Monday, March 10, 2008

British government

Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. The queen reigns, but does not rule.

The legislative power in the country is exercised by Parliament. Parliament makes the laws of Great Britain. It consists of the queen, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords.

The House of Commons is Britain's real governing body. It has 650 members, elected by the people. Members of the House of Commons have no fixed terms. They are chosen in a general election, which must be held at least every five years. But an election may be called anytime, and many Parliaments do not last five years. Almost all British citizens 18 years old or older may vote.

The House of Lords is the upper house of Parliament. If was once the stronger house, but today has little power. If can delay - but never defeat - any bill. The House of Lords has about 1,170 members. The people do not elect them. The House of Lords is composed of hereditary and life peers and peeresses. Their right to sit in the House passes, with their title, usual ly to their oldest sons.

The prime minister is usually the leader of the political party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The monarch appoints the prime minister after each general election. The monarch asks the prime minister to form a Government. The prime minister selects about 100 ministers. From them, he picks a special group to make up the Cabinet.

The Cabinet usually consists of about 20 ministers. The ministers of the more important departments, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Home Office, are named to every Cabinet.

The government draws up most bills and introduces them in Parliament. The queen must approve all bills passed by Parliament before they can become laws. Although the queen may reject a bill, no monarch has since the 1700's.

Law courts of Great Britain operate under three separate legal systems - one for England and Wales, one for Northern Ireland, and one for Scotland. In all three systems, the House of Lords is the highest court of appeal in civil cases. It is also the highest court of appeal in criminal cases, except in Scotland. The queen appoints all British judges on the advice of the government.

Political parties are necessary to Britain's system of government. The chief political parties in Britain today are the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The Conservative Party developed from the Tories, and has been supported by wealthy people as well as professional people and fanners. The Labour Party has been supported by skilled and unskilled workers, especially union members.

The Constitution of Great Britain is not one document. Much of it is not even in writing, and so the country is said to have an unwritten constitution. Some of the written parts of Britain's Constitution come from laws passed by Parliament. Some -from such old documents as Magna Carta, which limited the king's power. Other written parts come from common law, a body of laws based on people's customs and beliefs, and sup­ported in the courts.



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