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                 The House of Commons is the centre of parliamentary po­wer. It is directly responsible to the electorate, and from the 20th century the House of Lords has recognized the suprema­cy of the elected chamber. The House of Commons is traditio­nally regarded as the lower house, but it is the main parlia­mentary arena for political battle. A Government can only remain in office for as long as it has the support of a majority in the House of Commons.

                  In 1275 Edward I called a meeting of Parliament. Edward invited representatives from every shire and town in England. These men were elected as representatives by the people living in the locality. When the representatives arrived they met in five different groups: the first group was the prelates, which consisted of bishops and abbots; the second were the magnates, consisted of earls and barons; the third one was the inferior clergy; the fourth was the knights from the shires; and the last group was the citizens from the towns.

                   At these meetings Edward explained about his need for money. Eventually the representatives agreed that people should pay the king a tax that amounted to a fifteenth of all their movable property. It was also agreed that a custom duty should be paid on every sack of wool exported. This agreement about taxes was accepted. The representatives then had the job of persuading the people in their area to pay these taxes. The king then discussed issues such as new laws with his bish­ops, abbots, earls and barons (the lords).

                   After this date, whenever the king needed money, he called another Parliament. In 1430 an Act of Parliament divided con­stituencies (voting districts) into two groups: counties and boroughs. Only males who owned property worth 40 shillings were allowed to vote in county constituencies. One had to be fairly wealthy to be a MP (Member of Parliament).

                    In the 15th Century, the Commons gained equal law-ma­king powers with the Lords, under King Henry V. Whereas Parliament stipulated who should vote in county constituen­cies, each town was allowed to decide for itself how its MPs should be selected. Voting qualifications varied enormously. For example, in Preston every man over the age of 21 could vote. However, in most boroughs only a small number were allowed to take part in elections. In some constituencies, MPs were elected by less than ten people.

                    Henry VIII enhanced the importance of Parliament during the English Reformation. In the 15th century the House of Lords was the Upper House and the House of Commons the Lower House. However, since that date, the balance of power has shifted in favour of the Commons.

                    1707 brought the Union with Scotland and the first Par­liament of Great Britain. After the Act of Union in 1800 the number of members in the House of Commons increased from 558 to 658. There were 465 MPs from England, 48 from Wales, 45 from Scotland and 100 from Ireland. This created problems of space as St. Stephen’s Chapel only had 427 seats.

                    In 1834 the chapel and most of the Old Palace of Westmin­ster was destroyed by fire. The new Palace of Westminster was designed. The seats to the right of the Speaker’s Chair are tra­ditionally used by the Government and its supporters, and those to the left are used by the opposition and other parties. Senior members of the Government and the Opposition sit on the front benches. The gangway separating them is known as the Floor of the House, which was designed to be «two sword lengths apart». The House of Commons meets from Monday to Thursday from 2.30 pm. till 10.30 pm. and on Fridays from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm. However, sometimes debates went on all night.

                   The legislative primacy of the House of Commons over the Lords' was confirmed in the 20th Century by the passing of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949.






1.  What is the centre of parliamentary power in the Bri­tish Parliament today?

2.   When did the House of Lords recognize the supremacy of the House of Commons?

3.   What is the only reason that permits an English Go­vernment to remain in office?

4.   What happened in 1275?

5.   What decision was made at that meeting of the Parlia­ment?

6.    What was the main reason for Parliament meetings since that time?

7.    When did the Commons gain equal law-making powers with the Lords?

8.    When was the first Parliament of Great Britain gathe­red?

9.    Why and when was the new Palace of Westminster de­signed?

10.   When do the House of Commons meet nowadays?






the House of Commons — палата общин (нижняя палата британского парламента)

electorate — электорат, избиратели, контингент изби­рателей

to recognize — признание

supremacy — верховенство; превосходство

chamber — зд. палата (реже в значении «зал, где соби­рается палата»)

to regard — расценивать, рассматривать; считать; отно­ситься

to remain in office — зд. находиться у власти

to invite — приглашать

representative — представитель

shire — графство; жители графства

to arrive — пребывать, приезжать

prelate — прелат (звание, присваиваемое высокопостав­ленным духовным лицам)

bishop — епископ

abbot — аббат, настоятель монастыря

magnate — магнат

earl — граф (английский)

baron — барон

clergy — духовенство

tax — налог

to amount — доходить (до какого-л. количества), состав­лять (сумму); равняться

sack — мешок

to persuade — склонить (к чему-л.), уговорить

constituency (voting districts) — избиратели, электорат (люди, обладающие правом голоса)

county — графство (административно-территориальная единица в Англии)

borough — городок

shilling — шиллинг (англ. серебряная монета = 1/20 фун­та стерлингов = 12 пенсам)

to allow — позволять, разрешать

to gain — получать; добиваться

equal — равный

to stipulate — ставить условием, обусловливать, огова­ривать в качестве особого условия

to vary — разниться; отличаться, различаться, расхо­диться

the House of Lords — Палата лордов (верхняя палата бри­танского парламента)

to shift — перекладывать (ответственность и т. п.)

in favour of —  в пользу кого-л., чего-л.

to increase — возрастать, увеличивать(ся); расти

chapel — капелла, часовня, молельня

to destroy — разрушать, рушить; уничтожать

gangway — парл. проход, разделяющий палату общин на две части

to confirm — одобрять, ратифицировать (договор, согла­шение и т.д.).

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