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                Topic N1 "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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