The House of Commons of the United Kingdom is the lower house of the countrys parliament. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster, officially, the full name of the house is, The Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The House is a body consisting of 650 members known as Members of Parliament. Members are elected to represent constituencies by first-past-the-post and hold their seats until Parliament is dissolved, under the Parliament Act 1911, the Lords power to reject legislation was reduced to a delaying power. The Government is primarily responsible to the House of Commons and the prime minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains the support of a majority of its members. Although it does not formally elect the prime minister, the position of the parties in the House of Commons is of overriding importance, by convention, the prime minister is answerable to, and must maintain the support of, the House of Commons. Since 1963, by convention, the minister is always a member of the House of Commons. The Commons may indicate its lack of support for the Government by rejecting a motion of confidence or by passing a motion of no confidence, confidence and no confidence motions are sometimes phrased explicitly, for instance, That this House has no confidence in Her Majestys Government. Many other motions were considered confidence issues, even though not explicitly phrased as such, in particular, important bills that form a part of the Governments agenda were formerly considered matters of confidence, as is the annual Budget. Parliament normally sits for a term of five years. Subject to that limit, the minister could formerly choose the timing of the dissolution of parliament. By this second mechanism, the government of the United Kingdom can change without a general election. In such circumstances there may not even have been a party leadership election, as the new leader may be chosen by acclaim. A prime minister may resign if he or she is not defeated at the polls. In such a case, the premiership goes to whoever can command a majority in the House of Commons, in practice this is usually the new leader of the outgoing prime ministers party. Until 1965, the Conservative Party had no mechanism for electing a new leader, when Anthony Eden resigned as PM in 1957 without recommending a successor and it fell to the Queen to appoint Harold Macmillan as the new prime minister, after taking the advice of ministers. By convention, all ministers must be members of the House of Commons or of the House of Lords, a handful have been appointed who were outside Parliament, but in most cases they then entered Parliament either in a by-election or by receiving a peerage. Since 1902, all ministers have been members of the Commons
The old Chamber of the House of Commons built by Sir Charles Barry was destroyed by German bombs during the Second World War. The essential features of Barry's design were preserved when the Chamber was rebuilt.
Another picture of the old House of Commons chamber. Note the dark veneer on the wood, which was purposely made much brighter in the new chamber.
The Speaker presides over debates in the House of Commons, as depicted in the above print commemorating the destruction of the Commons Chamber by fire in 1834.