Friday 29 May 2009

The Speaker, the start of Parliament ... and free speech - part 1/2

In the United Kingdom, the Speaker, Michael Martin, is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, and is seen historically as the First Commoner of the Land. The incumbent does not take a leadership role, but is responsible for procedural and administrative functions relative to the House of Commons, the Sovereign, the Palace of Westminster (the ‘home’ of the House of Lords and the House of Commons).

Speaker, Michael Martin, in the House of Commons
Whereas the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is the third in the succession stakes – and plays a leadership role in the majority party and actively works to set that party’s legislative agenda, together with administrative and procedural functions; she does not however preside over debates, delegating those duties.

The Speaker is meant to chair the House of Commons’ debates impartially, which means that they are expected to read the mood of the Members of Parliament (MPs) accurately and to give each Member the chance to be heard – forsaking party loyalty and remaining strictly impartial at all times.

Speaker Martin forgot that obligation recently when he came to the Commons to deliver a statement on MPs' expenses; while previously he had fought tooth and nail to prevent MPs’ expenses being made public or to allow due consideration to reforming Parliament’s outmoded practices.

Due to a clamour by MPs that they had no confidence in the Speaker, Michael Martin became the first Speaker of the House of Commons for more than 300 years to be forced from office, due on 21 June 2009. The last time this happened in 1695, Parliament voted not to renew the Licensing of the Press Act, which had censored “seditious, treasonable and unlicensed Bookes and Pamphlets”, thus freeing up the press, which we retain and value so highly today.

Moveable metal type and composition stick descended from Gutenberg's press.
Parliament came into being in the 13th century – the word “parliament” derived from the French word ‘parler’ to talk .. and means parleying, a discussion, a conference. Magna Carta that “Great Charter of Freedoms” was originally signed by King John and issued in 1215.

In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period mostly did not limit the power of Kings; but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.
John of England signs the Magna Carta -
illustration from Cassel's History of England (1902)

Magna Carta had limited the ability of the monarch to raise taxation and this could now only be achieved by summoning a Parliament. Edward I called the first ‘Model’ Parliament on 13 November 1295, so called the Model Parliament because it was from this meeting that all future parliaments were based.

Two knights of each shire, two citizens from the cities and two burgesses from the boroughs were elected to attend court at Westminster along with the bishops, barons and noblemen.

The additional burden of taxation would fall on these persons but factions and groups soon emerged. By 1332, the knights, citizens and burgesses had grouped together to form the Commons, while the nobles and bishops had come together to represent the interests of the Lords.

In 1341, the Commons and Lords meet separately and the future architectural development of the Palace of Westminster was therefore inextricably bound up with its role as the meeting place of both Parliament and the Courts of Law.

So during the establishment of this parleying .. the nobility and the peoples started to get their right to have some say over the Crown, the raising of taxes, and the rule of law – this continued as the centuries passed, and at times resulted in momentous or significant changes to our governance.

I know I've been gone a day or two .. things have been happening .. however the good news is that Mum and I had a really good day on Tuesday .. and we laughed, joked, chatted and generally had fun together - something that hasn't happened since February: so it has been wonderful. There've been some momentous happenings in our Parliament recently and I thought my mother would be interested .. so I've written a two part letter .. simplifying recent events and bringing some history to bear ...
Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this first letter ... I'll send the second tomorrow .. - it's an interesting time in our parliamentary history .. I wonder what the future will hold ...
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Liara Covert said...

There is a first, a second, ect, time for everything. This story provides great material for a new Jeffrey Archer "ficton" book. Unsure if you read his work. Not a penny more, 'Not a penny less' is a classic tale!

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, It was very interesting to learn more about how how the government work in the UK. Very well done. Thank you so much. Hope that all is going well with you and your family.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

Politics is a fascinating topic, thank you for the insight into politics in the U.K. The comparison of the Speaker of the House of Commons with the Speaker of the House of Representives was quite informative.

The devastating financial situation may have also been a factor in this issue.

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary

You out done yourself on this one. You got the current information with history. Very interesting.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thanks for visiting .. yes there are lots of parts .. especially when I started doing this post .. history is pretty complicated and I'm pleased I seem to have 'hit' a chord of information here - I hope the 2nd part matches up ..

re Jeffrey Archer's stories .. I haven't properly .. as I was in South Africa at the time they were published .. and because of his criminal record I got put off!! I've scanned one or two .. but not properly = I should perhaps!?

Thanks for visiting ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deanna & Dan ..thanks so much .. and I'm glad you found the information interesting .. it's very succinct!

Yes - thanks .. Mum is sleeping much more now .. I hope perhaps today - she'll be more awake .. but we'll see.

all the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete .. glad you enjoyed the links and bits of history .. it was tricky to make it run clearly and I hope I've done that.

Some of our parliamentary systems definitely need to be reformed and have been put on the back burner .. though now they'll definitely be addressed.

I just hope the pomp and circumstance doesn't get eliminated .. as that is history in it's full glory and we wouldn't understand the reasons for things happening in the past, as much as we can now by seeing the trappings of history displayed.

all the best -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thanks for being so appreciative .. it was much more complicated than I realised and I'm pleased with the result - so happy the four readers so far appreciate the post!

Hope part 2 .. matches up .. ?

All the best
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters