House of Commons

What function does parliament serve?

A summary of the functions of Parliament. This video explores the overarching role and function of Parliament, and the specific duties it carries out as necessities of those functions.

Video Information

This video covers:

  • The core functions of Parliament.
  • The duties that Parliament owe to the electorate.
  • The necessity of democratic accountability.
Information for Teachers

Teachers can use this video as an introductory tool for students, at the start of a lesson, or as a summary at the end.

The video provides a sound summary of main topic areas and covers key points, including:

  • Parliament’s democratic nature.
  • The wider function of Parliament.
  • The duties of Parliament towards the electorate and its functions.
Credits

With thanks to

  • Baroness Boothroyd
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP

Image (UK Parliament-Jessica Taylor)

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How does Parliament’s history inform how it works? 

This video discusses the history of Parliament and of the wider UK political system of government, and shows how this history has molded it into its contemporary form.

Video Information

This video covers:

  • The evolution of governance from monarch to elected representatives.
  • The lack of formal constitution that this evolution has brought.
  • The symbolism of Monarchy, and the traditions of both Houses, which still play crucial roles in UK governance.
Information for Teachers

Teachers can use this video as an introductory tool for students, at the start of a lesson, or as a summary at the end.

The video provides a sound summary of main topic areas and covers key points, including:

  • Parliament’s history and evolution.
  • The imminency of the House of Commons in contemporary British government.
  • The importance of history, customs, traditions, and symbolism in government.
Credits

With thanks to

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What are the underlying principles of the UK’s parliamentary system? 

A summary of the principles of Parliament. This documentary covers the basics of our parliamentary principle and the functions that drive the House of Commons.

Video Information

This video covers:

  • The principles of the parliamentary system.
  • The specific democratic nature of the House of Commons.
  • The relationship between its democratic nature and its function as the heart of Parliament.
Information for Teachers

Teachers can use this video as an introductory tool for students, at the start of a lesson, or as a summary at the end.

The video provides a sound summary of main topic areas and covers key points, including:

  • Parliament’s democratic nature.
  • The role of the House of Commons.
  • The underlying principles which guide the House of Commons.
  • The functions of the House of Commons.
Credits

With thanks to

  • John Bercow MP, House of Commons Speaker 2009-present.
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A Brief History of UK Parliament

Our short history of the mother of parliaments. This documentary covers the basics of our parliamentary history, its past conflicts, and the forces that have molded into its current form.

Video Information

This video covers:

  • The formation of Parliament.
  • The at times dichotomous relationship between the Crown and Parliament.
  • The past conflicts that have shaped the modern Parliament and its foundational legislation, e.g. the Bill of Rights.
Information for Teachers

Teachers can use this video as an introductory tool for students, at the start of a lesson, or as a summary at the end.

The video provides a sound summary of main topic areas and covers key points, including:

  • Parliament’s historical role.
  • The historical clashes between Parliament and Crown.
  • The Resolution of these conflicts.
  • The birth of our modern Parliament from these conflicts and resolutions.
Credits

With thanks to

  • Lord Norton

Image (UK Parliament-Jessica Taylor)

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Q&A: Why don’t MPs vote electronically instead of going through the lobbies?

One of the key reasons why MPs – particularly backbenchers – like the current system is that it requires Ministers to be physically present in the voting lobby each day. This gives backbenchers a valuable opportunity to talk to them, in private, about constituency or policy issues. However, 650 MPs voting personally in the lobby does take up a lot of time and can be disruptive to Ministers’ diaries during the day.

The Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission calculated that if 3 minutes per vote had been saved in the 2010-12 session, it would have saved each MP 27 hours of time. It has recommended that in future smart identity cards should be used by MPs to record their votes electronically. This would enable the votes to be recorded and published more quickly – but the card readers would be placed only in the voting lobbies to ensure that MPs have to be present thereby retaining the advantage of the present system. You can read more about this in the Commission’s report, ‘Open up!‘.

Want to submit your own question to our team? Send yours to us here.

 

Image: House of Commons Division Lobby (UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor)

Q&A: What happens if the Speaker falls ill or is unable to be at the House?

The Speaker has three deputies. The principal deputy speaker is known by the title of Chairman of Ways and Means and the other two as the First and Second Deputy Chairs of Ways and Means. Even during normal business weeks at Westminster the Speaker does not spend all his time in the chamber so the deputys preside over proceedings on a rota basis. In the event that the Speaker was ill or otherwise indisposed, the deputies would cover all the duties.

Want to submit your own question to our team? Send yours to us here.

 

Image: Speaker’s Procession (UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor)

Parliament in 30 Minutes

Watch Parliament in 30 Minutes – our short insight into the workings of the mother of parliaments. This documentary covers the basics of our parliamentary system; how our institutions work, how laws are made, and what our representatives do.

Video Information

This the introductory video in the Parliament Revealed project. This video covers:

  • The roles of parliamentary institutions – examining how the various institutions of government in the UK function and interact.
  • How laws are made and scrutinised – examining the processes of law-making, the typical stages that a bill will pass through and the various forms of scrutiny that laws undergo before, during and after their passage through Parliament.
  • The role of representatives – examining the work of Parliament, the different responsibilities and powers of MPs and Peers and the staff, resources and mechanisms available to support them.
  • How Parliament works day to day – examining how business is conducted, how timetables are determined, the rules of debate, the function of specific instruments such as Early Day Motions and Adjournment Debates, and the roles of specific actors such as the Speaker and Clerks.
Information for Teachers

Teachers can use this video as an introductory tool for students, at the start of the module, or as a summary at the end.

The video provides a sound summary of main topic areas and covers key questions, including:

  • What is the role of parliament?
  • What are laws, and how are they made?
  • What are representatives?
  • How does parliament work?

These key questions are answered by parliamentarians past and present.

Credits

With thanks to (by order of appearance):

  • Baron Lisvane (Robert Rogers), Clerk of the House of Commons 2011-2014
  • Lord Norton
  • Baroness Boothroyd
  • Keith Vaz MP
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP
  • John Mann MP
  • Natascha Engel MP
  • Andrew Rosindell MP
  • Baroness D’Souza, Lords Speaker 2011-2016
  • Baroness Scotland
  • Lord Tyler
  • Baroness Smith
  • Lord Cormack
  • Baroness Stowell
  • Baroness Stern
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