Parliament and Government: An overview

Uploaded by UKParliament on 09.03.2009

Eddie: Right, I've just learned pretty much everything there is to know about Parliament
and I reckon I can teach it to you in about five minutes.
Brian: Five minutes? I've spent my whole life studying this.
Eddie: Yeah, well, you're obviously not very good at it then.
OK, I'll keep this short and sweet. Unless anyone keeps interrupting, alright?
Here we go. This is the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
Brian: Hang on a minute, that's a bunch of monkeys!
Eddie: Ooh, a bit of respect, please, Brian!
Oh right, yeah, yeah.
Anyway, this is the government.
It has about a hundred Ministers who are each responsible for different areas of our lives
like transport, education, even food and sport.
The government makes decisions on our behalf but it can't do anything it likes. There's Parliament.
Parliament is bigger, and the government's part of it.
Brian: Parliament is the highest authority in the UK.
It's our legislative body, which means that it makes and revises most of the laws in the UK.
Eddie: Oh, nice one. Ey, I'm reading this book, it's called everyone loves a know it all.
Brian: Are you?
Eddie: No, 'cos no one wrote it.
Eddie: As well as making and changing laws, Parliament has to keep an eye on, and influence the government.
This is called 'scrutiny'. Which sounds quite painful!
Brian: So, Parliament and government are two very different things.
Parliament is the highest authority in Britain and keeps a check on…
Eddie: (Coughing.) There's a five minute time limit here, if you don't mind.
Parliament is made up of three things: the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The House of Commons contains all the 646 Members of Parliament or MP's.
These are the people we vote for at general elections.
Each MP represents a different part of the country. An MP's political area is called a constituency.
So, what does Parliament actually do?
Well, stuff - is a short answer. Loads of stuff - is a bit longer.
Longer again - both the House of Commons and the House of Lords spend around half the time making and passing new laws.
MP's can also bring up subjects for debate so that everyone gets their opinions heard.
As there are lots of opinions, sometimes everyone shouts at the same time…
Speaker: Order!
Eddie: …and Parliament scrutinises what the government is doing. Especially how it raises and spends money.
Brian: And how does the government do that?
Eddie: Well, we pay for everything in the country through taxes.
Income tax on what we earn, VAT on what we buy, council tax for local services.
Pretty much all the government's money comes from us.
The government spends its money on things like schools, hospitals, emergency services, the legal system and the armed forces.
Brian: So how does Parliament scrutinise the government and make sure our taxes are spent wisely?
Eddie: It does a few things. It's members ask the government awkward questions...
and they form groups of people called 'committees', which scrutinise the work of individual government departments.
The House of Lords scrutinises the government too.
They also help to introduce new laws and have their own committees investigating big issues like Europe, science and the economy.
This concludes my high speed, blah blah-free guide to Parliament and government. Any questions?
Brian: I'm impressed! It was a triumph of brevity and concision.
A waffle-free, whistle-stop summary of the workings of our Parliamentary system.
A pithy, high-octane précis of constitutional hierarchy. It was a…
(Car horn beeping.)
Brian: Sorry.