Parliament of the United Kingdom

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The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom and British overseas territories. It alone has parliamentary sovereignty, conferring it ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and its territories. At its head is the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

The parliament is bicameral, with an Upper House, the House of Lords, and a lower house, the House of Commons.[1] The Queen is the third component of Parliament.[2] The House of Lords includes two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual (the senior bishops of the Church of England) and the Lords Temporal (members of the Peerage); its members are not elected by the population at large but are appointed by past or current governments.[3] The House of Commons is a democratically elected chamber with elections to it held at least every 5 years.[4] The two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the "Houses of Parliament"), in the City of Westminster in London. By constitutional convention, all government ministers, including the Prime Minister, are members of the House of Commons or, less often, the House of Lords, and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the legislature.

The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union 1707 by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland. However, some argue that in practice the parliament was a continuation of the English parliament with the addition of Scottish MPs and peers. The Parliament of England had itself evolved from the early medieval councils of aristocrats and landowners that advised the sovereigns of England.[5] England has been called "the mother of parliaments",[6] its institutions having set the standards for many democracies throughout the world,[7] and the United Kingdom parliament is the largest Anglophone legislative body in the world.[8]

In theory, supreme legislative power is vested in the Queen-in-Parliament; in practice in modern times, real power is vested in the House of Commons; the sovereign generally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister[9] and the powers of the House of Lords have been steadily limited, notably by the Parliament Acts and other "reforms".

See also


  1. Legislative Chambers: Unicameral or Bicameral?. Democratic Governance. United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  2. Parliament and Crown. How Parliament works. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  3. Different types of Lords. How Parliament works. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  4. How MPs are elected. How Parliament works. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  5. Parliament: The political institution. History of Parliament. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  6. Bright And Scholefield at Birmingham, The Times, January 19, 1865, p.9.
  7. Jenkin, Clive. Debate: 30 Jun 2004: Column 318. House of Commons debates. Hansard. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
  8. Escort Notes (pdf). New Hampshire. Retrieved on 2008-02-17.
  9. Laird, Dorothy, How The Queen Reigns, London, 1959.