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Conventions to the British Constitution


Conventions to the British Constitution:

The important conventions which have grown up in England may be classified in three categories:

(A) Conventions relating to Cabinet:

The first group of conventions relates to the Cabinet system. The constitutional history of England points out to the decline of the powers of the  King and the consequent  growth of the powers of the Cabinet. In fact, the whole of the Cabinet system is the product of conventions. Among the important conventions relating to the Cabinet system are the following:

  • The ministers must be the members of Parliament.
  • The Prime minister must be the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons and the other Ministers must be appointed on his advice. The Prime Minister will also distribute the portfolio among the Ministers.
  • The Prime Minister alone can request the Queen to dissolve the House of Commons.
  • The Ministry must either resign, if it loses the confidence of the House of Commons or it can make an appeal to the electorate.
  • The Ministers are collectively responsible to the House of Commons.
  • The Queen will not veto the bills passed by the Parliament.
  • The Queen will always act on the advice of the Cabinet.

(B) Conventions relating to Parliament:

The second group contains the conventions relating to the Parliament, with special reference to the relation between the two Houses. These are the following:—

  • The Parliament consists of two Houses – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
  • The money-bills will be initiated in the House of Commons.
  • The Parliament must be convened at least once a year.
  • Every bill must have three readings before finally voted upon.
  • A speech from the government benches in the Parliament is to be followed by a speech from the Opposition.
  • The Speaker must resign from the membership of the party to which he belonged on his election as Speaker and should become a non-party man.
  • The retiring Speaker must be returned unopposed to the House and be elected as Speaker as many time as he pleases.
  • The number of the representatives of the different political parties in the Committees of the House of Commons should be proportionate to their number in the House.
  • The Government will not initiate legislation of a controversial nature without specific mandate from the electorate. This is known as Mandate convention.
  • If a member of the majority party is to be absent on any working day of Parliament when division of voting is to take place, he informs the Whip who finds out from the Opposition whether or not any member from his party is to be absent. This is termed as Pairing convention.

C) Conventions relating to Dominions:

The third group consists of the conventions which govern the relations of Britain with other Dominions. These are following:

  • Every Dominion, more or less, is to be regarded as an independent country both in internal as well as external affairs, though a nominal allegiance to the Queen is to be paid.
  • Any alteration in law touching the succession to the throne must require the assent of Parliaments of the Dominions.
  • The rules for making treaties by any Dominions are still matters of conventions as embodied in the reports of the Imperial Conference of 1923, 1926 and 1930.

The Statute of Westminster, has embodied in a legal form most of the conventions relating to Dominions.

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