British House of Commons
House of Commons Introduction:
House of commons is the publicly elected legislative body of the Bicameral British Parliament. It is though the lower house, but it is dominant over the House of Lords.
There is no specific date, but somewhere in 13th century when representatives were sent to King from different parts of Britain to talk about issues of their area, it is said to have existed.
Total number of members of House of Commons is 650 out of which 533 members are elected from England, 59 from Scotland, 40 from Wales and 18 from Northern Ireland. Each member is elected from a constituency of 70,000 people.
Tenure of House of Commons
As members of House of Commons are elected the tenure is fixed as 5 Years. Unless, the House of Commons is dissolved by the Queen on the advice of PM the term may vary.
- Any British citizen can become the part of House of Commons.
- According to 2006 Electoral Administration Act Sec 17, a British citizen of 18 years age can contest elections for House of Commons.
- Candidate must not be a Bankrupt.
- Candidate should be sound mentally.
- It was thought to be a convention that dead and dumb cannot become member of House of Commons. But Jack Ashley who served as member of House of Commons for 25 years was deaf.
- He should not be a convict.
- He should not be a member of House of Lords.
Procedure to Nomination
A candidate willing to get nominated for a constituency may submit nomination papers which are signed by 10 voters of that constituency. After it, he has to pay GBP500 to election commission as a security deposit. It would be refundable if he gets at least 5% of the votes.
As described under House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, following are disqualified to become a member of House of Commons
- Holders of Judicial officers.
- Civil servants.
- Member of armed forces.
- Member of foreign legislature.
- Holder of Crown offices.
There are two types of Parliamentary elections in Britain.
- 1. General Elections
These take place after every 5 years and only on Thursday.
- 2. By Elections
When there is vacancy (if a member dies or resigns) in the House of Commons then by-elections take place.
According to Representation of the People’s Act 1949 as amended by the 1969 Act, following person are entitled to vote:
- Must be a British subject.
- 18 years of age and above.
- Whose name is recorded in the Voter’s Register of his constituency.
Speaker is the presiding officer of House of Commons. He is elected when new parliament comes into being. John Bercow is the current speaker of House of Commons.
It is the effective legislative authority in Britain. All legislation proceeds from House of Commons. A leader who is a Cabinet minister is appointed to manage the legislative programs. It can modify or discard existing laws and can make new laws. Parliament Acts of 1911 & 1949 curtailed the powers of House of Lords and gave great authority to House of Commons.
According to Parliament Acts, All money bills must only originate from House of Commons and House of Lords cannot delay a money bill for over a month. If in this period they don’t pass the bill, House of Commons sends it to the King which becomes an Act after his Assent. This gives them great authority over imposing taxes and making budget.
It acts as administrative authority by questioning the government and ministers are obliged to reply. PM’s question time occurs on Wednesday for half an hour. They use their power to scrutinize government through question time.
The opposition in the House of Commons criticizes government’s administrative and policy making. When the house debates the reply to the King’s speech then opposition gets the best opportunity to criticize the government. It allows the ministry to defend the government.
House has a right to free speech. They have complete freedom in the matter and manner of debate.
Access to Crown
House of Commons collectively have an access to Crown.
House of Commons can create or repeal the Acts anytime they want.
Acts not challenged by Courts
Any Act passed by Parliament cannot be challenged in any court of Britain. There is no concept of Judicial review and there exist no Administrative courts
Prohibit publication and open sessions
House may decide to have a private sitting and also have the right to prohibit the publication of its own debate.
House possesses the right to exclude strangers.
House has a right to enforce its privileges and commit for contempt for breach of its privileges: Hansard vs Stockdale.
Freedom from Arrest:
Members of House of Commons cannot be arrested in Civil cases for a period of 40 days before and after the sessions of Parliament.
Dominance over House of Lords
House of commons enjoys dominance over House of Lords in many aspects which are most important like authority in finances and administration.
There are many conventions related to House of Commons, house of PM is at 10 Downing Street, Green colored seats in House of Commons, PM should be from House of Commons, Speaker is non partisan and many more.
British House of Commons is the most vital organ of British Parliament. It originates money bills which cannot be vetoed by House of Lords, this describes its powers very clearly. British House of Commons can make Laws in the morning and may repeal the same in evening. It possesses great authority in administration, legislation and finances.