Difference Between Senate and House of Commons

Senate vs House of Commons

Difference between senate and house of commons is an important topic in the field of public governance. The terms ‘House of Commons’ and ‘Senate’ are quite familiar to many of us. Of course, we associate the House of Commons with the British Parliament and the Senate with the United States. However, the terms represent two important institutions in the field of public governance. Therefore, it is best to understand their meaning in general. The House of Commons is popularly referred to as the legislative arm of a particular country. However, it is not the sole legislative chamber and, therefore, only represents one part of a bicameral legislature. The Senate also represents the legislative body of a country. Although both terms collectively represent the legislature of a country, they differ in terms of composition, function and power.

What is House of Commons?

Traditionally, the House of Commons refers to the lower chamber of Parliament in a nation. However, not every country’s legislature is referred to as the House of Commons. Thus, for the purpose of this article, we will understand the meaning and function of the House of Commons by using the example of the British House of Commons. Keep in mind that the lower house of the Canadian Parliament is also named the House of Commons.

The British House of Commons is composed of 650 elected members while the Canadian House of Commons comprises 308 elected members. These members represent certain provinces or constituencies in the nation. Members of the British House of Commonsare elected for a term of five years. The party that holds the majority of seats in the House of Commons typically connotes the government in power, and the leader of this party is appointed as Prime Minister.

House of Commons

British House of Commons

The history of the House of Commons dates back many centuries wherein land or property owners nominated representatives to go to parliament and voice their issues and petitions to the King. Legislative functions of the House of Commons include the introduction of bills relating to taxation or money supply or any other bill of vital importance. Certain types of bills may be presented for Royal assent without the approval or review of the upper house (House of Lords).

What is Senate?

The Senate is defined in the dictionary as an assembly or council of people having the highest deliberative and/or legislative powers in a country. More popularly, it refers to the upper chamber of Parliament in certain countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, France and others. For the purpose of this article, we will use the example of the United States Senate to explain the function and composition of a Senate. The United States Senate makes up the upper house of the Congress, also known as the Parliament. As opposed to the lower house in Parliament, the Senate is composed of a fairly smaller number of people, namely, 100 members. Two members from each state are elected for a term of six years. This term is staggered in that every two years one-third of the senate membership is subject to an election. The Senate has the power to consent to international treaties before ratification of the same. It also has the power to consent to judicial appointments and appointments of ambassadors and diplomats. The term ‘Senate’ is derived from the Latin term ‘Senatus’ which means the council of elders.

Difference between Senate and House of Commons

111th United States Senate

What is the difference between Senate and House of Commons?

• The House of Commons refers to the lower house of Parliament while the Senate typically constitutes the upper house of Parliament.

• The number of members in the House of Commons is larger in comparison to the number of members in the Senate.

• While both houses have their own individual legislative functions, the House of Commons has the power to introduce bills pertaining to taxation and supply. In contrast, judicial and ambassadorial appointments require the consent of the Senate.


Images Courtesy: House of Commons and Senate via Wikicommons (Public Domain)