Parliament. The Palace of Westminster.
Britain is administered from
the Palace of Westminster in London. This is also known as the Houses of
Parliament. Parliament is made up of two chambers — the House of Commons and
the House of Lords.
The members of the House of
Lords are not elected: they qualify to sit in the House because they are
bishops of the Church of England, aristocrats who have inherited their seats
from their fathers, people with titles. There has been talk of reform in this
century because many Britons think that this system is undemocratic.
The House of Commons, by
contrast, has 650 seats which are occupied by Members of Parliament (MPs) who
are elected by the British public. The United Kingdom is divided into
constituencies, each of which has an elected MP in the House of Commons.
Each of the major political
parties appoints a representative (candidate) to compete for each seat. Smaller
parties may have a candidate in only a few constituencies. There may be five or
more parties, fighting for one seat, but only one person — the candidate who
gets the greatest number of votes — can win.
Some parties win a lot of
seats and some win very few, or none at all. The Queen, who is the Head of
State, opens and closes Parliament. All new laws are debated (discussed) by MPs
in the Commons, then debated in the Lords, and finally signed by the Queen.
All three are part of
Parliament in Britain.