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.
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.
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.
Life Peers and People 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.
- 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.
Hereditary Peers and Lords Spiritual
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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).