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THREE ARMS OF THE STATE

The British political system is headed by a monarchy but essentially the powers of the monarch as head of state - currently Queen Elizabeth II - are ceremonial. The most important practical power is the choice of the Member of Parliament to form a government, but invariably the monarch follows the convention that this opportunity is granted to the leader of the political party with the most seats in the House of Commons.

Although any remaining powers of the monarchy are largely ceremonial, the Royal Family does have some subtle and hidden influence on the legislative process because of a little-known provision that senior royals - notably the Queen and her eldest son the Prince of Wales - have to be consulted about legislation that might affect their private interests and given the opportunity to have such legislation amended.

The monarch is determined on the hereditary and primogeniture principles which means that the oldest male child of a monarch is the next in line to the throne. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement of 1701, the monarch and the monarch's spouse cannot be Catholics because the UK monarch is also the Head of the Church of England. These archaic arrangements are currently under review.

In classical political theory, there are three arms of the state:

1. The executive - the Ministers who run the country and propose new laws

2. The legislature - the elected body that passes new laws

3. The judiciary - the judges and the courts who ensure that everyone obeys the laws

In the political system of the United States, the constitution provides that there must be a strict division of powers of these three arms of the state, so that no individual can be a member of more than one. So, for example, the President is not and cannot be a member of the Congress. This concept is called 'separation of powers', a term coined by the French political, enlightenment thinker Montesquieu. This is not the case in the UK where all Ministers in the government are members of the legislature.


Date: 2014-12-29; view: 1340


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BRITISH POLITICAL SYSTEM | THE U.K. PARLIAMENT
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