Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Thursday, 11 October 2007 11:03 UK
Guide to Parliament



Houses of Parliament
Westminster was home to the Royal Family and is still a royal palace

There has been a parliament at Westminster since the 13th Century.

Today it remains the centre of British government, boasting a colourful history and frequently adding new chapters.

Parliament is the place where politicians meet to decide laws and make decisions on running the UK, although some issues in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland are now dealt with by their respective parliaments and assemblies.

Decisions on setting taxes to fund the government's policies are also made in Parliament.

The business of Parliament takes place in two "houses": the elected House of Commons and the House of Lords, whose members are mostly appointed.

Their work is similar: making laws (legislation), checking the work of the government (scrutiny), and debating current issues.

Generally, the decisions made in one house have to be approved by the other, but the Commons is by far the more powerful of the two chambers.

Graphic showing make-up of Parliament
Visitors to Parliament were "Strangers" until 2004 when they became known as... members of the public
TV cameras were finally allowed in the Commons in 1989; the Lords have been televised since 1983
MPs and peers do not refer to each other's debating chambers by name - instead they refer to "the other place"
Even before the English smoking ban, the practice was outlawed in Parliament. Snuff is permitted, though
Dying is also banned - the Palace of Westminster is a royal palace, where commoners may not die. Bodies are taken to nearby St Thomas' Hospital, where deaths are certified

Parliamentary material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO on behalf of Parliament.

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