Describe the composition, powers and functions of the House of Common under the British Constitution?

(1) Introduction To House Of Commons:

House of Commons is lower House of British Parliament House of Commons of England was evolved during 14th century and its composition and powers have gone through changes after creation of political union of England with Scotland and after independence of Irish Free State. It reveals that historical evolution of House of Commons is not as long as that of House of Lords.

(2) Composition Of House Of Commons:

House of Commons is a democratically elected body. Its members are called Members of Parliament. Followings are important points about its current composition:

  • (i) Total members of House of Commons
  • (ii) Tenure of House of Commons
  • (iii) Elections of House of Commons

 

(i) Total Members Of House Of Commons:

After general elections of 2010, House of Commons consists of 650 members. Out of its total members, 533 members are from England, 59 members are from Scotland, 40 members are from Wales, and 18 members are from Northern Ireland.

(ii) Tenure of House of Commons

Presently maximum tenure of House of Commons is five years after every new general election. However, House of Commons can be dissolved before end of this tenure in case of successful vote of no confidence against Prime Minister and his/her cabinet.

(iii) Elections of House of Commons

Members of Parliament are elected through direct election. Elections are held in each electoral district and electoral districts are known as constituencies: A member is elected from a constituency.

(3) Powers & Functions Of House Of Commons:

As far as powers and functions of House of Commons are concerned, House of Lords historically enjoyed domination over House of Commons. However, situation started changing during 19th century. And finally Parliament Act of 1911 and Act of 1949 curtailed powers of House of Lords in favour of House of Commons. Presently House of Commons can exercise following powers and can perform following functions:

(i) Legislative powers & functions

(ii) Elections & appointments within House of Commons

(iii) Accountability of British Government

(iv) Scrutiny of government policies

(v) Redress of specific grievances

 

(i) Legislative Powers & Functions:

House of Commons is the most effective legislative institution in Great Britain. Making of laws is primary function of House of Commons. House of Commons possesses much greater legislative power as compared to House of Lords as far as both Money Bill and non-Money Bill are concerned:

  • (a) Legislation of Money-Bill
  • (b) Legislation of non-Money Bill

(a) Legislation Of Money-Ball:

Money Bill is not initially introduced in House of Lords, but is initially introduced in House of Commons. Therefore, control of House of Lords over Money Bill is practically ineffective: If the House of Lords does not approve Money Bill during a period of more than a month, such Money Bill can be presented to British King/Queen and can become a law on receiving Royal assent.

(b) Legislation Of Non-Money Bill:

Non-Money Bill can be introduced in either of House of Lords and House of Commons. However, if House of Commons passes a non-Money Bill in two successive sessions, but House of Lords rejects such non-Money Bill, such non-Money Bill can become law after receiving Royal assent

 

(ii) Elections & Appointments Within House Of Commons:

Following main elections and appointments are made within House of Commons after every general election:

  • (a) Election of Speaker of House of Commons
  • (b) Appointment of Leader of House of Commons
  • (c) Appointment of Leader of Opposition

 (a) Election Of Speaker Of House Of Commons:

After general elections and at the beginning of session of each new Parliament, Members of Parliament elect from themselves Speaker of House of Commons.

(b) Appointment of Leader of House of Commons

Government party appoints leader of the House of Commons. Usually Prime Minister is appointed as Leader of House of Commons

(c) Appointment of Leader of Opposition

In House of Commons, Leader of opposition is also appointed.

(iii) Accountability Of British Government:

Another distinctive function and power of House of Commons is to do accountability of British government. During question period, members question ministers regarding their departments. In fact, this question period provides Members of Parliament an opportunity to make accountability of government.

(iv) Scrutiny Of Government-Policies:

To do scrutiny of government policies is another function of House of Commons. The reality is that House of Commons possesses power not only to examine government policies, but also to react to such policies.

(v) Redress Of Specific Grievances:

Another important function of House of Commons is redress of specific grievances: Each and every Member of Parliament is elected by a constituency and he/she is the sole representative of people of such constituency in Parliament Therefore, each and every Member of Parliament is to look after his/her constituency interests. To fulfill this responsibility, he/she mentions problems of people of his/her constituency and tries for redress of their grievances.

(4)  Conclusion:

To conclude, it can be stated that present contradictions between composition and powers of House of Lords and House of Commons have paved a way for democratic development in Great Britain. If House of Lords had been made democratic in composition and equal in powers with House of Commons, the results would have been undemocratic.

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