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    Monday, 13 March 2017

    Functions of Parliament in Great Britain

    1. The British Parliament
    British, Parliament has been regarded as the earliest of the modern Parliaments and as such called Mother Parliament. It has borne deep imprints on the Parliamentary procedure of modern legislatures.

    2. Two houses of the Parliament
    The British parliament is consisting upon two houses; The House of Commons and the House of Lords.

    3. Legislative Functions of the House of Commons

    The prime function of the House of the Commons is legislation, which may be described as under:

    a. Drafting of Bills
    Nearly all government Bills are drafted by Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury, a staff of barristers or solicitors in the Treasury whose office was constituted in 1869.

    b. Classification of Bills
    A project of law during its passage through Parliament is called a Bill, and s its subdivisions are called clauses. Bills are classified into three kinds:

    i. Public Bills
    Public Bills i.e. measures affecting the community at large or altering the general law. A public Bill applies by description to all persons subject to the authority of Parliament or to certain classes of such person.

    ii. Private Bills
    Private Bills, i.e. measures dealing with local or personal matters, such as a Bill giving special powers to a local authority or altering a settlement.

    iii. Hybrid Bills
    Hybrid Bills, i.e. Bills which, 'although they are introduced as public Bills affect a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interest of other persons or bodies of the same category or class.

    c. Ordinary procedure on Public Bills
    Most kinds of public Bills may originate either in the Commons or the Lords, but there are certain classes of Bills, such as Money Bills and Bill's dealing with the representation of the people, which by parliamentary custom or constitutional convention may originate only in the Commons.

    i. introduction of Bills
    A member, whether a Minister or unofficial member, introduces a Bill by presenting it at the table or by motion for leave to introduce it, in either case after giving notice.

    ii. Five stages
    The five stages through which a Bill passes in the legislative process in the Houses are: (i) first reading, (ii) second reading, (iii) committee stage, (iv) report (or consideration of amendments) stage, and (v) third reading.

    i. First reading
    The Bill is ordinarily presented in "dummy," i.e. a sheet of paper on which is the name of the Member, and the title of the Bill. The "first reading" is purely formal.

    ii. Second reading
    Section 19 of the .Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House before the second reading of a bill to make a statement to the effect that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, a written statement t9 this effect must also be published.

    iii. Committee stage
    The great majority of Bills which pass the second reading will stand committed to a particular- Standing Committee, unless the House otherwise orders. The other options are: a Committee of the Whole House; splitting the Committee stage between a Committee of the Whole House and a Standing Committee; a joint Committee of the two Houses; an ad ho Select Committee.
    The committee stage is the time for discussing details and proposing amendments. The Bill is taken clause by clause, and amendments are moved in the order in which they come in the clause.

    Selection of amendments
    In order to save time, Standing Orders give to the Speaker on the report stage, or Chairman of Committee, the power to select certain new clauses or amendments for discussion. The rest are voted on without debate.

    iv. Report Stage
    The Bill as amended in Committee is then "reported" to the House. It may, with certain restrictions, be further amended as in Committee. It is not unusual for the Government to table numerous amendments at this stage, some representing undertakings given in Committee.

    v. Third reading
    After the Bill has been considered on report, it is put down, for "third reading." If there is a debate on third reading, it is on general principles and only verbal amendments can be moved.

    d. Procedure in the Lords
    The procedure on legislation in the House of Lords resembles generally the procedure in the Commons, although it has greater flexibility.

    e. Royal Assent
    When a Bill has been passed by both House, or passed by the Commons under the Parliament Acts, it is ready to receive the Royal Assent.

    f. Private Members' Bills
    Public Bills may be introduced by private Members. Private Members do not introduce Bills authorizing expenditure, because these require a financial resolution with a recommendation from the Crown.

    i. The Ballot
    There are always more private Members wishing to introduce Bills than there is Parliamentary time available. At the beginning of each session a Ballot is held and the 20 successful members have priority to introduce a Bill in the time made available.

    ii. Ten Minute Rule
    A private Member who has not won a place in the ballot can take advantage of the "Ten Minute Rule," whereby motions for leave to introduce Bills may be set down at the commencement of public business on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

    4. Executive Function of the House of Commons


    Since there is no separation of powers in the British System. Therefore, the House of Commons performs not only legislative functions but also executive functions which may be mentioned as under:

    a. Prime Minister and the Cabinet
    The Prime minister is the head of the executive in Great Britain. Being the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister assumes the role of leader of the House. As leader of the Houses, the Prime Minister enjoys certain privileges on the floor of the House.

    i. Formation of govt.
    The primary functions of the Prime Minister are to form a government, and to choose and preside over the Cabinet. He gives advice to his ministerial colleagues on matters before they come to the Cabinet, and he is the main channel of communication between the Cabinet and the Sovereign, with whom he has a weekly audience. He advises the Sovereign on dissolution.

    ii. As Cabinet Chief
    As head of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister supervises and coordinates the work of different Ministers. He performs a pivotal role in the formation and working of the Cabinet. His opinion carries weight in the Cabinet meetings and as such he can resolve the differences among the ministers.

    5. Modern functions of the House of Lords

    In a unitary state a Second Chamber is generally though desirable in order to admit into the legislature persons with special kinds of experience or representing ethnic, religious or other minorities, and also to provide opportunity for second thoughts about policy and legislation. As the country has not written constitution, if we had a unicameral legislature our governmental system and laws would be at the mercy of a majority of one in the House of Commons, and moreover the House of Commons Could prolong its own life indefinitely.

    The functions and powers of the House of Lords in recent years may be considered as under;

    a. Pre-legislative scrutiny
    The scrutiny of draft Bills by parliamentary committees is a new function for both Houses of Parliament. Joint committees consisting of members of both Houses were appointed in 1998-99 to consider Government Bill. The Lords and the Commons each established a select committee to consider the draft Freedom of Information Bill 1999.

    b. Revision of Public Bills sent from the Commons
    The House of Lords spends over half its time revising Bills from the Commons. The importance of this function arises from the lack of time available in the Commons to debate legislative proposals.

    c. The delaying of legislation
    Although of constitutional importance, the power possessed by the Lords to delay the enactment of legislation has been less significant than its role in revising legislation. The power of the House of Lords to delay legislation is regulated by constitutional convention and parliament Acts 1911 and 1949.

    d. The initiation of public legislation and private members' bills
    One role of the House of Lords has been described as the initiation of "non-controversial" legislation. It is true that law reform measures and consolidation bills, bills giving effect to international agreements to which the United Kingdom has become a party and other issues which do not involve matters of party political controversy will start their legislative passage in the House of Lords.

    e. Scrutiny of private bills
    The House of Lords perform important function of scrutiny of private bills.

    f. Scrutiny of delegated legislation
    In October 1994 the House of Lords affirmed its unfettered consideration. In February 2000 the Greater London Authority (Election Expenses) Order came before the Lords and was rejected.

    g. Scrutiny of Executive
    Debates in the Lords do not affect the fate of governments, the practice being to "move for papers" and then to withdraw the motion rather than press it to a vote.

    Questions to Ministers are of less significance than in the House of Commons. There are few ministers in the Upper House.

    Four oral questions (Starred Questions) only may be asked each day for half an hour at the start of business. Questions may be tabled up to a month ahead, and are allocated on a "first come first served" basis.

    h. Full and free discussion of large and important questions
    The House of Lords, by virtue of the wide and varied background of its members, particularly since the introduction of life peerages, and its 'freedom from the constraints of party discipline provides a place where controversial issues of any kind may be debated.

    i. Select committees

    The House of Lords has the power to appoint select committees to examine any matter which in the opinion of the House requires investigation. Until the 1970s such committees were concerned with the running of the House, but from that time the House began to use select Committees to scrutinize public policy.
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