The British Parliament

The British Parliament is the oldest in the world. It originated in the
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.

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