Democracy and the UK Parliament

The United Kingdom (UK) is a democracy. In the UK there are too many people to all discuss all the decisions about how the country is run. Therefore representatives are elected to make decisions.

Representatives include Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and local councillors.

The UK Parliament meets in Westminster, London. It has three parts:

  • The Crown, ie the Queen - Head of State, approves laws
  • The House of Lords - Check proposed laws, make amendments
  • The House of Commons - Debate proposals and make laws
Showing that Houses of Lords and Commons plus the monarchy make up Houses of Parliament

The House of Commons

Inside the House of Commons
Inside the House of Commons

The UK is divided into 650 constituencies or areas. Each constituency elects one MP to represent constituents in the House of Commons.

One role of MPs in the UK Parliament is to represent their constituents in areas where the UK Parliament takes decisions eg immigration or defence. MPs either debate or ask questions in the House of Commons or they work in smaller groups known as committees.

Other important roles of MPs in Parliament are to help make laws and to scrutinise (check-up on) the work of the government or investigate issues.

The House of Lords

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. The role of the House of Lords is to help make laws as well as check-on the work of government and investigate issues.

Most peers have been appointed by the Queen on the advice of a prime minister in recognition of their expertise in a particular area eg business, law or science. Others are Church of England bishops and 92 are hereditary peers or people with titles (such as Barons or Viscounts) who have inherited the right to sit in the Lords.

The Monarchy

Inside the House of Lords with HRH the Queen and Lords
The House of Lords is where Her Majesty reads the Queens Speech every year, but the speech is written for her by the Prime Minister

The UK's political system can be described as a constitutional monarchy with a king or queen as Head of State.

However, it is the Houses of Parliament that make our laws, not the monarch.

When a parliamentary Bill is given Royal Assent it becomes an Act of Parliament. It is then up to the relevant government department to implement that law. For example, the Transport department will deal with new Acts relating to transport.

The monarch must remain politically neutral and does not interfere with the legislative process. The monarch gives Royal Assent which is a mere formality. A monarch has not given assent in person for over 150 years and has not withheld it for over 300 years.

Every year the monarch goes to the House of Lords to open a new session of Parliament. The monarch reads ‘The Queen’s Speech’ which announces what the government plans to do in the coming year. The speech is written by the Prime Minister.