In legal terms, Parliament is not just the House of Commons and House of Lords: it is the Queen-in-Parliament. The assent of the monarch is necessary for a measure to be recognized by the courts as constituting an Act of Parliament. However, the queen, as sovereign, occupies a position distinct from the two Houses, forming what Bagehot referred to as a ‘dignified’ element of the constitution. Her actions as sovereign are determined almost exclusively by convention (Norton 2010a). As such, her actions are predictable, involving little, if any, real scope for independent, and hence partisan, judgement. The role of the monarch will not form part of our enquiry. That will accord with popular perceptions of what constitutes Parliament: few electors would include the monarch if asked to define the term.
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