Parliamentary System

The British Parliamentary System


  • The UK operates a parliamentary system of government, meaning the executive is derived from, and accountable to, the legislature.
  • It is a constitutional monarchy, with the monarch as the Head of State and the Prime Minister as Head of Government.

Bicameral Structure

  • The UK Parliament is bicameral, composed of two houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
  • The Commons, as the lower house, is fully elected and holds significant legislative power.
  • The Lords, although unelected, provide expertise and a revising function. It can delay legislation but not permanently block it.

Executive and Legislature

  • In the UK system, the executive (government) and the legislature (parliament) are interconnected, with the executive formed from the political party or coalition in control of the Commons.
  • The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the majority in the House of Commons. The PM then appoints other government ministers, most of whom are also Members of Parliament (MPs).

Party Discipline

  • Party discipline is typically strong in the British parliamentary system, with MPs expected to vote in line with their party, driven in part by the ‘Whip’ system.
  • The party with the second highest number of seats serves as the official Opposition, providing check and balance to the government.

Legislation and Debate

  • The legislative process involves several readings and debates in both houses. A Bill must pass through both houses to become law.
  • The Parliament holds debates, inquiries and makes decisions on various political, social, economic and global issues.

Accountability and Scrutiny

  • Parliament holds the government accountable through various means, including Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), debates, and the work of select committees.
  • These mechanisms aid in scrutinising the government and its policies, safeguarding democracy and the rule of law.

Studying the parliamentary system provides a comprehensive understanding of how British politics and governance work, from law-making to accountability.