Salisbury Convention

Before the 1999 House of Lords Act, the Conservatives had a large in-built majority in the House. The problem of the Lords being able to veto all government legislation if it was so minded is covered by the so-called Salisbury convention. The convention (sometimes called the 'Salisbury doctrine') states that the Lords will not vote...Read More

Scottish parliament

The Scottish parliament was created under the Scotland Act 1998, and the powers were formally transferred from London to Edinburgh on July 1st 1999. The 129 MSPs have the authority to initiate and pass primary legislation and vary the basic rate of income tax by up to three pence in the pound from the UK-wide...Read More

Second Reading (Commons)

A debate on the Second Reading of a Bill is a debate on its general principles (on the motion 'that the Bill be now read a Second time). It is normally at least two weeks after introduction. The MP in charge of the Bill opens the debate by outlining the Bill's provision and making the...Read More

Second Reading (Lords)

A debate on the Second Reading of a Bill is a debate on its general principles (on the motion 'that the Bill be now read a Second time'). It is normally at least two weeks after introduction. The peer in charge of the Bill opens the debate by outlining the Bill's provision and making the...Read More

Secondary Legislation (Commons)

Secondary legislation makes changes to the law under powers in an Act of Parliament. During the passage of a Bill, Parliament agrees to any such powers to make future changes to the law. Secondary legislation cannot normally amend primary legislation. It tends to 'flesh out' Acts with more detail and it is more easily revised,...Read More

Secondary Legislation (EU)

The EU's 'secondary legislation' is that form of legislation that affects day to day life within the EU and with which most people are familiar. It is the kind of law made under the powers created and invested in the EU by the treaties – the EU's 'primary legislation'. EU secondary legislation falls into four...Read More

Secondary Legislation (Scotland)

A statutory instrument's passage through parliament is limited to 40 days from the day on which it was laid. During this period a lead committee and the subordinate legislation committee report to parliament on any issues raised by the instrument and MSPs approve or reject it. They may also debate an instrument. Most statutory instruments...Read More

Select Committees (Commons)

There are two types of select committee – departmental and non-departmental. The departmental select committees are charged with examining the spending, administration and policy of their specific department and its related public bodies. They may take evidence from witnesses and require the submission of documents within certain rules and they may set up sub-committees to...Read More

Select Committees (Lords)

Lords Select Committees tend to be set up to consider issues that cut across government departments, which means that they rarely overlap with the departmental select committees of the Lower House. Examples of such Lords Select Committees are the Economic Affairs, Constitution and Delegated Powers Committees. The biggest committee is the Select Committee on the...Read More

Single Market (Europe)

The EEC was initially an economic project, aimed at reducing the 'cost of non-Europe' – that is, of stimulating trade between and economic activity in member states by creating a larger free trade area. This simple idea aimed to see the costs of European business reduced by removing internal tariffs and standardising regulation – a...Read More

Sinn Fein

On May 10th 2007, Sinn Fein and the DUP made history. In scenes which many would have considered incomprehensible, Ian Paisley sat as first minister with Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister. Nothing was quite as startling, however, as how well the two men appeared to get on. Soon enough, people were referring to them...Read More

Sittings (Commons)

Find information on when the Commons meets and Parliament is sitting. Here you will find a timetable of parliamentary meetings with guides to the hours of sittings, recess dates, and Westminster Hall. To find out more on this issue click through our guide to sittings in the House of Commons.Read More

Sittings (Lords)

When Parliament is sitting, the Lords normally meets on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2.30pm and on Thursdays at 11.30am. The House does not always sit on a Friday but when it does it meets at 11am. There is no time limit on proceedings, but business is normally concluded a little later than 10pm (normally...Read More

Sittings (Scotland)

Fridays are normally set aside for constituency business. The parliament meets in plenary on Wednesday afternoons and all-day Thursday. Committees meet on Mondays, Tuesdays and on Wednesday mornings. Rarely, parliament will meet in plenary all day on a Wednesday. The following is a guide to normal recess dates: Summer – normally eight weeks from end...Read More

Sittings (Wales)

Mondays and Fridays are normally set aside for constituency business. The Assembly meets in plenary session on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Committees meet on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and on Thursdays. Recess dates tend to resemble those for the House of Commons, but they are not required to.Read More


Recent progress from the Scottish National party clouds the fact their ultimate goal of independence remains elusive. That founding ambition was pushed to the back of voters' minds during their time in government from 2007 to 2011. Scottish voters confronted with the party were more inclined to think about their record in Holyrood rather than...Read More

Social Democrat and Labour party (SDLP)

Like the Alliance party, the Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) has seen better days. Affiliated to the Labour party, the SDLP was formed in the early 1970s at the height of the 'Troubles'. It was also one of the driving forces for peace in Northern Ireland under leader John Hume and deputy leader Seamus...Read More

Social Policy (EU)

EU economic policy, the single market and regional policy would not effectively secure economic and social cohesion without a legal framework to ensure fair treatment for all citizens. For example, if workers have fewer rights in some member states than in others businesses would (all other things being equal) be incentivised to move to those...Read More

Special Advisers

A Cabinet Minister may appoint up to two special advisers to his or her departmental staff. Special advisers are temporary civil servants, employed for the duration of an administration to provide a political dimension to the non-partisan work of the general civil service. They are appointed to undertake tasks that would inappropriate for career civil...Read More