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The House of Commons

The House of Commons today is an elected house with a national-wide representation.

Of its 650 members 523 represent constituencies in England, 38 in Wales, 72 in Scotland and 17 in Northern Ireland. When speaking about British Parliament the House of Commons is usually meant. “MP” is addressed only to the members of the House of Commons. When speaking about Parliamentary (or General) election, election of the House of Commons is meant so this Housе is the center of real political power and activity, most of its members being professional politicians, lawyers, economists, etc.

The party that has won the general election makes up the majority in the house of Commons, and forms the Government. The party with the next largest number of members of the House, or sometimes a combination of other parties, form the official Opposition, and Leader of the Opposition is recognized post in the House of House of Commons.

The MPs sit on two sides of the hall, one side for the governing party and the other for the opposition. There are seats for only 43 7 MPs. One of the most important members in the House of Commons is the Speaker who despite his name is the one who actually never speaks.

The main job of the Speaker is to maintain strict control over debates, to keep fair play between the parties, the government and opposition, between back-benchers and front-benchers.

The whips are party functioneers, party managers, who receives special salaries for their duties. They arrange each day program in Parliament and tell MPs when they must attend debates. The inform, instruct, dictate and enforce the views of the front-benchers (the Government) on the back-benchers. The strict party discipline obliges them to follow the instructions of the whips. A backbencher is an ordinary MP.

Each leading party has officially recognized whips as well as a Chief Whip of the Government and the Chief of the Opposition.

The Commons usually meet in the afternoon, «sitting” until about 10.30 pm and sometimes beyond midnight.

In the Commons debating chamber there are seats for only 370 members and except on matters of great interest and importance the presence of all members is not necessary. 40 MPs is enough to secure (make up) a quorum.

MPs are paid salaries, approximately twice the average national wage but substantially less than most MPs could earn outside the House of Commons.

The House of Lords

The House of Lords appeared first as King’s council consisting of lords and barons.

Now the House is a partly hereditary upper chamber. It comprises 26 Lords Spiritual (2 of which are archbishops of Canterbury and York, the rest senior bishops of Church of England), 92 hereditary peers, all life peers and peeresses created under the Life Peerages Act of 1958 rewarded for specially good service. Their title is not inherited by their children. One fourth part of life peers are women, Margaret Thatcher among them. There is a woolsack – the seat of the Lord Chancellor who presides in the House of Lords.

Almost a century ago the Lord had the power of absolute veto over any legislation passed by the House of Commons. After a great struggle this was finally abolished by the Parliament Act of 1911. But it left the Lords with the power to delay a bill foe 2 years and seems 1949 the period reduced to one year. After one year the bill is passed even without the Lords agreement.

The main function of the House of Lords is to defend the interests of the propertied people, to criticize the Labor Government, to delay, amend or burry altogether the bills which go contrary to their interests. For its utterly conservative character it is often called a hangover from a past age. That’s way Labor Governments and working people demand abolition of the House of Lords as an undemocratic anachronism.

But the power of delaying a bill for a year is still a great privilege of the Lords, which may play in to the hands of the ruling class. In 1958 the idea of elevating to the peerage certain people who have rendered political or public service to the national was launched. Such people are awarded the title of the life peer and elevated to the House of Lords.

Many former trade-union leaders have thus become Lords of the House and lost their revolutionary spirit.

Of all the parliaments in the world, the lowest quorum needed to adopt a decision is the British House of Lords. Three Lords present will make a quorum and will be capable to take any decision.

A peer who attends a debate reserves salary in addition to traveling expenses.

In 1998 the Government as part of its reform of the House of Lords, introduced legislation to deprive hereditary peers (by than numbering 750) of their 700-year old right to sit and vote in the upper chamber. A compromise, however allowed 92 of them – who were elected by their fellow peers – to remain as temporary members. The legislation went into effect in late 1999.

So, therefore, I believe that the House of Commons is politically stronger as its more representative.

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