Left: Sir Arthur Onslow, by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend ink drawing, 1751-1758; Right: Arthur Wellesley Peel, Viscount Peel, photogravure after Sir William Quiller Orchardson, 1898, both NPG: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Often, in descriptions of the office of Speaker, Christopher Yelverton’s speech of 24 October 1597, on being elected Speaker, is quoted.… Continue reading Qualifications for the Speakership
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
Voting against the Estimates
The failed attempt to prevent a no-deal Brexit shows how, despite the ancient idea of 'grievances before supply', it is difficult to present complex political messages through the Estimates process.
"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
Standing Order No. 14
The resolution passed by the House on Monday 25 March to set aside Standing Order No. 14(1) for certain specified debates, and its successor, the business of the House motion passed on 27 March have been widely interpreted as Parliament ‘taking back control’ of its own proceedings from the government; in some quarters they have… Continue reading Standing Order No. 14
U is for the Urgency Motion, a procedure that was introduced in 1882 as part of a series of responses to the campaign of obstruction by the Irish party against the Irish Coercion bill, which had its climax in the famous forty-one hour sitting of the House of Commons from Monday 31 January to Wednesday… Continue reading Urgency Motions
Tea on the Terrace
Tea on the Terrace of the House of Commons was, by the beginning of the twentieth century, regarded as an integral part of the London ‘season’, the three month or so round of parties, races, dinners and balls (as well as rather more staid entertainments such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Tournament and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition) that was enjoyed, or sometimes endured, by high society.
In either House there are two principal usages for the word question. Curiously, the two are procedurally direct opposites. The sequence of Member moving a motion, and the Speaker ultimately putting the same proposition as a Question to the House is the basic building block of parliamentary procedure.
Leader of the House of Commons
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