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UK Parliament

The role of the UK Parliament.

What does it do?

The UK Parliament represents the people of the United Kingdom and has the power to make decisions and pass laws on a wide range of issues that affect you. It also:

  • debates major issues of the day
  • scrutinises government policy
  • protects the public and safeguards the rights of individuals
  • examines European Union proposals before they become law
  • hears legal cases in the House of Lords

How is it made up?

The UK Parliament is made up of two chambers or 'Houses' – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The House of Commons has 646 Members of Parliament (MPs). Each MP represents a part of the UK called a 'constituency' or 'seat'. The political party with the most MPs in the House of Commons forms the Government.

The Government proposes new laws and raises issues for Parliament to debate. It also puts into action the decisions made by Parliament.
The House of Lords has around 700 unelected members who scrutinise the work of the House of Commons. Before 1999, the House of Lords was mostly made up of hereditary peers who inherited their title through their family.

After 1999, the House of Lords was reformed so the majority of Lords are now 'life peers'. This means they are appointed for their knowledge or experience in a particular field but do not pass on their title.

The Queen also has an important role to play in the UK Parliament, although it is mostly ceremonial. She approves laws made by Parliament and delivers the Queen's Speech which sets out what the Government plans to do each year.

How is it elected?

At a general election you have one vote to choose a candidate to represent your constituency in the House of Commons. Most candidates are from a political party but there can also be independent candidates. After a general election, the leader of the party with the most MPs is asked by the Queen to become Prime Minister and to form a government that will run the country. The leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Leader of the Opposition.

When is it elected?

A general election must take place at least every five years, but often an election will be called earlier than that. The Prime Minister decides the exact date of an election, but it traditionally takes place on a Thursday. There must be at least 17 working days between when an election is called and election day itself.

Where can I find out more?

Read more on the UK Parliament.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 07 Jul 2010 at 14:24