M is for Motions, the key devices by which anything is initiated in either House of Parliament. They are to be distinguished from Questions, the form in which the Speaker puts proposals to the House for decision. These days the two are always essentially the same. But in earlier times the relationship between them has been rather more complicated.
L is for Leader of the House of Commons, the minister in charge of Commons business on behalf of the government, and a position which used to be virtually synonymous with the premiership. The most frequently quoted description of the role of Leader of the House of Commons seems still to be Gladstone’s, in an… Continue reading Leader of the House of Commons
K is for ‘Kangaroo closure’, a procedure invented in 1909 in the context of a bitter parliamentary battle over the Liberal government’s budget proposals. It then attracted execration; these days, known as the selection of amendments, its association with efforts to limit the opportunities for debate has been largely forgotten. Lord Robert Cecil, the conservative… Continue reading Kangaroo closure
I is for impeachment, a parliamentary prosecution in which classically the lower House of the legislature acts to present the alleged malefactor for trial, and the upper House sits in judgement. Much has been heard about the procedure in recent years, first because of its deployment in Brazil against the President, Dilma Rousseff, resulting in… Continue reading Impeachment
H is for the Henry VIII Clause, 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… Continue reading Henry VIII Clauses
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, it has been actively encouraged. The history of the galleries is closely bound up with… Continue reading Gallery
‘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.