Activities of the house of commons

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Activities of the house of commons

  1. 1. Activities of the House of commonsContents:Working environment  The house of commons: what MPs do  Representing constituents’ interests  Legistation  Scrutinising GovernmentA typical working dayMains: 1) Brief introduction:The House of Commons has a remarkable influence on the important policies of thekingdoms. The House of Commons was originally far less powerful than the House of Lords,but today its legislative powers greatly exceed those of the Lords. Under the Parliament Act1911, the Lords power to reject most legislative bills was reduced to a delaying power.Moreover, the Government is primarily responsible to the House of Commons; the primeminister stays in office only as long as he or she retains its support 2) DevelopmentWorking environmentThe Commons meets in the Palace of Westminster in London. There are benches on twosides of the chamber, divided by a centre aisle. The Speakers chair is at one end of theChamber; in front of it is the Table of the House, on which the Mace rests. The Clerks sit atone end of the Table, close to the Speaker so that they may advise him or her on procedurewhen necessary. Members of the Government sit on the benches on the Speakers right,whilst members of the Opposition occupy the benches on the Speakers left. In front of eachset of benches a red line is drawn on the carpet, which members are traditionally not allowedto cross during debates. It has been suggested that the distance between the lines in front ofeach set of benches is the length of two swords, thus stopping a member from attacking amember on the opposing side; however, the only person who is allowed to wear or carry asword in the chamber is the Serjant-at-Arms. Government ministers and the leader of theOpposition and the Shadow Cabinet sit on the front rows, and are known as "frontbenchers".Other Members of Parliament, in contrast, are known as "backbenchers". Oddly, allMembers of Parliament cannot fit in the Chamber, which can seat only 427 of the 650Members. Members who arrive late must stand near the entrance of the House if they wishto 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 atweekends.The House of Commons – What Members of Parliament do
  2. 2. Members of Parliament (MPs) have many duties that involve them in different activities atthe House of Commons and in their constituencies.Representing constituents’ interestsMPs spend some time each week working in their constituency and dealing withconstituents’ problems. An MP will often be able to advise on how to address aparticularissue and may write to the relevant authority ormMinister on behalf of a constituent. MPscan also raise local or personal issues in a variety of ways in the House of Common.LegislationThe House of Commons examines and passes proposals for new laws, generally in the formof Bills presented to Parliament by the Government. Individual backbench MPs can alsopresent Bills but there is not as much time available for discussion of these “PrivateMembers’ Bills”. The Government cannot simply legislate on its own – it requires theapproval of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for new laws (though the Houseof Lords has no say in financial measures). Bills are usuall amended during their passagethrough both Houses, and Bills that pass through all the required stages become Acts ofParliament. Most of the detailed examination of Bills in the House of Commons is carried outin Standing Committees.Scrutinising GovernmentA major role of the House of Commons is to subject the policies and actions of theGovernment to public scrutiny. The Government runs the country but Parliament holds theGovernment to account. When Government Ministers make statements in the House ofCommons, they are interrogated by the Opposition and by individual Members of allparties. MPs can also question Ministers directly during the periods given over to questiontime in the House of Commons. Written questions are also put to Ministers and the answersare included in the publish Official report of proceedingsA typical working dayWhen Parliament is in Session, the House of Commons generally meets from Mondays toThursdays and on most Fridays.The work of the House is regulated by an elaborate code of procedure. The Governmentdetermines the business and the order in which it is taken, although some specific slots anddays are given over to Opposition parties and “backbench” Members.In the Chamber the day’s business always begins with prayers followed by any items ofprivate business, which are taken formally (without debate). The main business of the dayfollows.ORAL QUESTIONSOn Monday to Thursday Government Ministers from a particular Department or Departmentsanswer questions.
  3. 3. The Prime Minister has a weekly question time, on Wednesdays. At question time theSpeaker calls the name of the person with the first question in the Order of Business. As thetext of the question is already printed, the Member says simply (for example) “Number one”.The relevant Minister reads a prepared reply, after which the Member is then allowed a“supplementary” question and the Minister again replies. Other MPs are then called to asksupplementary questions.MINISTERIAL STATEMENTSMatters of importance or urgent concern may be raised after question time inthe form of ministerial statements to the House, Private Notice Questions (PNQs) orapplications for emergency debate. A Business Statement is usually delivered eachThursday detailing business of the House for the forthcoming week or two.LEGISLATIONThe main business of the day will often be a debate on a Bill – on second reading, reportstage or third reading. If the committee stage of a Bill is considered by all MPs in theChamber, as opposed to a Standing Committee, then the Mace, which usually sits on thetop of the Table of the House, is placed in the brackets below the TableDEBATESNot all debates relate to specific pieces of legislation. There is also opportunity for debateon the important issues of the day and for backbench MPs to raise matters of localinterest.For example, at the end of each day’s proceedings there is an Adjournment debate whichusually lasts for half an hour and is generally on a constituency matter.
  4. 4. Select CommitteesAnother way in which the work of the Government is scrutinised is through the departmentalSelect Committees. These committees, made up of Members from all parties, examine theexpenditure, administration and policy of Government Departments. They conduct inquiriesinto subjects within their remit and take evidence from interested bodies. Ministers oftenappear before them and answer questions. Select Committee reports typically make anumber of recommendations for action by the Government.Approving taxation and expenditureIn order for the Government to be able to implement its policies, it has to raise moneythrough taxation. The Government presents its taxation plans to the House of Commonsannually when the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the "Budget" statement. The Househas to approve the levels of taxation being proposed and must also approve theGovernment’s expenditure plans.
  5. 5. Procedure in debateThe Speaker sits in the Speaker’s Chair at the end of the Table of the House. TheGovernment sit to the Speaker’s right and the Opposition to the Speaker’s left. It is theSpeaker’s duty to keep order in debate and to call MPs to speak. The MP selected mustaddress the Chair, and must refer to other MPs by their constituency or to Ministers by theiroffice. Thus MPs will refer to each other as “The Honourable Member for …”, or (to PrivyCounsellors) “The Right Honourable Member for …”. If the MP referred to is of the sameparty, they will generally be “My Honourable Friend”. By custom, only Ministers andOpposition spokesmen and women (front-benchers) may speak from the Despatch Boxes.Debates in the House of Commons are always based on a motion, (e.g. “That the … Orderbe approved” or “That the Bill be read a second time”). At the end of the debate the Chair(the Speaker or, in the case of a Committee Stage of a Bill, the Chairman) will put thequestion. A Division (vote) of the House may follow, which requires MPs to walk through theappropriate “Aye” or “No” lobby adjoining the Chamber. Tellers announce the results ofdivisions to the Speaker or Chairman. 3) Conclusion Along with the House of Lorch and the mornach, the house of commons contributes a considerable influence on the development of UK

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