Text 5. THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT IN GREAT BRITAIN.
What is the Government? The Government is the management of the country. The Government makes the important decisions, e.g. about foreign policy, education, or health, but all these decisions have to be approved by Parliament. If Parliament thinks that a particular Government policy is against the public interest, then it can force the Government to change its mind.
State Organs of the United Kingdom include the monarchy, the legislative, executive and judicial organs of Government.
The monarchy is the most ancient institution in the United Kingdom, with a continuous history stretching back over a thousand years. The monarchy is hereditary. Queen Elizabeth II, who succeeded to the throne in 1952, is the head of the judiciary, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Crown and the temporal head of the established Church in England. Her Majesty’s Government governs in the name of the Queen who must act on the advice of her ministers.
Parliament is the legislative organ of the United Kingdom.
What do we mean by Parliament? The Parliament of the United Kingdom consists of the Queen hereditary monarch, the House of Lords (almost 1300 unelected members or peers) and the House of Commons (659 elected Members of Parliament). All three combine to carry out the work of Parliament.
The House of Lords is still a hereditary body. It consists of the Lords Temporal and the Lord Spiritual. The House of Lords is presided over by the Lord Chancellor who is the chairman of the House.
The House of Commons is an elected and representative body. Members are paid a salary and an allowance. The Speaker of the House of Commons is elected by the members of the House immediately after each new Parliament is formed.
The Government consists of approximately 100 members of the political party which has the majority of seats in the House of Commons.
What does Parliament do? Making laws (legislations).
The Queen, Lords and Commons all have to agree to any new law which is passed.
Examining the work of Government. Both the Lords and the Commons examine the work of the Government on behalf of the public. They do this by asking the Government questions, by debate and through committees of injury.
Controlling finance. Only the House of Commons can give permission for Government to collect taxes. The House of Commons decides what taxes shall be collected and how the money shall be spent.
Protecting the individual. Members of Parliament (Members of the House of Commons) protect the rights of the individual. Each Member of Parliament represents the people of a certain area. Britain is divided into 659 of these areas, known as constituencies.
Hearing appeals. The House of Lords is a Court of Justice, the highest Court of Appeal in Britain.
Executive. The Government consists of the ministers appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Prime minister is appointed directly by the Crown and is the leader of the political party which has a majority of seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government, he is always a Member of the House of Commons. He consults and advises the Monarch on government business, supervises and coordinates the work of the various ministers and departments in the House of Commons. He also makes recommendations to the Monarch on many important public appointments.
The most senior members of the Government are known as the Cabinet. The Cabinet is the nucleus of the Government. All major decisions of the Government are made by the Cabinet, and therefore it is the Cabinet which forms Government policy.
Who chooses the Cabinet? Members of the Cabinet are chosen by the Prime Minister. A Cabinet must be large enough to include senior ministers. There is no limit on the size of the Cabinet but the number of salaried Secretaries of state is limited to 21. Cabinet meetings are usually held on a Thursday morning in the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street. The current Prime Minister is David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, who was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on May11, 2010 following the General Election on May 6, 2010. The election failed to provide a decisive result, with the Conservatives as the biggest party within a hung parliament. A coalition government was formed on 12 May between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron formed the Cameron ministry after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to begin a new government following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, on 11 May 2010. It is a coalition government, composed of members of both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. The government's Cabinet is made up of sixteen Conservatives and five Liberal Democrats with eight other Conservatives and one other Liberal Democrat attending cabinet but not members. The Cameron Ministry is the first coalition government to have governed the United Kingdom since the Churchill War ministry of the Second World War.
What happens when there is a change in Government?
During the last 27 years there have been eight general elections. Four of these resulted in a charge of Government.
1970 Conservatives took over from Labour.
1974 Labour took over from Conservatives.
1979 Conservatives took over from Labour.
1977 Labour took over from Conservatives.
On each of these occasions the ministers in each Department changed. Ministers of the winning party took over from those of the loosing party. The two main parties have very different ideas – for example, about education, housing and industry.
Departments and ministers are run by civil servants, who are permanent officials. Even if the Government changes after an election, the same civil servants are employed.
The United Kingdom has no Ministry of Justice, Responsibility for the administration of the judicial system in England and Wales is divided between the courts themselves, the Lord Chancellor, and the Home Secretary. The Lord Chancellor is responsible for the composition of the courts, civil law, parts of criminal procedure and law reform in general; the Home Secretary is responsible for the prevention of criminal offences, trial and treatment of offenders and for the prison service.