The House of Commons


Situated within one of Britain's most iconic buildings - The Palace of Westminster - and known as the 'Lower House', the House of Commons is the first and perhaps most important stage in the legislative process.

Made up of MP's representing all 646 constituencies within the British Isles, the Commons is where most new legislation starts out and is debated.

The House itself comprises over 400 seats (it's standing-room-only during important debates) divided by a central aisle, the present government sitting to the left and all members of opposition parties to the right, all of which can be observed from the public gallery above.

Along the aisle run two red lines that are supposedly two sword-lengths apart, a throw-back to a time when there was a real danger that members of opposing parties might attack one another. At the far end of the House, behind the Table of the House where the ceremonial mace resides, is The Speaker's chair (from where he/she tries to keep order).

At the beginning of the parliamentary year there takes place one of Westminster's best known traditions - The State Opening of Parliament. Although much of the ceremony takes place in the House of Lords, the Commons plays host to one of the most iconic images of British democracy - the sight of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod knocking three times on the door to the Commons with his ceremonial mace - which signals the summoning of members for the Queen's Speech.