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The House of Commons

The UK Parliament has two Houses; the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Commons is the more powerful of the two. The Commons is where policies are discussed and laws are made although all Bills must go through both Houses before they become law known as an Act of Parliament.

The members are called MPs (Members of Parliament).

How are Members of the House of Commons elected?

After the General Election, in which the nation votes, there were 650 members elected by the geographical area or constituency in which they stood as an election candidate.

All members of the Government including the Prime Minister are elected in this way as they sit in the House of Commons as Members of Parliament for the part of Britain they represent.

For electoral purposes, the United Kingdom is divided into constituencies, each of which returns one member to the House of Commons, the member being the candidate who obtains the largest number of votes cast in the constituency.

Women in the House of Commons

The first female MP was Countess Constance Markievicz elected to the House of Commons, in 1918. However, she did not take her seat, in protest against Britain’s policy in Ireland. The first woman to be elected and take her seat was Viscountess Nancy Astor in 1919. Find out more about Nancy Astor

The first female woman in the Government was Margaret Bondfield – appointed Under Secretary in the Ministry of Labour in 1924.

The Business of the House of Commons

The week’s business in the House of Commons is outlined each Thursday by the Leader of the House, after consultation between the government’s Chief Whip and the Opposition’s Chief Whip.

A quarter to a third of the time will be taken up by the government’s legislative programme and the rest by other business. As a rule, Bills likely to raise political controversy are introduced in the House of Commons before going to the House of Lords, and the House of Commons claims exclusive control in respect of national taxation and expenditure.

A Bill such as the Finance Bill, which imposes taxation and the Consolidation Fund Bills, which authorise expenditure, must begin their passage through Parliament in the House of Commons.

A bill which the financial provisions are subsidiary may begin in the House of Lords, and the House of Commons may waive its rights in regard to House of Lords of amendments affecting finance.

The House of Commons has a public register of its Members financial and other interests; this is published annually as a House of Commons paper. Members of Parliament must also disclose any relevant financial interest or benefit in a matter before the House of Commons when taking part in a debate, in certain other proceedings of the House of Commons, or in consultations with other Members of Parliament, with ministers and civil servants.

Officers and Officials of the House of Commons

The House of Commons is presided over by the Speaker, who has considerable powers to maintain order. A deputy speaker, called the Chairman of Ways and Means, and two deputy chairs may preside over sittings of the House of Commons; they are elected by the House of Commons, and like the Speaker, neither speak nor vote other than in their official capacity.

The staff of the House of Commons are employed by a commission chaired by the Speaker. The heads of the six House of Commons departments are permanent officers of the House of Commons and not Members of Parliament.

The Clerk to the House of Commons is the principal adviser to the Speaker on the privileges and procedures of the House of Commons, the conduct of the business and committees of the House of Commons.

The Serjeant at Arms is responsible for the security and ceremonial functions of the House of Commons.

The Member of Parliament with the longest unbroken time in service is known as the Father of the House.

parliament from Westminster bridge