Cabinet vs the Ministry

The Executive Government consists of the Cabinet and the Ministry led by the Prime Minister. The Ministry is derived from the party (or parties) that command the confidence of the legislature. The Ministry consists of all those Members of Parliament chosen by the Prime Minister (or in some countries, the party caucus). They serve as members of the executive arm of government and administer the various government departments. There is often confusion between the ministry and the cabinet. In some countries, there is a clear distinction between the ministry and cabinet. In these instances, only the most senior Ministers, including the Prime Minister, form the Cabinet. So while all Cabinet Ministers are members of the ministry, not all members of […]

The Westminster System of Parliamentary Government

I frequently refer to the “Westminster system of parliamentary government” in posts, and thought it might be a good idea to fully explain how the Westminster system of government works. The Westminster System of Parliamentary Government The Westminster System is a democratic system of government modelled after that of the United Kingdom, as used in the Palace of Westminster, the location of the UK parliament. The system is a series of conventions and procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once also used, in most Commonwealth and ex-Commonwealth nations. There are other parliamentary systems, for example those of various European countries, whose procedures differ considerably from the Westminster system. Aspects of the Westminster system include: a head […]

Some notable parliamentary traditions

Parliamentary traditions and procedure in Canada and the United Kingdom are very similar, which is not at all surprising since Canada largely adopted the same form of parliamentary government, with slight modifications to better accommodate the realities of a federation. While some of these conventions and traditions might strike many as quaint and anachronistic, they are still practiced out of homage to the long fight for Parliament’s independence from the Crown. For example, the tradition that a newly-elected Speaker should “resist” being led up to the Speaker’s Chair is simply an acknowledgement to the past, when the role of Speaker was often a very dangerous one. Indeed, several Speakers were executed by the Monarch for being bearers of news the […]

Parliamentary Privilege and Prayers in the House

Recently, in response to legal action brought by the National Secular Society, Britain’s High Court ruled that Bideford Town Council had acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said during meetings. This decision prompted quite a backlash in the UK media, and the Government announced that it would bring in early part of the Localism Act that aims to give councils greater powers and freedom, in essence reversing the High Court’s ruling. Partly in response to this incident, the Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders wrote an interesting column on the place of religion in public life. I don’t intend to enter into a discussion of the rightness or desirability of prayers at the start of public meetings, or the role […]

Inside the UK House of Commons

In an earlier post, I described the interior of the Canadian House of Commons. In this post, I will provide readers with an overview of the layout of the British House of Commons. The Chamber of the House of Commons is at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster; it was opened in 1950 after the Victorian chamber had been destroyed in 1941 and re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott. The Chamber measures 14 by 20.7 metres, which is smaller than the Canadian Chamber (16 by 21 metres). This is noteworthy because there are more than twice as many MPs elected to the UK House of Commons (650). It is impossible for all MPs to sit in the […]

Recalling Parliament

Most parliaments follow a parliamentary calendar, which provides a fixed timetable of sittings and adjournments for a full calendar year. Once a session begins, the calendar alternates sitting periods with adjournments at set points throughout the year. A sitting is simply a meeting of the legislature in question during a session. While the legislature’s Standing Orders will normally provide times and days for sittings of the House, it should be noted that a sitting is not synonymous with a calendar day. Some sittings are very brief, some last for more than a day, and sometimes, there can be two sittings in a single calendar day. A sitting ends with an adjournment, either as per a Standing Order which indicates that […]