The Houses of Parliament are an iconic part of the London skyline, but what actually goes on inside this famous building? The Houses of Parliament are the meeting place of the country’s two main decision-making bodies, the House of Commons and the House of Lords; the Commons being the lower house and the Lords the upper house.
The House of Commons consists of 650 elected members who are known as MPs (members of Parliament) and are chosen by the public to represent them and protect their interests. The main job of MPs is to propose and hold debates on new laws and keep a check on the work of the government by questioning them about their policies and current issues. They also have a responsibility to improve their local area, known as a constituency, and deal with any issues that arise there during their time in post. So, MPs clearly have a very important role to play both on a local and national level.
Members of Parliament also have to follow the guidelines set by their party, each of which has very different ideas on how to run the country – which is why MPs are so often seen arguing with each other! Each Member of Parliament belongs to a political party whose ideas they support and try to promote, both in government and in the areas they represent. This means that MPs’ policies and opinions on new laws often reflect their party’s ideology on the subject.
New laws can only be put in place if they are approved by the House of Commons, this means that a vote must be held and each MP has to vote on whether or not they support the proposed new law. If the majority of MPs vote in favour, then the law can proceed to the next stage of the law making process however, if it fails to achieve a majority vote then the proposal will be dropped. The problem is that the current composition of government makes it very difficult for new laws to be passed.
At the moment there are: 305 Conservative MPs, 257 Labour, 56 Liberal Democrat MPs and 32 MPs belonging to other parties, all voting in the House of Commons. This means that if only one party supports the new law, and the others do not then the law cannot be passed – which can cause a lot of problems if the parties cannot agree on an issue. It is therefore very important that, when proposing new laws, the members of Parliament are very good at making their point and defending their policies against any criticisms. This is why MPs are normally very good at arguing, because otherwise nothing would ever get decided!