Zoom and the Technology of Parliamentary Debate

The current controversy over the extension of the house of commons emergency procedures is very much sui generis. The technology to enable parliament to debate and vote without most members being physically present is only a few years old and was of course not available when previous public health crises of this order occurred: the… Continue reading Zoom and the Technology of Parliamentary Debate

On Swords and Pink Ribbon

Daisy Cooper, the new Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, wrote yesterday in incredulous tones of her discovery in the cloakroom of the House of Commons: On my second day as a new MP, during my induction tour of parliament, I was shown the members’ cloakroom, but it wasn’t until last week that I had… Continue reading On Swords and Pink Ribbon

Black Rod and the Door of the House of Commons

  Image: UK Parliament via Flickr CC The earliest description of the ceremony in which the Commons are summoned to the Lords by Black Rod comes in a notebook that belonged to Sir Thomas Duppa, who filled the position between 1683 and 1694, and had been deputy to his predecessor, Sir Edward Carteret, from 1675.… Continue reading Black Rod and the Door of the House of Commons

The Address in reply to the Queen’s Speech

Though a speech from the monarch or the chancellor at the opening of the session had long been one of the main rituals of each session of parliament, the process of giving formal thanks for the speech is not recorded in the Commons journal before the Restoration in 1660. It became common in the 1660s… Continue reading The Address in reply to the Queen’s Speech

The Election of a Speaker

The first Speaker? The remarkable account in the Anonimalle Chronicle of the so-called ‘Good Parliament’ of 1376 provides what is generally taken to be the first reference to a ‘Speaker’ of the Commons, Sir Peter de la Mare. The account is extraordinarily detailed and circumstantial – so unusual for an account of any event in… Continue reading The Election of a Speaker

Prorogation and Adjournment

The modern practice of prorogation and adjournment is in theory, at least, clearly enough understood. Prorogation is an act of the Crown, usually used to mark the end of one session and fix a date for the start of another. Adjournment is an act of each House of Parliament, used routinely to end each day’s… Continue reading Prorogation and Adjournment

Votes of no confidence

The principle that an administration can only function if it has the backing of a majority in the House of Commons is acknowledged to be a fundamental part – perhaps the fundamental part – of not only the British, but of any parliamentary constitution. It expresses the idea that Parliament itself cannot exercise executive power,… Continue reading Votes of no confidence

Whips and the origins of Parliamentary Whipping

Earlier this year an Early Day Motion sponsored by a number of former chief whips and signed by a long cast of others who have served as whips marked what is being treated as the centenary of the Government Whips’ office. But while the office may be relatively young, the function of whipping is almost intrinsic to parliamentary life.

The Veto

"An astonishing rumour has been current of late. A certain section of the Unionist party is said to be encouraging the idea that it is possible, as a matter of practical politics, for the King to refuse the Royal Assent to the Home Rule Bill next May, when for the third time it has passed the House of Commons and has complied with all the requirements of the Parliament Act. … The danger may seem fanciful to many. It is impossible, it will be said, that so mad an idea could be entertained for a moment by responsible politicians. But it comes from Ulster