Author Archives: The History of Parliament

About The History of Parliament

The History of Parliament is a major academic project to create a scholarly reference work describing the members, constituencies and activities of the Parliament of England and the United Kingdom. The volumes either published or in preparation cover the House of Commons from 1386 to 1868 and the House of Lords from 1603 to 1832. They are widely regarded as an unparalleled source for British political, social and local history.

Henry VIII Clauses

A Henry VIII Clause is a nickname given to a provision in an Act of Parliament that delegates to a minister the power to modify the Act itself, or other Acts of Parliament. The delegation by Parliament of various powers to ministers – ‘delegated legislation’ or ‘secondary legislation’ – became common during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; indeed the increasing complexity of government business meant that it was unavoidable. For many, however, it was associated with the growth in a powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy, and the Henry VIII clause, apparently conferring a sovereign legislative authority on the government itself, was both symbolic of that growth and a dangerous step towards eroding the ability of Parliament to rein it in. Continue reading

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Gallery

G is for gallery, where since at least the seventeenth century the presence of members of the public, looking on to the Houses’ debates has been connived at by Members, officially forbidden and in practice tolerated, before, much more recently, … Continue reading

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Franking

‘The Frank’, the privilege of free postage for Members of Parliament, became during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries notorious for its abuse, not just by Members, but by virtually everybody else as well. Royal officials would always have been … Continue reading

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Estimates

E is for Estimates: though nothing could be more central to the role of Parliament, the approval of government expenditure by voting the Estimates has never been a process to make the hearts of Members of Parliament beat faster. Edmund … Continue reading

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Doorkeepers

D is for Doorkeepers, who oil the wheels of the Commons Continue reading

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Candles

C is for lots of parliamentary things: committees, chairs and conferences, but also for candles, which in Parliament have been the instrument of darkness, as well as a method of illumination, and whose abolition in 1718 was perhaps the first … Continue reading

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Ballots

I began my A-Z of parliamentary history a couple of weeks ago with ‘Applause’. There were many options for ‘B’. The most obvious – bills – is far too big a subject to deal with in a blog. I thought … Continue reading

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