The British Parliament

The British Parliament is the oldest in the world. It originated
in th 12th century as Witenagemot, the body of wise councellers
whom the King needed to consult pursuing his policy. The British
Parliament consists of the House of Lords and the House of
Commons and the Queen as its head. The House of Commons plays the
major role in law-making. It consists of Members of Parliament
(called MPs for short). Each of them represents an area in
England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. MPs are elected either at a
general election or at a by-election following the death or
retirement. Parliamentary elections are held every 5 years and it
is the Prime Minister who decides on the exact day of the
election. The minimum voting age is 18. And the voting is taken
by secret ballot. The election campaign lasts about 3 weeks, The
British parliamentary system depends on politicals parties. The
party which wins the majority of seats forms the goverment and
its leader usually becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister
chooses about 20 MPs from his party to become the cabinet of
ministers. Each minister is responsible for a particular area in
the goverment. The second largest party becomes the official
opposition with its own leader and “shadow cabinet”. The leader
of the opposition is a recognized post in the House of Commons.
The parliament and the monarch have different roles in the
goverment and they only meet together on symbolic occasions, such
as coronation of a new monarch or the opening of the parliament.
In reality, the House of Commons is the one of three which has
true power. The House of Commons is made up of six hundred and
fifty elected members, it is presided over by the speaker, a
member acceptable to the whole house. MPs sit on two sides of the
hall, one side for the governing party and the other for the
opposition. The first 2 rows of seats are occupied by the leading
members of both parties (called “front benches”) The back benches
belong to the rank-and-life MPs. Each session of the House of
Commons lasts for 160-175 days. Parliament has intervals during
his work. MPs are paid for their parliamentary work and have to
attend the sittings. As mention above, the House of Commons plays
the major role in law making. The procedure is the following: a
proposed law (“a bill”) has to go through three stages in order
to become an act of parliament, these are called “readings”. The
first reading is a formality and is simply the publication of the
proposal. The second reading involves debate on the principles of
the bill, it is examination by parliamentary committy. And the
third reading is a report stage, when the work of the committy is
reported on to the house. This is usually the most important
stage in the process. When the bill passes through the House of
Commons, it is sent to the House of Lords for discussion, when
the Lords agree it, the bill is taken to the Queen for royal
assent, when the Queen sings the bill, it becomes act of the
Parliament and the Law of the Land. The House of Lords has more
than 1000 members, although only about 250 take an active part in
the work in the house. Members of this Upper House are not
elected, they sit there because of their rank, the chairman of
the House of Lords is the Lord Chancellor. And he sits on a
special seat, called “WoolSack” The members of the House of Lords
debate the bill after it has been passed by the House of Commons.
Some changes may be recommended and the agreement between the two
houses is reached by negotiations.