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Early in its history, Parliament was primarily a consultative body convened by the monarch for the purpose of providing advice on various matters of political importance. All along, it was felt that Parliament should somehow be representative of the population, but the notion of an elected legislature is in fact a relatively recent one. Over the centuries, a considerable number of commentators and pundits have expressed the view that a popularly elected representative body would have a far stronger mandate to govern than a hereditary monarch; however, it took a civil war in England for this principle to be definitively established. The notion that Parliament is superior to the monarchy is set out in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement (1700). At present, the UK Parliament sitting at Westminster consists of the House of lords, the House of Commons, and the Monarch. There is also a Scottish Parliament that sits in Edinburgh. The 'Commons' is the dominant House, with the power to introduce legislation against the objection of the 'Lords', but this has not always been the case. (For an brief overview of the power struggle between the Lords and the Commons over the years see the entry on the Parliament Act (1911).)

The two Houses of Parliament have conventionally defined their own rules of procedure, and the courts are reluctant to interfere in such matters. Some procedures are defined in 'standing orders', or resolutions of the House; others have been established by rulings of the Speaker. Many, though, are simply conventions which have in time come to be seen as binding.

See also House of lords, House of Commons.

Public Law