3 The Westminster Parliament
The Westminster Parliament consists of two chambers, sometimes referred to as two Houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Most modern democratic societies have two debating chambers in their central legislative body. This is referred to as a bicameral parliament, as opposed to a unicameral parliament, which only has one legislative assembly, such as the Welsh Assembly. In theory the Westminster Parliament has a third element to the law-making process: the monarch, who is referred to as the head of state. The monarch maintains the right to veto proposed legislation by withholding Royal Assent. Royal Assent is the monarch’s signature on the piece of proposed legislation once it has completed all its parliamentary stages. Today, Royal Assent is a mere formality which is undertaken on behalf of the monarch. The monarch can provide Royal Assent in person but this rarely happens. In theory the monarch may refuse to give Royal Assent but this has not occurred since 1707 when Queen Anne refused to give Royal Assent for a Bill that was dealing with the regulation of the settling of the militia in Scotland. The last time a monarch provided Royal Assent in person for a proposed Bill was in 1854.