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  • Created on: 10-04-19 18:15


A legislature comprising of two chambers is said to be bicameral and most modern democracies have two chambers.

Advantages of Bicameralism:

  • A second chamber can provide greater checks and balances on government power and allow for enchanced revision of legislation.
  • A chamber that is less partisan or less sensitive to the prospect of an election can represent different interests and consider the long-term impact of actions and legislation. 

Disadvantages of Bicameralism:

  • Legislative gridlock can occur if the two chambers are in conflict, leading to inaction.
  • An indirectly elected upper house can be increasingly marginalised by - or block the agenda - of a democratically elected lower house.
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Bicameralism in the UK and USA

UK: Asymmetric bicameralism due to the greater power possessed by the Commons over the Lords. 

USA: Balanced bicameralism as the legislative power between the House of Representatives and the Senate is largely co-equal. 

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The Legislative Process

Two types of bills exist:


  • Government bills (usually contained within a manifesto, supported by the government and invariably passed into law).
  • Private Members' Bills (originating with individual MPs, which are usually doomed to fail unless they receive government backing).


  • Private bills are specific and affect certain individuals or organisations - not the general public.
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The Passage of Legislation

1. First Reading: introduction and timetabling.

2. Second Reading: ministerial, explanation and vote. 

3. Committee Stage: scrutiny by public bill committee, amendments proposed as appropriate.

4. Third Reading: voting on amendments, vote. 

5. Lords Stage: similar process to the Commons with any amendments voted on by the Commons. 

6. Royal assent: the signing of the Act into law by the monarch.

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Speeding up the legislative process

Tactics and powers available to the government to speed up the legislative process include:

  • Using whipped votes in the committee stage to limit the success of Opposition-backed amendments.
  • Using guillotine motions to curtail debate, especially in the committee stage (used by governments to limit the amount of time that MPs can spend debating a particular stage of a Bill in the House of Commons).
  • Making concessions to unsupportive backbenchers or to limit the Lords' power of delay for up to a year. 
  • Threatening or using the Parliament Act to bypass the Lords. 
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