Parliament – what it is (composition)

Parliament is ‘bicameral’ in that it has two chambers, the Commons and the Lords, although it is strictly speaking comprised of three institutions:

  • House of Commons: a body of 650 members (Parliament can change the number).  Each member of Parliament (MP) is elected by a constituency of voters on the basis of a ‘first past the post’ system.
  • House of Lords: a body of nearly 1,000 peers who are not elected and who become members as:
    • life peers (currently about 700), whose titles (Lord and Lady) cannot be inherited but are awarded for the peer’s life, during which they are members of the Lords,
    • hereditary peers (up to 92), and
    • senior clergy of the Church of England (26) who are known as the ‘Lords Spiritual’ in contrast to the others who are ‘Lords Temporal’.
  • the Monarch, whose role is largely ceremonial and whose powers are mostly exercised on the advice of ministers, as explained below.