Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Parliament Definition:

The aggregate or assembly of institutions that comprise the legislative apparatus of government in democratic societies.

Under Montesque's model of government, as adopted by the United States of America and other democratic governments, government has three branches, of which the nomenclature of Parliament is often given in jurisdictions with a British tradition of parliamentary law, to refer to those institutions that comprise the legislative branch.

For example, Canada's Parliament (pictured, below), and according to Bourinot, is said to be comprised of:

"The legislative power of Canada is declared to be vested in one parliament. The parliament consists of the (Queen), the Senate and the House of Commons.

"The sovereign is represented by the governor general."

ParliamentTogether, parliament comprises the law-development and ratification apparatus of the nation, and has supervisory control over the executive branch.

In England, according to Halsbury's Laws of England, Volume 34:

"The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northen Ireland consists of the monarch; the House of Lords ... and the House of Commons, the elected representatives of the people.

"Parliament is the supreme legislative authority..."

William Blackstone, in Volume 1 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, wrote:

"The word parliament itself is comparatively of modern date; derived from the French and signifying an assembly that met and conferred together."

The term is a derivative of the French verb parler which means to speak.

But the English have since time immemorial, convened, albeit irregularly, an assembly or a form of general council of "sages" to consider law. They have had a variety of names such as michel-synote, general assizes or council. The term Parliament was first mentioned in England in the Statute of Westminster #1, of 1275. The Greeks were convening their own version of parliament, assemblies of their sages, long even before the birth of Jesus Christ.

A parliament expresses itself by statute or legislation. An act of Parliament is often called just that; an "act", and it is synonymous to the term statute.

The Government usually manages Parliament's time through a scale of adjournment devices, from the simple adjournment of a session, to prorogation and the finality of dissolution.

King Charles of England, who was beheaded in 1649 for his refusal to recognize the jurisdiction of it, once said:

"Parliaments are of the nature of cats. They ever grow cursed with age."


  • Bourinot, John, Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 1916), page 23.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Prorogation

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