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Activities of the House of commons

Contents:

Working environment

    The house of commons: what MPs do

    Representing constituents’ interests

    Legistation

    Scrutinising Government

A typical working day

Mains:

   1) Brief introduction:

The House of Commons has a remarkable influence on the important policies of the
kingdoms. 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 Act
1911, 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 prime
minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains its support

   2) Development

Working environment

The Commons meets in the Palace of Westminster in London. There are benches on two
sides of the chamber, divided by a centre aisle. 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 sit on 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 on the carpet, which members are traditionally not allowed
to cross during debates. It has been suggested that the distance between the lines in front of
each set of benches is the length of two swords, thus stopping a member from attacking a
member on the opposing side; however, the only person who is allowed to wear or carry a
sword in the chamber is the Serjant-at-Arms. Government ministers and 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". Oddly, all
Members of Parliament cannot fit in the Chamber, which can seat only 427 of the 650
Members. 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.

The House of Commons – What Members of Parliament do
Members of Parliament (MPs) have many duties that involve them in different activities at
the House of Commons and in their constituencies.

Representing constituents’ interests

MPs spend some time each week working in their constituency and dealing with
constituents’ problems. An MP will often be able to advise on how to address aparticular
issue and may write to the relevant authority ormMinister on behalf of a constituent. MPs
can also raise local or personal issues in a variety of ways in the House of Common.

Legislation

The House of Commons examines and passes proposals for new laws, generally in the form
of Bills presented to Parliament by the Government. Individual backbench MPs can also
present Bills but there is not as much time available for discussion of these “Private

Members’ Bills”. The Government cannot simply legislate on its own – it requires the
approval of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for new laws (though the House
of Lords has no say in financial measures). Bills are usuall amended during their passage
through both Houses, and Bills that pass through all the required stages become Acts of
Parliament. Most of the detailed examination of Bills in the House of Commons is carried out
in Standing Committees.

Scrutinising Government

A major role of the House of Commons is to subject the policies and actions of the

Government to public scrutiny. The Government runs the country but Parliament holds the
Government to account. When Government Ministers make statements in the House of
Commons, they are interrogated by the Opposition and by individual Members of all

parties. MPs can also question Ministers directly during the periods given over to question
time in the House of Commons. Written questions are also put to Ministers and the answers
are included in the publish Official report of proceedings

A typical working day

When Parliament is in Session, the House of Commons generally meets from Mondays to
Thursdays and on most Fridays.

The work of the House is regulated by an elaborate code of procedure. The Government

determines the business and the order in which it is taken, although some specific slots and
days are given over to Opposition parties and “backbench” Members.

In the Chamber the day’s business always begins with prayers followed by any items of
private business, which are taken formally (without debate). The main business of the day
follows.

ORAL QUESTIONS

On Monday to Thursday Government Ministers from a particular Department or Departments
answer questions.
The Prime Minister has a weekly question time, on Wednesdays. At question time the
Speaker calls the name of the person with the first question in the Order of Business. As the
text 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 ask
supplementary questions.

MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS

Matters of importance or urgent concern may be raised after question time in

the form of ministerial statements to the House, Private Notice Questions (PNQs) or
applications for emergency debate. A Business Statement is usually delivered each
Thursday detailing business of the House for the forthcoming week or two.

LEGISLATION

The main business of the day will often be a debate on a Bill – on second reading, report
stage or third reading. If the committee stage of a Bill is considered by all MPs in the
Chamber, as opposed to a Standing Committee, then the Mace, which usually sits on the
top of the Table of the House, is placed in the brackets below the Table

DEBATES

Not all debates relate to specific pieces of legislation. There is also opportunity for debate
on 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 which

usually lasts for half an hour and is generally on a constituency matter.
Select Committees

Another way in which the work of the Government is scrutinised is through the departmental
Select Committees. These committees, made up of Members from all parties, examine the
expenditure, administration and policy of Government Departments. They conduct inquiries
into subjects within their remit and take evidence from interested bodies. Ministers often
appear before them and answer questions. Select Committee reports typically make a
number of recommendations for action by the Government.

Approving taxation and expenditure

In order for the Government to be able to implement its policies, it has to raise money
through taxation. The Government presents its taxation plans to the House of Commons
annually when the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the "Budget" statement. The House
has to approve the levels of taxation being proposed and must also approve the
Government’s expenditure plans.
Procedure in debate

The Speaker sits in the Speaker’s Chair at the end of the Table of the House. The
Government sit to the Speaker’s right and the Opposition to the Speaker’s left. It is the
Speaker’s duty to keep order in debate and to call MPs to speak. The MP selected must
address the Chair, and must refer to other MPs by their constituency or to Ministers by their
office. Thus MPs will refer to each other as “The Honourable Member for …”, or (to Privy
Counsellors) “The Right Honourable Member for …”. If the MP referred to is of the same
party, they will generally be “My Honourable Friend”. By custom, only Ministers and
Opposition 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 … Order
be 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 the
question. A Division (vote) of the House may follow, which requires MPs to walk through the
appropriate “Aye” or “No” lobby adjoining the Chamber. Tellers announce the results of
divisions 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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House of Commons Activities

  • 1. Activities of the House of commons Contents: Working environment  The house of commons: what MPs do  Representing constituents’ interests  Legistation  Scrutinising Government A typical working day Mains: 1) Brief introduction: The House of Commons has a remarkable influence on the important policies of the kingdoms. 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 Act 1911, 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 prime minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains its support 2) Development Working environment The Commons meets in the Palace of Westminster in London. There are benches on two sides of the chamber, divided by a centre aisle. 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 sit on 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 on the carpet, which members are traditionally not allowed to cross during debates. It has been suggested that the distance between the lines in front of each set of benches is the length of two swords, thus stopping a member from attacking a member on the opposing side; however, the only person who is allowed to wear or carry a sword in the chamber is the Serjant-at-Arms. Government ministers and 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". Oddly, all Members of Parliament cannot fit in the Chamber, which can seat only 427 of the 650 Members. 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. The House of Commons – What Members of Parliament do
  • 2. Members of Parliament (MPs) have many duties that involve them in different activities at the House of Commons and in their constituencies. Representing constituents’ interests MPs spend some time each week working in their constituency and dealing with constituents’ problems. An MP will often be able to advise on how to address aparticular issue and may write to the relevant authority ormMinister on behalf of a constituent. MPs can also raise local or personal issues in a variety of ways in the House of Common. Legislation The House of Commons examines and passes proposals for new laws, generally in the form of Bills presented to Parliament by the Government. Individual backbench MPs can also present Bills but there is not as much time available for discussion of these “Private Members’ Bills”. The Government cannot simply legislate on its own – it requires the approval of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for new laws (though the House of Lords has no say in financial measures). Bills are usuall amended during their passage through both Houses, and Bills that pass through all the required stages become Acts of Parliament. Most of the detailed examination of Bills in the House of Commons is carried out in Standing Committees. Scrutinising Government A major role of the House of Commons is to subject the policies and actions of the Government to public scrutiny. The Government runs the country but Parliament holds the Government to account. When Government Ministers make statements in the House of Commons, they are interrogated by the Opposition and by individual Members of all parties. MPs can also question Ministers directly during the periods given over to question time in the House of Commons. Written questions are also put to Ministers and the answers are included in the publish Official report of proceedings A typical working day When Parliament is in Session, the House of Commons generally meets from Mondays to Thursdays and on most Fridays. The work of the House is regulated by an elaborate code of procedure. The Government determines the business and the order in which it is taken, although some specific slots and days are given over to Opposition parties and “backbench” Members. In the Chamber the day’s business always begins with prayers followed by any items of private business, which are taken formally (without debate). The main business of the day follows. ORAL QUESTIONS On Monday to Thursday Government Ministers from a particular Department or Departments answer questions.
  • 3. The Prime Minister has a weekly question time, on Wednesdays. At question time the Speaker calls the name of the person with the first question in the Order of Business. As the text 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 ask supplementary questions. MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS Matters of importance or urgent concern may be raised after question time in the form of ministerial statements to the House, Private Notice Questions (PNQs) or applications for emergency debate. A Business Statement is usually delivered each Thursday detailing business of the House for the forthcoming week or two. LEGISLATION The main business of the day will often be a debate on a Bill – on second reading, report stage or third reading. If the committee stage of a Bill is considered by all MPs in the Chamber, as opposed to a Standing Committee, then the Mace, which usually sits on the top of the Table of the House, is placed in the brackets below the Table DEBATES Not all debates relate to specific pieces of legislation. There is also opportunity for debate on 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 which usually lasts for half an hour and is generally on a constituency matter.
  • 4. Select Committees Another way in which the work of the Government is scrutinised is through the departmental Select Committees. These committees, made up of Members from all parties, examine the expenditure, administration and policy of Government Departments. They conduct inquiries into subjects within their remit and take evidence from interested bodies. Ministers often appear before them and answer questions. Select Committee reports typically make a number of recommendations for action by the Government. Approving taxation and expenditure In order for the Government to be able to implement its policies, it has to raise money through taxation. The Government presents its taxation plans to the House of Commons annually when the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers the "Budget" statement. The House has to approve the levels of taxation being proposed and must also approve the Government’s expenditure plans.
  • 5. Procedure in debate The Speaker sits in the Speaker’s Chair at the end of the Table of the House. The Government sit to the Speaker’s right and the Opposition to the Speaker’s left. It is the Speaker’s duty to keep order in debate and to call MPs to speak. The MP selected must address the Chair, and must refer to other MPs by their constituency or to Ministers by their office. Thus MPs will refer to each other as “The Honourable Member for …”, or (to Privy Counsellors) “The Right Honourable Member for …”. If the MP referred to is of the same party, they will generally be “My Honourable Friend”. By custom, only Ministers and Opposition 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 … Order be 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 the question. A Division (vote) of the House may follow, which requires MPs to walk through the appropriate “Aye” or “No” lobby adjoining the Chamber. Tellers announce the results of divisions 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