The UK Parliament is the seat of Government throughout the United Kingdom. While devolved powers have passed to the Welsh Assembly and Holyrood, the majority of national and international business is still conducted in Westminster. It’s here that elected representatives from around the UK meet to debate and resolve the issues that face the country.
How old is the UK Parliament?
Westminster has been the seat of power in England for hundreds of years – the first English Parliament was held in the early 1200’s. However, the modern UK Parliament dates from 1800, when the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland merged to become the “Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”. This institution was the template for many other democratic institutions around the world, particularly in the former British Empire, and is often referred to as the “Mother of Parliaments”.
What is the UK Parliament?
Technically, Parliament consists of three institutions; the Queen, the Lords and the Commons. In practice, the UK Parliament is “bicameral”, meaning there are two separate groups that meet to discuss issues. The House of Lords consists of “Lords Spiritual”, who are high-ranking members of the clergy, and “Lords Temporal”, who are appointed by the Queen on the Prime Minister’s advice. The House of Commons consists of “Members of Parliament” (MP’s), who are elected by voters in their local areas. The House of Commons was the dominant partner for many years, but in 1911 the Parliament Act reduced the power of the Lords significantly. Today, the House of Commons makes laws and elects governments; the House of Lords exercises some oversight but cannot directly control policy.
What does Parliament do?
Elected MP’s form political alliances, known as “parties”. When the House of Commons takes a vote on laws, the party that has the most MP’s is able to choose whether they pass or not. Therefore, whichever party has the most MP’s has the ability to shape the country according to their wishes. The party with a “majority” of MP’s is invited to form a government and takes charge of many aspects of running the country. However, this doesn’t mean that they can automatically make laws. They must still subject changes in law to a vote in the House of Commons.
How important is the UK Parliament?
In some ways, the UK’s system of government is incredibly influential. It was exported to many British colonies when they gained independence. Countries like Canada, India and Australia all follow similar systems to the UK Parliament. Within the UK, Parliament is still one of the most powerful institutions in the country, and the decisions made there impact every citizen.