Parliament of Guelphia

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The Parliament of Guelphia forms the legislative arm of the Central Government of Guelphia. The Parliament consists of the King, the Senate, and the House of Assembly whose powers and functions derive from the Constitution of Guelphia, enacted on the 1 October 1907 and subsequently amended twice. The Parliament is a descendant of the British Parliament from which many of the traditions, procedures, and conventions are drawn from and used.

The power and functions of the parliament are regulated by Chapter IV of the Constitution. The Parliament consists of two houses of elected representatives who are responsible for passing laws and regulating government expenditure through the national budget. Most members of the parliament belong to political parties, who represent the different policy opinions of the people. There also exist a small number of MPs who sit as independents. Membership of the Parliament is moderated by regular elections, usually held every four years.

History

Guelphian Parliament can be traced back to the earliest days of the settlement of the archipelago. On 18 February 1836, with the arrival of the board of the Guelphian Company, control of the islands was transferred to the newly created Executive Council, with those who had purchased shares in the company prior to this date becoming the first members of the Guelphian Senate. As was typical of most early legislatures throughout the British Empire, the Senate had merely an advisory role, and was subject to the Council.

By 1845 it was decided that the Senate could assume greater competency, and the power of the Council began to diminish. From this point on, the chamber began to take on more of the flavour of a legislative body rather than a consultative one. The chamber remained fully appointed, but saw regular increases in size owing to those who could afford the £1000 special subscription that would buy them a seat in the chamber. The subscription system saw the chamber expand from a mere 36 members in 1836, to a more unwieldy size of 74 members in 1850.

With the abolition of subscription system in 1850, Senate membership was effectively capped, with vacancies inheritable by the eldest son of the incumbent. As with the British House of Lords, attendance at every Senate debate was not compulsory, with senators expected only to participate in debates to which they had an interest or some form of expert knowledge. Despite the noble intentions of many senators, pressure soon began to mount for a second chamber to better represent the middle and lower classes in the Parliament. After years of lobbying and pressure, the House of Assembly was formed by an amendment to the Constitution, which passed the Senate in 1854. The first elections to the Assembly took place in April of same year, and was overwhelmingly dominated by conservatives, who constituted the largest faction in the chamber. Political parties did not yet exist, and loyalty to a particular faction was based on personality and persuasion rather than a party whip.

The conservative faction continued to dominate both houses of Parliament until the 1880 and election, when the liberal and radical factions together won a clear majority in the Assembly. Whilst some of the more outlandish reforms were rejected by the still largely conservative Senate, the new government succeeded in realising many of its policy objectives, including the abolition of penal transportation, and the expansion of the franchise to all adult males.

By the 1890s, the factional system had given way to formal political parties with the formation of the Liberal Party in 1890, and the Conservative Party in 1892. A small, but growing movement of support for federation with the Australian colonies led to the formation of a Federalist Party in 1895. Despite winning a large number of seats in the 1896 election, opposition to federation from both the British Resident Commissioner and the majority of the voting public saw the movement falter within a couple of years.

The 1890s also saw the emergence for the first time of organised labour, and with it a political wing in the form of the Labour Party. The deep depression that struck the British Empire in that decade had a dramatic effect on workers and their rights in the workplace. However, unlike other jurisdictions in Australasia and elsewhere, the Labour Party was seldom a strong enough political force to enable it to occupy the treasury benches, with the majority of working class voters remaining supporters of the Liberal Party. Indeed support for the Liberals remained high for over 20 years, and saw them implant a number of reforms including the legalisation of trade unions (1893), the expansion of the franchise to women (1898), and the implementation of land reforms aimed at improving conditions for rent holders (1900). However the greatest achievement of the Liberals was securing of Guelphia's independence on 1 October 1907, which saw a new Constitution enacted although the effect on Parliament was minimal.

Parliament remained largely unchanged in composition and size until the 1960s, when this disaffection with the appointed nature of the Senate led to proposals for its abolition. The Senate had narrowly avoided this fate in the late 1940s owing to a plebiscite that had disallowed the government's bill to dissolve it. Instead, the Braddock government undertook reforms to make the chamber more representative of the various interest groups in society. For the first time, 20 seats were to be provided to representatives of commerce, labour, and the scientific and learned professions. In addition 4 seats for bishops would be preserved, as would 16 seats for the peerage. The remaining 24 seats would be selected from candidates who would be elected by voters eligible to vote in elections to the House of Assembly, with these Senators elected by way of party list proportional representation. The proposals were accepted by both houses and by voters in a plebiscite held in late 1968, with the new Senate sitting for the first time in 1970.

Since that time, Parliament has remained largely untouched by any reform, and is considered by both major parties to be fair and representative of all Guelphians. The only party advocating any type of reform is the Social Democratic Labour Party, who have advocated a fully elected Senate in their manifesto since the party was established in the 1980s.

Composition

The Parliament of Guelphia consists of the sovereign, the Senate, and the House of Assembly.

King-in-Parliament

Referencearrow.png Main Article: Monarchy of Guelphia

The functions and powers of the sovereign extend to Parliament, where as the King-in-Parliament, all bills passed by both houses must receive the monarch’s approval in the form of the Royal Assent before they can become law. A symbol of this power can be seen with each Act, which commences with the following introduction known as an enacting formula:

Be it enacted and declared by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Assembly of Guelphia in Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Members of both houses of Parliament must also express their loyalty to the sovereign by taking the Oath of Allegiance before they can take their seats. A further demonstration of this loyalty can be seen in the official title of the opposition, who are formally called "His Majesty's Loyal Opposition". The title demonstrates that though they may be opposed to the incumbent Cabinet's policies, opposition Senators and MHAs remain dedicated to the Crown.

Senate

Referencearrow.png Main Article: Senate of Guelphia

The Senate is the upper house of the Parliament of Guelphia and dates back to 1836. Consisting of 64 members, the Senate shares the sole authority to debate and enact legislation, although it cannot initiates or amend bills relating to appropriation. Most Senators are elected to eight year terms, and are drawn from a number of different interest groups under a system of party-list proportional representation that takes place every four years. However, there also exist a number of Senators who are appointed by virtue of their position, such as the Lord Chancellor and the 4 Bishops of the Anglican Church. The Senate was created to play an active role in the drafting and scrutiny of legislation, and through this process, hold the government to account.

House of Assembly

Referencearrow.png Main Article: Guelphian House of Assembly

The House of Assembly is the lower house in the Parliament of Guelphia, and consists of 128 members. The House, along with the Senate, has the sole authority to debate and enact legislation. By convention, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition must both be members of the House. Elections are held every four years, with members elected from constituencies using the Alternative Vote method of election. A government is formed after an election by the party or coalition of parties which can command a majority of the votes in the chamber.

Procedure

Enacting legislation

The primary function of the Parliament is to enact primary legislation in the form of an Act of Parliament. In order for a bill to be enacted, it must passed both houses and receive the Royal Assent from the sovereign. The Guelphian Parliament utilises a system of reading stages, as well as the committee process, that is common throughout a number of Westminster democracies. This process sees a bill "read" three times in each house, with debate taking place during the second reading. Each house may also opt to send a bill to either one of the permanent standing committees, a specialist select committee put together to investigate the bill. Having been through this process, the bill is sent to the sovereign for his assent, whereupon it becomes law.

Term

After each general election, a new parliament is formed by those members elected joining those Senators appointed from previous elections. As with all Westminster democracies, the person who can command either a majority or plurality of members on the floor of the House of Assembly is asked by the King to form a government.

Each parliament is divided into two sessions, each of which runs for about two years. If required, an extra session can be called in an emergency. Each session of parliament always begins with the State Opening of Parliament, with the first session commencing eight days after Easter in the year of an election. Any bill before either house at the end of a session is deemed to have expired if is not passed. Likewise, if parliament is prorogued, all bills and motions are expunged.

Each session of parliament is in turn divided into four sittings. These sitting are known as Opening, Budget, Independence, and Final. Each sitting is separated by blocks of anywhere up to 14 weeks where members return to work in their constituencies.

It is customary for the sovereign to prorogue Parliament in mid-January in the year of an election to prevent the Senate from sitting during the campaign. Proroguing Parliament also expunges all existing Senate business, allowing the chamber to start afresh before the start of the next Parliament. Parliament is usually dissolved in the last days of January in anticipation for the general election which is always held on the first Saturday in March.

Privileges

Senators and Members are not above the law, and all Acts of Parliament apply equally to parliamentarians and the general public alike[1]. Senators and Members also lack any form of legal immunity, and can be arrested and tried for any offence.

However there remains the right of Parliamentary privilege for all Senators and Members. Anything a Senator or Member says in Parliament about each other or about persons outside the Parliament is exempt from laws of libel. This privilege extends to reporting in the media of anything a Member or Senator says in Parliament. The proceedings of parliamentary committees, wherever they meet, are also covered by privilege, and this extends to witnesses before such committees.

Parliamentary offices

The Parliament also maintains control over several agencies, who act wholly independent from the workings of the executive and are responsible only to the Parliament. In most cases, the heads of these agencies are appointed by the King on the advice and consent of the Senate, and are required to furnish annual reports to both Houses every year. As of June 2012, these agencies are:

  • Office of the Controller and Auditor-General of Guelphia
  • Office of the Chief Ombudsman of Guelphia
  • Parliamentary Budget Office

See also

References and notes

  1. Specific mention of this is noted in §74(2) of the Constitution of Guelphia, which states:Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section, there shall be no presumption that legislation does not apply to Parliament unless it contains express provision to that affect.