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An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature (or one of three chambers of a tricameral legislature), the other chamber being the lower house.The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. A legislature composed of only one house (and which therefore has neither an upper house nor a lower house) is described as unicameral.
An upper house is usually different from the lower house in at least one of the following respects (though they vary among jurisdictions):
In parliamentary systems the upper house is frequently seen as an advisory or "revising" chamber; for this reason, its powers of direct action are often reduced in some way. Some or all of the following restrictions are often placed on upper houses:
In parliamentary democracies and among European upper houses the Italian Senate is a notable exception to these general rules, in that it has the same powers as its lower counterpart: any law can be initiated in either house and must be approved in the same form by both houses. Additionally, a Government must have the consent of both to remain in office, a position which is known as "perfect bicameralism" or "equal bicameralism".
The role of a revising chamber is to scrutinise legislation that may have been drafted over-hastily in the lower house and to suggest amendments that the lower house may nevertheless reject if it wishes to. An example is the British House of Lords. Under the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, the House of Lords can no longer prevent the passage of most bills, but it must be given an opportunity to debate them and propose amendments, and can thereby delay the passage of a bill with which it disagrees. Bills can only be delayed for up to one year before the Commons can use the Parliament Act, although economic bills can only be delayed for one month. It is sometimes seen as having a special role of safeguarding the uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom and important civil liberties against ill-considered change. The British House of Lords has a number of ways to block legislation and to reject it; however, the House of Commons can eventually use the Parliament Act to force something through. The Commons will often accepts amendments passed by the Lords; however, the two houses have sometimes reached a constitutional standoff. For example, when the Labour Government of 1999 tried to expel all hereditary peers from the Lords, the Lords threatened to wreck the Government's entire legislative agenda and to block every bill which was sent to the chamber. This standoff led to negotiations between Viscount Cranborne, the then Shadow Leader of the House, and the Labour Government, resulting in the Weatherill Amendment to the House of Lords Act 1999, which preserved 92 hereditary peers in the house. Compromise and negotiation between the two houses make the Parliament Act a very rarely used backup plan.
Even without a veto, an upper house may defeat legislation. Its opposition may give the lower chamber a chance to reconsider or even abandon a controversial measure. It can also delay a bill so that it does not fit within the legislative schedule, or until a general election produces a new lower house that no longer wishes to proceed with the bill.
Nevertheless, some states have long retained powerful upper houses. For example, the consent of the upper house to legislation may be necessary (though, as noted above, this seldom extends to budgetary measures). Constitutional arrangements of states with powerful upper houses usually include a means to resolve situations where the two houses are at odds with each other.
In recent times, Parliamentary systems have tended to weaken the powers of upper houses relative to their lower counterparts. Some upper houses have been abolished completely (see below); others have had their powers reduced by constitutional or legislative amendments. Also, conventions often exist that the upper house ought not to obstruct the business of government for frivolous or merely partisan reasons. These conventions have tended to harden with a passage of time.
In presidential systems, the upper house is frequently given other powers to compensate for its restrictions:
There is a variety of ways an upper house's members are assembled: by direct or indirect election, appointment, heredity, or a mixture of these. The German Bundesrat is composed of members of the cabinets of the German states, in most cases the state premier and several ministers; they are delegated and can be recalled anytime. In a very similar way, the Council of the European Union is composed of national ministers.
Many upper houses are not directly elected but appointed: either by the head of government or in some other way. This is usually intended to produce a house of experts or otherwise distinguished citizens, who would not necessarily be returned in an election. For example, members of the Senate of Canada are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In the past, some upper houses had seats that were entirely hereditary, such as in the British House of Lords until 1999 and in the Japanese House of Peers until it was abolished in 1947.
It is also common that the upper house consists of delegates chosen by state governments or local officials. Members of the Rajya Sabha in India are nominated by various states and union territories, while 12 of them are nominated by the President of India. Similarly, at the state level, one-third of the members of the State Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) are nominated by local governments, one-third by sitting legislators, and the rest are elected by select members of the electorate. The United States Senate was chosen by the State legislatures until the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.
The upper house may be directly elected but in different proportions to the lower house - for example, the Senate of Australia and the United States have a fixed number of elected members from each state, regardless of the population.
Many jurisdictions, such as Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Mauritania, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela and many Indian states as well as Brazilian states and Canadian provinces, once possessed upper houses but abolished them to adopt unicameral systems. Newfoundland had a Legislative Council prior to joining Canada, as did Ontario when it was Upper Canada and Quebec from 1791 (as Lower Canada) to 1968. Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature, having abolished its lower house in 1934.
The Australian state of Queensland also once had an appointed Legislative Council before abolishing it in 1922. All other Australian states continue to have bicameral systems (the two territories have always been unicameral).
Like Queensland, the German state of Bavaria had an appointed upper house, the Senate of Bavaria, from 1946 to 1999.
The Senate of the Philippines was abolished – and restored – twice: from 1935 to 1945 when a unicameral National Assembly convened, and from 1972 to 1987 when Congress was closed, and later a new constitution was approved instituting a unicameral Parliament. The Senate was re-instituted with the restoration of a bicameral Congress via a constitutional amendment in 1941, and via adoption of a new constitution in 1987.
A previous government of Ireland (the 31st Dáil) promised a national referendum on the abolition of its upper house, the Seanad Éireann, during the 24th Seanad session. By a narrow margin, the Irish public voted to retain it. Conservative-leaning Fine Gael and Left-leaning Sinn Féin both supported the abolition, while the centrist Fianna Fáil was alone among major parties in supporting the retention of the Seanad.
|Government||Upper House Unique Title||Meaning|
|Dom naroda Bosne i Hercegovine||House of Peoples|
|Yefedereshn Mekir Bet||House of Federation|
|Chambre des Pairs||Chamber of Peers|
|Rajya Sabha||Council of States|
|Vidhan Parishad||Legislative Council|
|Dewan Perwakilan Daerah||Regional Representative Council|
|Sangiin||House of Councillors|
|Főrendiház||House of Magnates|
|Câmara dos Pares or Câmara dos Digníssimos Pares do Reino||Chamber of Most Worthy Peers|
|Dewan Negara||National Assembly|
|Amyotha Hluttaw||House of Nationalities|
|Golaha Guurtida||House of Elders|
|Državni svet||National Council|
|National Council of Provinces|
In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries.The term is similar to the idea of a senate, synod or congress, and is commonly used in countries that are current or former monarchies, a form of government with a monarch as the head. Some contexts restrict the use of the word parliament to parliamentary systems, although it is also used to describe the legislature in some presidential systems, even where it is not in the official name.
The Westminster system is a parliamentary system of government that was developed in England, which is now a constituent country within the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. The system is a series of procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national and subnational legislatures of most former British Empire colonies upon gaining responsible government, beginning with the first of the Canadian provinces in 1848 and the six Australian colonies between 1855 and 1890. However, some former colonies have since adopted either the presidential system or a hybrid system as their form of government.
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate, so-called as an assembly of the senior and therefore allegedly wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. Thus, the literal meaning of the word "senate" is Assembly of Elders.
A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.
A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the voters to a parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title. Member of Congress is an equivalent term in other jurisdictions.
Acts of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. The United States Act of Congress is based on it.
A bicameral legislature has legislators in two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.
The Congress of the Philippines is the national legislature of the Philippines. It is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, although colloquially, the term "congress" commonly refers to just the latter.
The Senate of the Philippines is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress; the House of Representatives is the lower house. The Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large with the country as one district under plurality-at-large voting.
Tricameralism is the practice of having three legislative or parliamentary chambers. It is contrasted with unicameralism and bicameralism, both of which are far more common.
The speaker of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body, is its presiding officer, or the chair. The title was first used in 1377 in England.
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.
The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, responsible for the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico. The Assembly is a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Senate normally composed by 27 senators, and the lower house, the House of Representatives normally composed by 51 representatives. Eleven members of each house are elected at-large rather than from a specific legislative district with all members being elected for a four-year term without term limits.
The Maryland Senate, sometimes referred to as the Maryland State Senate, is the upper house of the General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland. Composed of 47 senators elected from an equal number of constituent single-member districts, the Senate is responsible, along with the Maryland House of Delegates, for passage of laws in Maryland, and for confirming executive appointments made by the Governor of Maryland.
A legislative chamber or house is a deliberative assembly within a legislature which generally meets and votes separately from the legislature's other chambers. Legislatures are usually unicameral, consisting of only one chamber, or bicameral, consisting of two, but there are rare examples of tricameral and tetracameral legislatures.
A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is a representative elected by the voters of an electoral district (constituency) to the legislature of State government in the Indian system of government. From each constituency, the people elect one representative who then becomes a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Each state has between seven and nine MLAs for every Member of Parliament (MP) that it has in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's bicameral parliament. There are also members in three unicameral legislatures in Union Territories: the Delhi Legislative Assembly, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and Puducherry Legislative Assembly.
The Senate was the upper chamber of the parliament of Ceylon established in 1947 by the Soulbury Commission. The Senate was appointed and indirectly elected rather than directly elected. It was housed in the old Legislative Council building in Colombo Fort and met for the first time on 12 November 1947. The Senate was abolished on 2 October 1971 by the eighth amendment to the Soulbury Constitution, prior to the adoption of the new Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka on 22 May 1972. In 2010 there were proposals to reintroduce the Senate.
House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the corresponding upper house often called a "Senate". In some countries, the House of Representatives is the sole chamber of a unicameral legislature.