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"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.

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