An Encyclopedia of Parliament

An Encyclopedia of Parliament

An Encyclopedia of Parliament

An Encyclopedia of Parliament

Excerpt

When the first edition of this work appeared in 1958 the Commonwealth consisted of ten fully independent members and numerous colonies and dependencies in various stages of constitutional development. To-day, thirteen years and four editions later, there are thirty-two full members and a small assortment of territories dependent in one way or another on an independent Commonwealth state, in most cases the United Kingdom. There have been some casualties along the road. South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1960; the West Indies Federation and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland both came to grief; and Southern Rhodesia, following the dissolution of the latter Federation, unilaterally declared its independence from Great Britain in 1965, an act which was regarded as illegal by the British Government and which has not been recognized by any other country either inside or outside the Commonwealth.

To-day, as in 1958, the parliamentary system remains the Commonwealth's principal common denominator, although it has been subjected to serious stresses and strains during the years which have elapsed. The most grievous has been the breakdown of parliamentary government and the accompanying civil war experienced in Nigeria. Pakistan has encountered difficulties in sustaining the parliamentary system, and other countries where it has undergone interruption include Ghana, Sierra Leone and Lesotho. In Ghana and Sierra Leone, happily, it has been successfully restored, but at the time of writing it remains in suspension in Lesotho. Difficulties have been experienced in Cyprus where the Turkish population has withdrawn from participation in the system of government.

Some countries, notably India and Ceylon, have achieved a remarkable success in maintaining parliamentary democracy in spite of prodigious social and economic problems. Most Commonwealth countries have successfully adapted the parliamentary system to their own conditions and requirements, and the transformation which it has undergone in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi is an indication of its remarkable flexibility. The older countries of the Commonwealth and former British Empire, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have tended to preserve their fidelity to the original Westminster model.

Not only has the Commonwealth changed, but so have the procedures and practices of its Parliaments. The older Parliaments have modernized their rules and the younger ones have introduced innovations of their own, sometimes owing little or nothing to outside influences. In Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand the historic financial procedure, with its archaic requirements, has been swept away. Gone are the Committee of Supply and the Committee of Ways and Means. Gone is the requirement that a financial measure must originate in a Committee of the Whole House . . .

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