The House of Commons

When speaking about General Election, election to the House of Commons is meant. Of its 659 members 529 represent constituencies in England, 40 – in Wales, 72 – in Scotland and 18 – in Northern Ireland (119 MPs are women). The House of Commons is usually meant when speaking about British Parliament. "MP" is addressed only to the members of the House of Commons. So this House is the centre of real political power, most of its members being professional politicians, lawyers, economists, etc.

The party that has won the General Election makes up the majority in the House of Commons and forms the Government. The party with the next The House of Commons largest number of members in the House (or sometimes a combination of other parties) forms the official Opposition, and the Leader of the Opposition is a recognized post in the House of Commons.

The MPs sit on two sides of the hall, one side for the governing party and the other for the opposition. There are seats for only 437 MPs. One of the most important members in the House of Commons is the Speaker who despite his name is the one who actually never speaks. The Speaker is the Chairman of the House of Commons. He is elected by The House of Commons a vote of the House at the beginning of each new Parliament to preside over the House and enforce the rules of order. He cannot debate or vote. He votes only in case of a tie, i.e. when voting is equal and, in this case he votes with the Government. The main job of the Speaker is to maintain strict control over debates, to keep fair play between the parties, the Government and opposition, between back-benchers and front-benchers. The Speaker is responsible for the organized conduct of business, and is required to act with impartiality between The House of Commons Members in the House. He must forbid grossly insulting language. It is the Speaker who selects MPs to speak and when an MP is about to finish his speech several MPs stand up trying to catch the Speaker's eyes and get his permission to talk. The order of speakers is not arranged in advance, so the tradition of catching the Speakers eye affords him enormous powers either to restrict or to widen criticism of a bill by selecting the "right kind" of MP. The Speaker is assisted by three deputy speakers.

40000 words are said on every working The House of Commons day of the House. But most of the speeches are not intended to influence thought or action because most important decisions are nowadays made behind the scenes, behind the Speaker's Chair, in Smoking Room or in the Cabinet. And when the time comes the Speaker and the whips will see to the fact that the vote should go with the Government. The whips are party managers, who receive special salaries for their duties. They arrange each day program in Parliament and tell MPs when they must attend debates. They inform, instruct, dictate and enforce the views of the front-benchers The House of Commons on the back-benchers. A backbencher is an ordinary MP who is not expected to display talents of an orator, wisdom of a statesman or initiate something in legislature. His only duty is to follow the whips' instructions. Each leading party has officially recognized whips as well as the Chief Whip of the Government and the Chief Whip of the Opposition.

The Commons usually meet in the afternoon, sitting until 10.30 p.m. and sometimes beyond midnight. On Fridays they sit from 9.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. They finish work early so as to be able to return to their The House of Commons constituency for the weekend to busy themselves with local matters, complaints and other formal duties.

In the Commons debating chamber there are seats for only 370 members and, except on matters of great importance. The presence of all members is not necessary. 40 MPs is enough to make up a quorum.

MPs are paid salaries, approximately twice the average national wage but considerably less than most MPs could earn outside the House of Commons (57,485 pounds in 2003). Only these members of the House of Commons have permanent seats in the House: the Speaker, the Father of the House (the The House of Commons oldest member in the House), the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition.

Notes to the text:

Whip – парламентский организатор партии

Task 6. Find in the text the English equivalents for the following words and word combinations: равный счет голосов, честная игра, заместитель спикера, осуществлять строгий контроль, беспристрастие, заранее, огромные полномочия, получать жалованье, проявлять таланты, государственный деятель, законодательство, следовать инструкциям, заниматься официальными обязанностями, вопрос особой важности, постоянные места.

Task 7. Match the words having the opposite meaning:

majority to assist to earn to forbid local to restrict in advance to attend permanent general to widen to miss to permit temporary minority The House of Commons to hinder to spend afterward

Task 8. Answer the questions:

1. What do you know about the membership of the House of Commons?

2. How is the Government formed?

3. How is the official Opposition formed?

4. What are the Speaker’s functions?

5. What are the Whips’ duties?

6. Whom do we call backbenchers?

7. What is the working day in the House of Commons like?

8. How many MPs can make up a quorum?

9. Who has permanent seats in the House of Commons?


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Документ The House of Commons