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House of Commons

The representative chamber of *Parliament (also known as the Lower House), composed of 650 members elected for 523 single-member constituencies in England, 72 in Scotland, 38 in Wales, and 17 in Northern Ireland (see *election; *franchise). The total number of members may within certain limits be varied as a result of constituency changes proposed by the *boundary commissions.

A number of people are disqualified from membership. They include those under 21, peers and peeresses in their own right (except Irish peers), civil servants, the police and the regular armed forces, most clergy (but not Nonconformist ministers), aliens, convicted prisoners and people guilty of corrupt or illegal practices, the holders of most judicial offices (but not lay magistrates), and the holders of a large number of public offices listed in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Public offices that disqualify include the *Chiltern Hundreds and the Manor of Northstead. The number of members who may hold ministerial office is limited to 95.

The House is presided over by the Speaker, who is elected by the members at the beginning of each Parliament. He is responsible for the orderly conduct of proceedings, which he must supervise with complete impartiality, and is the person through whom the members may collectively communicate with the sovereig. The Leader of the House is a government minister responsible for arranging the business of the House in consultation with the Opposition.

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