New laws are discussed and voted upon in the two Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords, presided over by the Lord High Chancellor, has a membership of about one thousand, comprising Royal princes, archbishops, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, bishops, barons, life peers and law lords. The House of Commons, directed by the Speaker, is an elected assembly of 635 men and women (previously 630) who are paid an annual salary for attendance. Each represents a constituency (area of the country) which elected him or her by majority vote at the last General Election, or a later By election caused by the death or retirement of the previous representative. The normal span of a Parliament is five years, though at any time the Queen may, upon the advice of the Prime Minister, dissolve Parliament and proclaim a General Election. It is also possible that the Government may be defeated in the House of Commons on a major issue. It may then be forced to resign, in which case either the next strongest party forms a government, or a new election is sought. AIl but a handful of the Members of the House of Commons belong to one or other of the main political parties, and after a General Election it is the party with most Members which forms the Government. At certain times of nation al crisis, two or more parties may unite to form a Coalition Government.
New Laws start as Bills. Any Member of the Lords or Commons can introduce a Bill, though the majority are brought in by the Government, based on its plans as outlined
in the Queen’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament. The Bill has to pass through three Readings before it is considered to
be agreed by the House of Commons. It then goes forward to the House of Lords. Ifit is a Financial Bill, the House of Lords must pass it without making any changes, but the Lords can reject any other Bill; after the lapse of a year, the Lords’ rejection does not prevent its being passed and forwarded to the Queen for her Assent.