House of Commons

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The directly elected part of Parliament and the main legislative body for the United Kingdom. The House of Commons is traditionally regarded as the 'lower house' of the bicameral legislature, but holds much more legislative power than the 'upper house' (the House of lords). 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 Commons' functions are to consider through debate the creation of new laws and proposed 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.

The British House of Commons was originally created to serve as the political power base and voice for the free subjects of the realm. Initially, its members were selected from the business and merchant classes of each local area to represent the Sovereign's subjects who were not Lords Temporal or Spiritual. (These estates were represented in the House of lords.) The name of this legislative body does not derive, as some may believe, from the fact that it was designed to represent the 'common' people; rather, it stems from the fact that the constituencies represented therein were based on the 'commons' (or land areas) of England. It is for this reason that membership of the lower house has traditionally been acquired through popular election, whereas membership of the upper house was (until recently) derived from hereditary title and descent, family lineage, or service to the realm that warranted special recognition, (e.g. as with the Law and Spiritual Lords).

Over the centuries, the Houses of Commons has become increasingly representative as suffrage has been extended. Today, members are elected via universal popular election. The House of Commons may be prorogued for election only by the Crown.

See also House of lords.

English Legal Systems
English Legal Systems
Public Law