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History Of Parliament And Elections In Britain

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History Of Parliament And Elections In Britain

Post by Mahmoud on Fri Feb 25 2011, 18:29

History Of Parliament And Elections In Britain

Parliament (from Old French parlement; Latin parliamentum), the origins of Parliament began in the 11th century in the Witans. These were councils consulted by Saxon Kings and attended by the King’s own ministers, magnates and religious leaders and were authorized to collect taxes.

With the feudal system it was the absolute power for the monarch with just advices from clergy and tenants-in-chief .As a consequence , the barons revolted and Magna Carta was issued in 1215.With the revolt of Simon De Montfort (1208-1265) the parliament was made broader (1264) with the inclusion of earls , knights and burgesses(commons).
Actually, the modern Parliaments developed from the fusion, during the reign (1272-1307) of Edward I, of two English governmental institutions. One of these was a meeting of the Magnum Concilium, or Great Council, comprising the lay and ecclesiastical magnates, summoned to treat with the king on the affairs of the realm. Often, in practice, they were asked to agree to the levying of specific taxes. The Norman Magnum Concilium, in feudal terms a gathering of the king's tenants in chief, was not greatly dissimilar from the old Anglo-Saxon Witan. The second, and newer, institution was the Curia Regis, the King's Court, or Council, a much smaller body of semiprofessional advisers; at those of its meetings that came to be called concilium regis in parliamento ("the king's council in parliament"), judicial problems might be settled that had proved beyond the scope of the ordinary law courts dating from the 12th century. Joint meetings of the two bodies were held at the king's discretion and were attended by those explicitly summoned.
The Model Parliament of 1295 is generally regarded as the first representative assembly. It comprised of two knights from each county, two burgesses from each borough and two citizens from each city.

In the 14th century two distinct Houses emerged :The upper House and Commons(1341). The Commons, composed of shire and borough representatives. The other known as the Upper House, was composed of religious leaders (Lords Spiritual) and magnates (Lords Temporal). In the 15th century members were summoned by writ rather than chosen by the Monarch and became known as ‘peers’ that is equal among themselves but with five ranks : Duke, Marquess , Earl, Viscount and Baron.
In the 15th century , and as a consequence to the war of the Wars Of The Two Roses, the nobility was weakened and the monarchy strengthened .The 16th century , with the ruling of Tudors especially with king Henry ⅷ,witnessed the climax of the royal power .There was a substantial decrease of clergy in the upper house whereas the house of commons became more powerful with seats granted by kings to loyals.
In the 17th century the Parliament became a revolutionary body and was the centre of resistance to the king during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651).After the defeat of the King Charles1 and his execution ,England became a republic with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector and the House Of Lords was abolished .The Restoration period (1660-88) the two houses were restored .the period also saw the party system and witnessed the development of the Whig and Tory factions, ancestors of the later political parties. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, William III chose his council, or officers of state, from among these party members in Parliament--at first from both parties and then, finding this unworkable, from the party commanding a majority in the Commons. Under Queen Anne this council, or cabinet, as it came to be known, became a distinct policy-making body, usually meeting alone without the queen. Subsequently, under the first two Georges, who were politically ineffectual, Robert Walpole, as leader of the Whigs, of the Commons, and of the cabinet, became the real head of government, the "prime" minister .he set the principle that the cabinet must act as a unit. Later, particularly after 1830, the party system became entrenched, and all members of Parliament began using a party label. Effective power was passing from the monarch, and the power of the House of Lords, too, would be diminished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During the Civil War in the 17th century bishops were excluded from the House of Lords and the House itself ceased to sit in 1649 but resumed in 1661 with the inclusion of the Bishops under the Clergy Act of that year .The House of Commons gradually developed into an executive body.
The 1689 Bill of Rights which was initiated by the House of Commons, established the authority of Parliament over the Monarch. It anchored the constitutional monarchy and the autonomy of the parliament .In 1701 , the Act Of Settlement amended and replaced the Bill Of Rights .It claims that the parliament is the one who decides on succession.

In 1707 the Union of England and Scotland Act abolished the Scottish Parliament and 45 members from Scottish counties and burghs were sent to Westminster. The first Parliament of Great Britain met on 23 October 1707. The 1801 Act of Union (with Ireland) abolished the Irish Parliament and 100 Irish MPs were added to the Parliament of Great Britain.

In 1830 the Tories became The Conservative Party .Short after , the 1832 Reform Act created the process of distributing seats in proportion to population, increased the electorate by about 57%, which meant that approximately 20% of English adult males would have the vote (the right for middle-classes) .

The Second Reform Act of 1867 increased male household votes and added about 1.12million to the existing electorate of about 1.40 million .In 1868 the Whigs became The Liberal Party .The 1885 Redistribution of Seats Act created mostly single-member constituencies.

The parliament act of 1911 reduced the power of the house of Lords which can no longer block the house of Commons legislation.
The 1918 Representation of the People Act increased the vote to men over 21 and extended it to women over 30 who met occupancy requirements, whilst the Redistribution Act of the same year increased the size of the House of
Commons and adopted the principle of broadly equal constituency sizes.

Following the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, Irish MPs withdrew from the Parliament of Great Britain in 1922, with the exception of 12 Members from Northern Ireland. In 1928 the voting age for women was lowered to 21 and in 1969 the voting age for all was reduced to 18.
In 1999 under the Devolution of Powers Act, extensive powers were transferred to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Devolution to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive also took place .The 1999 House of Lords Act restricted membership of hereditary peers in the House of Lords to 92 .

Today the House of Commons has 646 Members elected on a ‘first past the post’ system broken down by party as follows:

Labour 354
Conservative 197
Liberal Democrat 63
Democratic Unionist Party 9
Scottish National Party 6
Sinn Fein (Nb: They do not take their seats) 5
Social Democratic and Labour Party 3
Plaid Cymru 3
Independent 2
Ulster Unionist 1
Respect 1
The Speaker 1

The House of Lords has approximately 717 Peers broken
down as follows:
Labour 208
Conservative 205
Liberal Democrat 74
Crossbench 193
Archbishops& Bishops 26
Other 11

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