debating chamber they sit Northern Ireland Assemblies. on the back benches. The Executive: The group of people who The House Watch MPs in their own words – Watch videos including Prime exercise executive power over the state, with of Commons ultimate responsibility for its daily administration. MPs reflect on politics, popularity, Minister’s Questions on the official In the UK, this is the members of the Government parties, procedure and much more YouTube channel for the United led by the Prime Minister. The term also applies in these short video clips: Kingdom Parliament to see the to the devolved Governments of Scotland and House of Commons in action: Wales, and to the Northern Ireland Executive. Find out more about the House of Commons online: www.parliament. Discover more about Government uk/business/commons/what-the- departments here: www.number10. commons-does
  9. 9. Parliament – House of LORDS In 2010–11, Members 7,546 of the House of Lords put The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent of the elected House of Commons and shares the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the Government. It has three main roles: • olding Government to account: H • aking laws: All Bills have to be considered M Members scrutinise the work of the questions to the Government. by both Houses of Parliament before they Government during Question Time and debates, where Government Ministers P a r l i a m e n t – h o u s e o f LORDS P a r l i a m e n t – h o u s e o f LORDS can become law. must respond. • n-depth consideration of public policy: I Members use their individual experience Members of the House of Lords to debate public policy in the House An Open House: The Lords chamber was first televised in 1985, and the Lords currently The House of Lords Act 1999 ended the right and in Select Committees. of most hereditary Peers to sit and vote in has members from all parties blogging together ( It also tweets the House and led to significant changes in from @UKHouseofLords. its membership. Ongoing discussions explore further possible reforms, but currently the House of Lords is made up of three groups: • ife Peers: The majority (about 700) of L Opposition: As with Government: Just as with Members are appointed for their lifetime by the Commons, Members the Commons, one side of the the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. from the main Opposition 16 House of Lords is made up of party and all other Any British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen 17 the Members who represent who is a UK resident aged over 21 is eligible parties sit opposite the the governing party or parties. to be nominated or can apply. Life Peers are Government benches. The House of Lords appointed based on their knowledge and experience. Many are experienced politicians, but others have expertise in areas such as business, the arts, education and sport. • lected hereditary Members: A smaller group E of hereditary Peers (92) are also Members. • rchbishops and bishops: 26 Church of England A archbishops and bishops sit in the House of Lords. What are the pros and cons of having an unelected second chamber? Crossbenchers: If the chamber became part or wholly elected, Crossbench Peers how might this change the make-up and work are so called of the House? because they sit on Who might you nominate as a Life Peer? Lord Speaker: Sits on benches between Download: A quick guide the ‘Woolsack’ and chairs the Government and to the House of Lords: www. daily business in the House Opposition. They of Lords chamber. They are independent information-office/HoLwhat- also act as an ambassador Members who don’t the-lords-and-its-members- for the work of the House. take a party whip. do-v2.pdf.