The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

10.9The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is a charity registered under the laws of the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to promote knowledge and understanding of the constitutional, legislative, economic, social and cultural systems within a parliamentary democratic framework. It provides the means of regular consultation among Members of Commonwealth Parliaments; fosters co-operation and understanding among them; and promotes the study of and respect for Parliament. The CPA's main activities comprise an annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, from which the main views expressed are summarised and sent to Members, Commonwealth governments and international agencies; regional conferences; programmes focused on parliamentary development and strengthening; and inter-parliamentary visits. The CPA also publishes a journal, The Parliamentarian, the journal of Commonwealth Parliaments. The CPA was founded in 1911 as the Empire Parliamentary Association, and its affairs were administered by the United Kingdom branch. Evolving with the Commonwealth, the CPA adopted its present name in 1948, and established a separate Secretariat to manage its affairs.

The CPA is composed of autonomous branches formed in legislatures in Commonwealth countries which subscribe to parliamentary democracy. Both national and state or provincial Parliaments, as well as the legislatures of dependent territories, may be members.1 Association branches now exist in over 180 national, state, provincial and territorial Parliaments, with a total membership of over 17,000 parliamentarians.

The General Assembly of the CPA is the Association's supreme authority and is constituted by delegates to the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. The Constitution vests in an Executive Committee the control and management of the activities and business of the CPA. This Committee consists of 35 members, comprising the Officers of the Association (including the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and the Chairperson of Small Branches) and regional representatives from each region of the Commonwealth.2

The Secretariat of the CPA is located in London in premises provided by the House of Commons. A small staff is headed by the Secretary-General, the Association's chief executive officer. The CPA is financed mainly by membership fees paid annually by branches, as well as income from investment funds and other sources. The activities of the United Kingdom branch are overseen by a Committee drawn from Members of both Houses of Parliament.3

The Society of Clerks-at-the-Table of Commonwealth Parliaments (SOCATT) brings together Clerks and some other senior officials of Commonwealth legislatures. The Society usually meets during the CPA's annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, although it has held a free-standing meeting, and publishes an annual journal, The Table. Under the rules of SOCATT, the Principal Clerk of the House of Commons Overseas Office is ex officio the secretary of the Society.4


  1. 1. In the United Kingdom, the Scottish Parliament and the devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Crown Dependencies, are members.
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