The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy. It means that the monarch reigns but does not rule.
Britain does not have a written constitution, but a set of laws.
Parliament is the most important authority in Britain. Parliament is made up of three parts: the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In reality the House of Commons is the only one of the three which has true power.
The House of Commons consists of 650Members of Parliament. They are elected by secret ballot every five years. The Prime Minister, or the leader of the Government, is usually the leader of the political party with a majority in the House of Commons.
The functions of the House of Commons are legislation and inspection of government activities. The House of Commons is presided over by the Speaker who is appointed by the Government.
The House of Lords consists of about 1,200 peers. They are Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal (hereditary peers, life peers and Law Lords). The House of Lords is presided over by the Lord Chancellor. The House of Lords has no real power. It acts rather as an advisory council.
Parliament is responsible for British national policy.
The executive power of Great Britain
The executive power of Great Britain can be divided into the three parts.
The Privy Council. Today its main role is to advise the monarch on a range of matters. The most important task of the Privy Council today is performed by its Judicial Committee. This serves as the final court of appeal. It may also be used as an arbiter for a wide range of courts and committees in Britain and overseas.
The Ministry.The Ministry is the government of the moment. The head of the Ministry is the Prime Minister. The functions of the Prime Minister are: leading the majority party; running the Government; appointing Cabinet Ministers and other ministers; representing the nation in political matters.
The Cabinet constitutes the centre of the government and is composed of about 20 of the most important ministers. The Cabinet forms the Government policy. The Cabinet makes its decisions collectively and is collectively responsible to Parliament.
Government Departments.Government departments are responsible for implementing Government policy. Each department is headed by two people: a political head who is usually the minister, and an administrative head from the Civil Service, called a permanent secretary.
There are also government agencies formed to operate public services. Most of the agencies are subject to the control of one of the government departments.
British legal system
There are three separate systems of law in the United Kingdom: the legal systems and law courts of 1) England and Wales, 2) Scotland, and 3) Northern Ireland.
The most common type of law court in England and Wales is the magistrates' court. The Magistratesí Courts try the majority of all criminal cases and some civil cases.
More serious criminal cases then go to the Crown Court. Civil cases are dealt with in County courts.
Appeals are heard by higher courts. The highest court of appeal in England and Wales is the House of Lords. (Scotland has its own High Court in Edinburgh which hears all appeals from Scottish courts). Certain cases may be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The legal system also includes juvenile courts (which deal with offenders under 17) and coroners' courts (which investigate violent, sudden or unnatural deaths). There are administrative tribunals which deal with professional standards or disputes between individuals and government departments (for example, over taxation).
The system in Northern Ireland is similar, but the system in Scotland is quite different and separate