House of Commons

House of Commons

The House of Commons is the name of the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada.

In the UK and Canada, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the upper house of parliament (the House of Lords and the Canadian Senate, respectively). The leader of the majority party in the House of Commons usually becomes the prime minister. Since 2005, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom has had 646 elected members; this will increase to 650 at the next General Election. The Canadian House of Commons has 308 members. The Commons' functions are to consider through debate new laws and changes to existing ones, authorise taxes, and provide scrutiny of the policy and expenditure of the Government. It has the power to give a Government a vote of no confidence.

Historically, there have also been Houses of Commons in Ireland and North Carolina (United States).

History and naming

Originally, "the commons" were an Estate of the realm prior to the Enlightenment in European politics, which typically divided the governance of an area between estates of society. The commons represented people from their local communities, or communes. They did not necessarily represent commoners, as the misconception holds. Other estates included the prelates, nobles, merchants and knights. The British House of Commons was created to serve as the political outlet for this "commons" class, while the elite estates were represented in the House of Lords. The House of Commons was thus elected while members of the upper house were appointed on the basis of various forms of merit, such as hereditary titles, family lineage, or a service to the realm that warranted special recognition. However, the term "commons" in House of Commons, is derived from the Anglo-Norman word "communes", which referred to the respective geographic and collective "communities" of their representatives and not the third estate, the commonality.

Throughout their histories, the British and Canadian Houses of Commons have become increasingly representative, as suffrage has been extended. Both bodies are now elected via universal adult suffrage. In both countries, the House of Commons may be prorogued for election only by the Crown.

Specific bodies

Although it is common to associate the title of "House of Commons" with the Westminster system in general, in practice, only two states actually use the title. They are:

* The House of Commons of the United Kingdom (at the Palace of Westminster, London)
* The Canadian House of Commons (on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa)

Three historical bodies have used this name in Ireland as well, they are:

* House of Commons of Ireland (abolished in 1801)
* House of Commons of Southern Ireland (1921–1922)
* House of Commons of Northern Ireland (1921–1972)

The lower house of the General Assembly of North Carolina was also known as the House of Commons between 1760 and 1868.

See also

* House of Lords
* Lower House
* House of Assembly
* Legislative Assembly
* National Assembly
* Lok Sabha


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