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The House of Commons. Legislation is adopted in the House of Commons, considered by the House of Lords, and given Royal Assent by the Sovereign


Legislation is adopted in the House of Commons, considered by the House of Lords, and given Royal Assent by the Sovereign. But the legislative role of the House of Lords has diminished, and the Sovereign by convention since 1640 must grant Royal Assent. Legislative power thus is lodged in the House of Commons, although effectively the Cabinet is the real base. Lack of an effective bicameral legislature has generated recent discussion of parliamentary reform.

House of Commons members are elected by a plurality rather than a majority vote, referred to as the ‘first-past-the-post’ process. Consequently, quite minor changes in voting patterns of the principal parties in the electoral districts can result in meaningful changes of power in Commons. The system does provide a close tie between members of the House and the member'’ constituents.

Party organization and loyalty are essential to the survival of the parliamentary party (the party in power is the parliamentary party, the major not currently in power generally is known as the opposition party).

Any serious breach in loyalty may result in a House of Commons vote contrary to the interests of the government, although obviously to the wishful expectations of the opposition party, ever prepared to confront the parliamentary party in a new election at a time of the latter’s weakness.

An elected House of Commons may endure for up to five years; an extension is allowed only in an emergency and requires the concurrence of the House of Lords. The Prime Minister may dissolve Parliament and call new elections before the five year limit expires. Dissolution of Parliament may follow adversity to the government, reflected by opinion polls, a vote of censure or the government’s failure to obtain an affirmative vote on a major proposal. Moreover, the Prime Minister may call for new elections in a time of popularity, predicting voter affirmation of the government’s success and granting it a new five year period.

Major legislation is initiated by rule in Commons. If successful in Commons, the bill proceeds to Lords. Any rejection by the Lords only delays the bill, a second passage in the next session will negate further action by the House of Lords. But on the second attempt Commons might not again pass the bill, the Lords delay thus is not unlike a United States presidential veto. The delaying role of the House of Lords therefore can be significant. The only authority of Lords to reject bills absolutely involves a bill to extend the duration of Parliament beyond five years, and they have initiation authority for private bills dealing with local matters or issues affecting individuals.



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