• Topic 6: Parliament

     Topic 6: Parliament

    Some facts

    > England: 13th C

    The Parliament is a very old institution, one of the oldest Parliament in the World. So England is called the Mother of Parliaments.

    > Legislature/legislative branch.

    > Separation of powers (according to Montesquieu we should have a clear separation of power).

    > Checks and balances = système de contre-poids. Legislature – Executive.


    Two chambers

    There are 2 distincts chambers or Houses:

    Law Chamber

    House of Commons [Dominate Parliament, central key]

    Upper Chamber

    House of Lords


    Parliamentory Democracy

    > It's only on the 19th C that more people can vote, the right to vote was extended. But there was still people who couldn't: if you're poor and don't gave a property: so women and working people.

    > 1918 = everybody can vote ! Beginning of vote for women (over 30 at first). Men could vote at age 21. Now it's 18 for everyone.

    > General election:

    • 5 years max (it can be less)

    • 650 MPs

    • MP = elected members of the House of Commons


    House of Commons

    650 elected MPs, by People

    House of Lords

    about 780 unelected Lords (the number often change). Undemocratic nature.


    The House of Lords

    > Traditional organisation: Lords Temporal = noble men (Baron, Vicount, Marquis, Duke, Prince of Wales) / Lords Spiritual = bishops, archbishops (only 26). A title give you a title and lands. You become a Lord threw your father: herited position in Parliament: we talk about Hereditory Peers (another name for lord).

    It's unrepresentative (undemocratic, doesn't represent the people), an aristocratic elite.

    > 1958: Life Peers. Just for life, not hereditory. Nominated by the Queen.

    > 1963 → Women are able to be peers, before that it was only men. Politicians can become a Lord (like M. Thatcher). People who showed some skill, who have their own field,...

    > In the House of Lords there was before 1999:

    • Hereditary Peers

    • Law Lords (senior judges)

    • Bishops / Archbishops (26)

    • Life Peers


    > The 1999 Reform

    → Issue of herediatary peers, in 21th C we can't continue thie medival thing. They said “we should eliminate this”, but it's such a big change that some people would have been upset, so we introduced a compromise : a transition phase, keeping a small number until we're ready to eliminate this for good. Still 92 hereditary peers remained.

    → The largest category now is the Life Peers.

    → The main question is: what we want for the House of Lord ? It should be an elected thing. But if we have elected peers, the 2 chambers would be both equals, so no chamber would have more authority. In France we have a directly elected Assemblée Nationale and an undirectly elected Sénat. Maybe we should keep a system of appointed peers.


    > 2005: Reform

    → Law Lords eliminated. New Institution: the Supreme Court (2009, judiciary power), to improve the separation of powers.


    The UK Parliament: two houses.

    The House of Commons:

    Frontbenchers are Government Ministers. Backbenchers are the less importants MPs. The Shadow Cabinet is the second largest party who is the opposition of the Government.

    House of Commons

    The House of Lords:


    House of Lords


    Functions of the UK Parliament

    > To legislate = to pass laws, vote on laws. Propose the Bills: 95% of the bills are introduced by the Parliament.

    > Bill's making process:

    • 1st reading → general idea

    • 2nd reading → scrutiny (is it going to work ? How to write it ?)

      amendments: some changes, what the government wants ?

    • 3rd reading → presentation of the Bill in its finalized form.

    • Final State → Royal Assent.


    > The House of Lords occasionnaly reject a Bill. What happens then ?

    → They apply a veto on the Bill. So the unelected body has the final word. But it was eliminated:

    1911: Parliament Act, 1st Attempt: the House of Lord can't block a bill more than 2 years.

    1949: 2nd Attempt: they can't put a veto on a bill anymore?

    This act gives more power to the elected body: the House of Commons.



    Book: Chap 4: Parliament.


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