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MPs and the House of Commons

What is the House of Commons? Find out with this short animation, an ideal starting point for introducing the House of Commons with key stage 3, 4 and A level students.

 

Members of Parliament, or MPs, have a lot of responsibility. They make the laws that you have to follow. But just who are these decision makers?

MPs are your 'elected representatives'

In a democracy like the UK, citizens elect other citizens to make decisions about how the country should be governed. Every MP in the House of Commons got his or her place by winning an election in their area of the country, called a 'constituency'.

Nearly every MP belongs to a political party

A political party is a group of people who share the same ideas about how the country should be governed. A party's guiding principles help voters decide who to vote for during elections. Most MPs belong to a political party, but a few do not. Those who do not are called 'independents'.

Almost everyone is eligible to become an MP

Are you a British or Irish citizen? Are you 18 or over? Then you can stand for election in the UK. But if you're in prison, sorry, you can't be an MP. Also, you can't be an MP if you're a member of the House of Lords.

Some MPs have jobs as 'ministers'

Some MPs are selected by the Prime Minister to join the government. They are called 'ministers'. The government is the group of politicians who are in charge of running the country. The Prime Minister leads the government, and chooses MPs who support his or her party's plans for governing the UK.

Some MPs have jobs as 'shadow ministers'

MPs who belong to political parties that oppose the government's plans are known as the opposition. And, like the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition chooses a group of MPs to become 'shadow ministers'. Shadow ministers question and challenge the work of the government's ministers.

Most MPs are known as 'backbenchers'

Most MPs are known as backbenchers, which means they do not hold a job as a government minister or as an opposition shadow minister. They got the name because they sit on the back benches of the House of Commons chamber. Ministers and their opposition counterparts sit on the front benches.

MPs play an important part in making laws for the UK

Any changes to the country's laws must be approved by Parliament. The government proposes most of the changes to the law and makes its case to MPs in the House of Commons, who vote on whether to approve the change or not. Parliament's other 'house' - the House of Lords - must also approve.