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To what extent does the UK have a two-party system?

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Introduction

Outline the main ways the House of Commons and the House of Lords differ The composition of the House of Commons is easy to describe as there is only one basis for membership: all MPs win their seats in the same way. The House of Commons consists of 646 MPs at the moment. It was reduced from 659 MPs and David Cameron is pushing it to be lowered to 600. Each MP is elected by a single - member parliamentary constituency using the First Past the Post system, although the Liberal Democrats pushing for a referendum to change this to AV. This referendum was meant to take place in May 2011, but has been postponed by the House of Lords. MPs are (almost always) representatives of a party and are subject to a system of party discipline, the 'whips' system. The 'whips' are people whose job it is to threaten or bribe the MPs of their party to vote how the Prime Minister wants them to. Therefore, they are one of the main parts of the problem of elective dictatorship. ...read more.

Middle

Once there were more than 700 hereditary peers, but since 1999 only 92 are permitted to sit. The 'Lords Spiritual' are bishops and archbishops of the church of England. They are 26 in number, and they have been traditionally appointed by the Prime Minister, a power that Gordon Brown did not want the Prime Minister to have. Since the setting up of the Supreme Court, the House of Lords has not been the highest court of appeal in the UK. However, the members of the Supreme Court remain members of the House of Lords at the moment, the law lords, but upon their deaths new judges will be appointed who are not from the House. The House of Commons is politically and legally the dominant chamber of Parliament, as it is the elected chamber. This applies to such an extent that the Commons is sometimes taken to be identical with Parliament itself. However, a distinction should be made between the formal powers of the House, enshrined in law and constitutional theory, and its political significance. ...read more.

Conclusion

One example of this is their refusal to pass the Fox Hunting bill. However, the House of Lords cannot delay 'money bills' (a bill that contains significant financial measures) and, by the Salisbury convention, the House of Lords cannot defeat measures that are outlined in the government's election manifesto. The House of Lords also possesses some veto powers that cannot be overridden by the Commons. These were put in place as a safeguard against dictatorship, and if the coalition makes the House of Lords an elected chamber it is likely that it would be given more and greater powers. These powers include the extension to the life of Parliament, through delays to general elections and the introduction of secondary or delegated legislation. In conclusion, the main way in which the House of Lords differs from the House of Commons is that the former is unelected, whereas the latter is elected. However, the government plans to reform the House of Lords and make it at least partially elected, but there is argument within the coalition as to how to do this. The Liberal Democrats want a fully elected chamber, but the Conservatives want it only partially elected. ...read more.

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