2nd Parliament of Great Britain

The 2nd Parliament of Great Britain was the first British Parliament to actually be elected, as the 1st Parliament of Great Britain had been drawn from the former Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland.

2nd Parliament of Great Britain
1st 3rd
Richard Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons
Term8 July 1708 (1708-07-08) – 21 April 1710 (1710-04-21)
House of Commons
Members558 MPs
Speaker of the House of CommonsRichard Onslow
House of Lords
Lord Keeper of the Great SealWilliam Cowper
Leader of the House of Lords
1st16 November 1708 (1708-11-16) – 21 April 1709 (1709-04-21)
2nd15 November 1709 (1709-11-15) – 5 April 1710 (1710-04-05)

The Parliament was summoned by Anne, Queen of Great Britain on 26 April 1708. The members of the House of Commons of Great Britain were elected between 30 April 1708 and 7 July 1708 and summoned to meet on 8 July 1708. Under the Triennial Act, the Parliament was due to expire, if not dissolved sooner, at the end of the term of three years from the first meeting. It was actually dissolved on 21 September 1710.

Summary of the Members of Parliament

Key to categories in the following tables: BC - Borough/Burgh constituencies, CC - County constituencies, UC - University constituencies, Total C - Total constituencies, BMP - Borough/Burgh Members of Parliament, CMP - County Members of Parliament, UMP - University Members of Parliament.

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country

Country BC CC UC Total C BMP CMP UMP Total MPs
England 202 39 2 243 404 78 4 486
Wales 13 13 0 26 13 14 0 27
Scotland 15 30 0 45 15 30 0 45
Total 230 82 2 314 432 122 4 558

Table 2: Number of seats per constituency, by type and country

Country BCx1 BCx2 BCx4 CCx1 CCx2 UCx2 Total C
England 4 196 2 0 39 2 243
Wales 13 0 0 12 1 0 26
Scotland 15 0 0 30 0 0 45
Total 32 196 2 42 40 2 314

Party Composition: An estimate of the approximate Party composition was Whig 291 and Tory 222.

Speaker and Ministries

On 16 November 1708, Sir Richard Onslow, Bt (1654-1717), MP (Whig) for Surrey since 1689, was elected the second Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain.

This Parliament was held before the office of Prime Minister had formally come into existence. However the Lord High Treasurer (or when that office was in commission the First Lord of the Treasury) was the most powerful and important minister of the Crown. The Lord High Treasurer at that time (in office in England and then Great Britain since 8 May 1702) was Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin. Godolphin was a Tory, but the Ministry, as last reconstructed in February 1708, included both Tory and Whig members. The factions supporting the Ministry (the 'Court Party') were the Churchill Tories (followers of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough), Court Tory and Whig supporters of any Ministers the Queen cared to appoint, the Walpole-Townshend Whigs and Junto Whigs. They were opposed by the 'Country Party'. The main task of the Ministry was to support Marlborough's armies in continental Europe during the War of the Spanish Succession and Godolphin's financial expertise was essential to that task.

Queen Anne initiated a complete change of Ministry in August 1710. To an extent unusual in the period Godolphin and his friends were all removed from office. A new Ministry was constructed composed of Court Party supporters and Tory groups led by Robert Harley, Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester and Henry St John. Harley, the ambitious member for Radnor Boroughs, had become associated with the Tories since Godolphin and Marlborough had forced his resignation from the government in 1708.

On 10 August 1710, the office of Lord High Treasurer was put in commission. John Poulett, 1st Earl Poulett became First Lord of the Treasury and Robert Harley the Chancellor of the Exchequer (and Second Lord of the Treasury).

Soon after taking office the new Ministers arranged for Parliament to be dissolved.

Notable Acts passed by the Parliament

See also


  • (Election dates in 1708) - British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings & Michael Thrasher (Ashgate 2000).
  • (The change of Ministry in 1710) - His Majesty's Opposition 1714-1830 by Archibald S. Foord (Clarendon Press 1964)
Preceded by
1st Parliament of Great Britain
2nd Parliament of Great Britain
Succeeded by
3rd Parliament of Great Britain
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