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.
A regular, usually weekly, constituency surgery is these days an inescapable element of the routine of any Member of Parliament, and one which most regard as of central importance to the way they do their job. Commentators often find it remarkable to find politicians, far from being out-of-touch and distant figures, not only engaging with individual constituents, but lavishing time and energy on listening to and trying to help people with complex and intractable problems.
‘The acceptance of the Chiltern Hundreds is a dodge which was discovered in the middle of the 18th century, by which the immemorial rule of Parliament, that a man could not resign, was evaded, and which gave the necessary elasticity and alleviation of the rules; and ever since that date, although the rule that a member may not resign has remained in undiminished force, it has always been got out of by this curious practice of taking an office of emolument under the Crown, an office which carries with it no emolument, and which is not, except in any but the most technical sense, under the Crown at all’.
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.
P is for Pairs and Proxies, both ways of ensuring that individual members of Parliament can be absent without affecting the outcome of any vote, and while P is not for substitutes, since these can be aimed at achieving a similar end, we might as well deal with them here too. The current interest in… Continue reading Pairs and Proxies
O is for orders of the day, those items of business relating to matters that have already been introduced into the House and which the House has decided should be dealt with on a particular day. The most obvious example is the second or third reading, or the report stage, of a bill. They… Continue reading Orders of the Day
The requirement to give advance notice of any motion other than very narrowly procedural ones is now one of the fundamental principles of parliamentary business in both Houses. It’s a basic requirement these days for just about any action of significance in just about any formal process. But it seems to have been relatively late… Continue reading Notice (and Notice of Motion)
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