The Houses of Parliament

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The Composition of the House of Commons

The HOC consists of:

  • 650 MPs, which could change as the no. of seats is not fixed.
  • Each MP is elected by a single member parliamentary constituency, using the FPTP System. 
  • MPs are almost always representatives of a party and are subjected to party discipline. 
  • Most MPs are backbencher, which who do not hold a ministerial, or 'shadow' ministerial post. 
  • The minority of MPs are frontbenchers, who hold a ministerial or 'shadow' ministerial post
  • The Conservatives pledge to decrease the number of seats in the HOC to 600.
  • The HOL is viewed as more democratic because they are elected by the people.
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The Powers of the House of Commons

The Powers of the HOC include:

  • The HOC are the legally and politically dominant chamber of Parliament. 
  • This means that the HOC could be identical to Parliament, because:
    • The HOC is the supreme legislative power as it can make, unmake and amend laws, whilst the legal sovereignty of Parliament is also practised by the HOC.
    • The HOC can remove the government of the day, through a vote of no confidence. This is based on collective responsibility. where a govt can be defeated based on a major issue and a GE can be called. 
  • The Government's dominance in the HOC depends on their majority:
    • If they have an overall majority, the govt is seen completely dominant in the HOC. 
    • E.g. In 1997, Blair's govt had a huge majority, which allowed Labour to pish more reform through. 
    • Whereas, in 2015  the Conservatives just got an overall majority, therefore they effectively cannot push much through. 
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The Composition of the House of Lords

The composition of the HOL is different to the HOC because:

  • The HOL is both complex and controversial.
  • The HOL has 4 types of peers, which include:
    • Life Peers.
    • People Peers.
    • Hereditary Peers
    • 'Lords' Spiritual 
  • None of which are elected. 
  • The House of Lords Act 1999 and the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act, removed the Law Lords from HOL and set up the Supreme Court in 2009. 
  • The HOL is seen as undemocratic because they are unelected and, before the reform, the Conservatives has a majority control of the HOL. 
  • There are 815 peers in total.
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Life Peers and People Peers

Life Peers:

  • These are entitled to sit in the HOL for life. 
  • The Life Peerages Act 1958 appoints them. 
  • The Prime Minister appoints Life Peers also based on the recommendations made by opposition leaders. 
  • Life Peers are appointed based on their profession.
  • There are 701 Life Peers. 
  • Could be representative of the people as they are independent from a Party, and represent the professions of society. 

People Peers:

  • Since 2000, People Peers have been added to the HOL. 
  • They are appointed based on the recommendations of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. 
  • There are 67 People Peers. 
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Hereditary Peers and Lords Spiritual

Hereditary Peers:

  • These hold inherited titles, such as Dukes, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts and Barons. 
  • However, the House of Lords Act 1999 abolished all but 92 of the 700 hereditary peers. 
  • This ended their right to pass down their position in the HOL to their offspring. 
  • Therefore. currently there are only 88 hereditary peers. 
  • These are not truly represented by the people because most of them are very wealthy and are aligned with the Conservatves. 

'Lords Spiritual':

  • These are Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England. 
  • These are appointed by the Prime Minister on the basis of recommendations made by the Church of England. 
  • There are currently 26 'Lords Spritual'.
  • These aren't truly representative of society, because the UK is a multi-cultural society, so there are other religions that are represented in the HOL.
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The Powers of the House of Lords

The limited powers of the HOL, are set out in the Parliaments Acts of 1911 and 1949, which include:

  • The HOL can delay bills passed by the HOC, for only up to a year. 
    • However, this does not include 'money bills' or measures outlined in the govt's election manifesto (enforced by the Salisbury Convention).
  • The Lords possesses some veto powers (voting against), which cannot be overriden by the HOL, which includes:
    • The extension to the life of Parliament-delays to general elections. 
    • The introduction of secondary or delegated legislation. 
  • The HOL scrutinises Bills and reports them back to the HOC (ping ponging).
  • They make and report any amendments to the proposed Bills. 
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The Monarchy

The Monarchy is now a non-executive head of state:

  • They monarch symbolises the authority of the Crown and is associated with Parliament is a number of ways.
  • The Crown appoints the govt. 
  • Opens and dismisses Parliament through the State Opening, at the beginning of the Parliamentary year.
  • Dissolves Parliament to allow a GE to be held. 
  • Queen's Speech at the start of each parliamentary session, informing Parliament of the govt's legislative programme. 
  • Royal Assent, which is where the Queen formally approves a Bill and signs it, turning it into an Act of Parliament. (by convention, they never refuse to grant the Royal Assent).
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