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Terminology Definition
ActAn Act of Parliament creates a new law or changes an existing law. An Act is a Bill that has been approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and has been given Royal Assent by the Monarch.
All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. There are over 750 APPGs, covering a huge range of issues. The full register of APPGs is on the Parliament website.
Areas of Research Interest (ARIs)Areas of research interest give details about the main research questions facing government departments, or committees in the UK and devolved Parliaments. They expressly seek expert input to aid future policymaking. Our Policy Hub has a page with further information on ARIs.
BillA bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law, that is presented for debate before Parliament. When both Houses of Parliament have agreed on the content of a bill it becomes an Act. Bills can be proposed by the government, individual MPs or Lords, and private individuals or organisations. The full list of bills is on the UK Parliament website.
Bill CommitteePart of the process of a bill’s scrutiny in UK Parliament is Committee Stage, which happens once in the House of Commons and once in the House of Lords. Bill Committees are formed with the express purpose of scrutinising a particular bill and are then dissolved.
CabinetThe Cabinet is a team of around 20 of the most senior ministers in the Government who are chosen by the Prime Minister to lead on specific policy areas. Most often members of Cabinet lead a government department.
Civil ServiceThe Civil Service does the practical and administrative work of government, including helping the government of the day to develop and implement its policies as effectively as possible. The Civil Service provides services directly to people all over the country, such as by paying benefits or issuing driving licenses. It is politically impartial and independent of government, and works within central government departments, agencies, and non-departmental bodies.
Green PaperGreen Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government. The aim of Green Papers is to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to give the department feedback on its policy or legislative proposals.
HansardHansard is a transcript of what is said in UK Parliament. The Hansard website lets you search for specific keywords or phrases, helping you find Parliamentarians who have expressed an interest in a topic. There are also similar search tools for the Scottish Parliament , Welsh Parliament, and Northern Ireland Assembly.
HolyroodHolyrood is the common name for the Scottish Parliament, which examines what the Scottish Government is doing, makes new laws on devolved matters, and debates other issues. It is populated by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)
House of CommonsThe House of Commons considers and proposes new laws, scrutinises government policies, and debates current issues. It is made up of 650 Members of Parliament (MPs) elected by the UK public to represent their interests and concerns.
House of LordsThe House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the work of, the elected House of Commons. It is made up of around 800 unelected members from a variety of professions and walks of life.
Houses of ParliamentParliament examines what the Government is doing, makes new laws, and debates the issues of the day. The House of Commons and the House of Lords both play an important role.
Knowledge Exchange Unit (KEU)The Knowledge Exchange Unit supports the exchange of information between researchers and the UK Parliament. It offers training and advice to researchers wishing to work with or find out more about UK Parliament.
LegislationLegislation is a law or a set of laws that have been passed by Parliament. The word is also used to describe the act of making a new law.
MinistersMinisters are the MPs and members of the House of Lords who are part of the UK Government. They are appointed by the Prime Minister and each given a specific area of government policy to oversee. Ministers speak on behalf of the Government and there are usually several in each department. The minister leading their given department is often referred to as the Secretary of State (for example, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions).
MPsMembers of Parliament are elected by the public of a local constituency to represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs split their time between working in Parliament itself, working in the constituency that elected them, and working for their political party. Some MPs from the governing party become government ministers with specific responsibilities in certain areas.
OmbudsmenAn ombudsman is a person or organisation that is appointed to look into complaints about companies and organisations. For example, the Financial Ombudsman Service helps settle disputes between consumers and businesses providing financial services.
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)POST is a body of the UK Parliament dedicated to sourcing scientific research evidence. It produces impartial, balanced briefings for Parliamentarians. Part of this involves facilitating knowledge exchange between Parliament and researchers, including through collaboration on priority workstreams.
ParliamentarianA Parliamentarian is any individual who is a member of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
PeersMembers of the House of Lords are sometimes referred to as peers. Peers are not elected by the public, and most are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve for the rest of their life. Peers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions and are often appointed for their particular expertise in a certain area.
PolicymakerA policymaker is any individual responsible for formulating or amending policy. In the UK, this can mean government ministers, civil servants, Chief Scientific Advisers, MPs, and Peers among others.
PortfolioA portfolio is a minister’s area of responsibility in government. The portfolio of every minister can be found on the government website.
Public AffairsPublic Affairs refers to managing one’s relationship with stakeholders. Stakeholders can extend beyond Parliament and government, but these are often a focus of public affairs initiatives.
RegulatorsRegulators exercise supervisory authority over a variety of endeavours. For example, Ofsted makes sure that organisations providing education, training and childcare services do so to a high standard.
Royal AssentOnce a bill has completed scrutiny in both houses of Parliament, it is ready to receive Royal Assent. This is when the monarch formally agrees to make the bill into an act of parliament and is a ceremonial process in modern times. That being said, the term ‘Royal Assent’ is still used to refer to the point at which a bill completes its passage through Parliament.
Select CommitteeSelect committees are permanent and exist to scrutinise government policy development and delivery in greater detail than general Parliamentary debates. They are often aligned with a government department. For example, the Health and Social Care Committee examines policy issues that fall under the remit of the Department for Health and Social Care.
SeneddSenedd is the common name for the Welsh Parliament. It is populated by Members of the Senedd (MSs) who represent the interest of their electorate. The Senedd makes new laws for Wales and holds the Welsh Government to account.
StormontStormont is the common name for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. It has the power to make laws in a wide range of areas and to scrutinise the work of the Northern Ireland Executive. It is populated by Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
Think TankA think tank is a research institute dedicated to generating new ideas and evidence to inform policymaking. Some think tanks operate in specific areas, while others conduct their work more generally. They are usually identified with a particular position on the political spectrum.
UK GovernmentIn the UK, the Prime Minister leads the government with the support of the Cabinet and ministers. The government is mainly formed of 24 ministerial departments, each of which takes ownership of a set of policy areas. There are also various non-ministerial departments and arms-length bodies, such as the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Food Standards Agency.
White PaperWhite papers are policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation. White papers are published at a more advanced stage of policy development than, and often follow, green papers on the same topic. They may even include a draft version of a bill that is being planned. This provides a basis for further discussion with interested groups and allows final changes before the bill is formally presented to Parliament for scrutiny.
WhitehallWhitehall is a road and area in Westminster that is occupied by numerous government departments and ministries. For this reason “Whitehall” is commonly used to refer to the British government and civil service.

This section is part of the CLOSER Policy Hub. Go back to the Policy Hub homepage.