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A parliament is a type of legislature . The most famous parliament is probably the one in the United Kingdom, which is sometimes called the "Mother of all Parliaments". The word "parliament" comes from the French word parlement, which means a talk. The Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, was founded earlier (930 AD), so it is the oldest legislature in the world still existing. However, the Althing did not function as a legislature for four centuries, and its role as a primary legislature is modern.
How the British Parliament works
The Parliament of the United Kingdom is split into three separate parts, the House of Commons (the lower house), the lords (the upper house) and the Monarch. Most legislative power concentrated in the House of Commons. It is made up of 650 Members of Parliament (MPs). These people are elected by the people of the United Kingdom to represent them in the House of Commons. The leader of the political party who commands a majority of MPs is usually made the Prime Minister, but not the Head of State, a position reserved for the Sovereign. The House of Commons starts most Bills, the remainder originating in the House of Lords, and decides rates of taxation as a result of election by the other hereditary peers and two other hereditary peers who have ceremonial jobs in the House of Lords. They are the Earl Marshal who is always the Duke of Norfolk and the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley. The House of Lords has the power to reject Bills, except Money Bills (tax bills), and make the House of Commons reconsider them. If the House of Lords vetoes a bill twice or delays a public Bill for more than one year then the House of Commons can force the Bill through under the terms of the Parliament Acts, unless it originated in the House of Lords. The monarch (now HM Queen Elizabeth II) is the sovereign in a constitutional monarchy and, theoretically, is the fount of all power in the United Kingdom. Bills must receive the Royal Assent before becoming Acts of Parliament and the monarch is responsible for summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament, normally upon the advice of the incumbent Prime Minister. It is now very rare for a monarch to object, but the sovereign still retains this prerogative for use if necessary.
How a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament
Pre-legislative Scrutiny: Joint committee of both houses review bill and vote on amendments that government can accept or reject. Reports are influential in later stages as rejected committee recommendations are revived to be voted on.
Committee Stage: A committee considers each clause of the bill, and may make amendments.
Report Stage: An opportunity to amend the bill. The House consider clauses to which amendments have been tabled.
Passage: The bill is then sent to the other House which may amend it.
Committee Stage: Same procedures
Report Stage: Same procedures
Passage: The bill is then returned to the original House.
Pre-legislative Scrutiny: To consider all amendments.
The bill is then processed for Royal Assent, if accepted, the bill becomes an Act.
|Making new law Types of bill Bill procedure First reading Second reading Commons committee stage Lords committee stage Report stage Third reading Passage through the other House Royal assent Delegated legislation|
Other parliaments have copied the UK and work similarly. They have three levels - a lower house which makes the law, an upper house which reviews the law (Decides if they like it or not, and suggest changes to it), and a head of state who is mostly for show and who starts and ends each year of parliament. The Prime Minister is almost always the person whose party has the most seats, but if the lower house does not think he is doing a good job they can call a vote of no confidence and ask him to leave his job as Prime Minister or have an election.
The word "parliament"
Sometimes people use the word "parliament" to describe a legislature, even if it is not a real parliament. A "parliament" is a type of legislature which has a Prime Minister.
Similar to a congress
A parliament is a lot like a congress but a congress cannot ask the head of the government to leave his job. Also, a congress runs for a number of years according to the country's constitution, but a parliament can be stopped as long as enough members agree. Elections are held after this happens.
Countries that have Parliaments
- Jones, Clyve 2012. A short history of Parliament: England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland, p1; excerpt, "It is a commonly held misconception that the Westminster parliament is the 'mother of all parliaments' ... but the original phrase in 1865 was 'England is the mother or all parliaments'"
- "Assemby abolished". althingi.is. 2011. http://www.althingi.is/kynningarefni/index_en.html. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
- "Revival of the Althingi". althingi.is. 2011. http://www.althingi.is/kynningarefni/index_en.html. Retrieved 17 June 2012.