Along with Veronica and Kimberly, I took the opportunity to visit Parliament instead of the Middle Temple Law Library. The visit occurred on the day of the referendum results deciding the new future of Great Britain.
Parliament is the ultimate authority of law in the United Kingdom. It has its own fire service and dining room. When the old palace was burned in 1834 by tally sticks, the crowd cheered when the House of Lords burned but the crowd rushed to save Westminster Hall. The building is laid out with the central lobby in an octagonal shape that is sits between the House of Lords and the House of Common.
The House of Lords is made up of 802 members that are paid no salary, but can claim daily expenses. The members are nominated by peers for life, however they may retire. The chamber has television cameras that are attached above the seats and microphones that drop to 7 feet off the floor from the high ceiling.
The House of Common has 650 members that are elected every 5 years in a general election. The party with the most seats is the government following the election and the Leader of that party is Prime Minister. Every session is recorded and the ‘faithful account’ of the proceedings is in public libraries within one week. If a vote is needed, the members will file out of the room into 2 lobbies (one for aye, the other for no). The process is stand up and be counted. No electronics is used at all.
After learning about the basis of government in England, we chose to partake in the tradition of having afternoon tea on the terrace of Parliament overlooking the Thames.
It was a simple and delicious way to think about the differences in systems between Great Britain and an old British colony across the Atlantic.