People often confuse Parliament with government. They work closely together as both play a part in forming the laws of the United Kingdom but they are separate institutions, with separate functions.
The government runs the country. It has responsibility for developing and implementing policy and for drafting laws. It is also known as the 'Executive'.
Parliament is the highest legislative authority in the UK. It has responsibility for checking the work of government and examining, debating and approving new laws. It is also known as the 'Legislature'.
Forming a government
A political party that wins an overall majority in the House of Commons at a general election forms the new government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.
If no party wins a majority of the seats then the largest party may form a minority government or there may be a coalition government of two or more parties.
The Prime Minister appoints ministers who work in the government departments, the most senior of these sit in Cabinet.
Ministers and MPs
Government ministers are chosen from MPs and Lords in Parliament. Your MP may be a member of the party forming the current Government, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are working 'in government'. Ministers must regularly respond to oral and written questions from MPs and Lords.
Scrutiny of the government
Parliament checks the work of the government on behalf of UK citizens through investigative select committees and by asking government ministers questions. The House of Commons also has to approve proposals for government taxes and spending.
The government needs to retain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons. If the House votes to indicate that it has no confidence in the government, either by defeating the government on a confidence motion or by defeating a policy that the government has indicated is a 'matter of confidence', then a General Election would be called if a confidence motion in the new government was not passed within 14 days of the original no confidence motion.
Each year the government informs Parliament of its plans for new legislation in the Queen's Speech. New legislation is usually introduced in the form of a Bill that must be debated and approved by Parliament before it can become an Act of Parliament - the government needs the support of the majority of the House of Commons to function.
Ministerial Code of Conduct
The rules concerning how Ministers should conduct their duties is contained in 'The Ministerial Code: A Code of Ethics and Procedural Guidance for Ministers' and is available on the GOV.UK website.