Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 17:11 UK


The vast majority of parliamentarians do not hold ministerial or shadow ministerial office and are known as backbenchers.

They are so-called because they sit on the back benches of the Commons or Lords - ministers and their opposition counterparts sit on the front benches.

Backbenchers are also sometimes known as private members and thus a backbencher can introduce an original idea for legislation in the form of a Private Member's Bill.

Backbenchers have more freedom to speak as they are not as constrained by loyalty to the government.

This can also pose problems for the party whips who try to impose party discipline.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific