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The Political System of the United Kingdom



Power in Great Britain is divided among three branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. The United Kingdom is а unitary state and а democratic constitutional monarchy.

Its system of government (often known as the Westminster system) has directly inspired thegovernment of other countries,such as Canada, India, Australia, and Jamaica.

The head of stateand theoretical ultimate source of power in the UK is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II (a descendant of the Saxon king Egbert). Although the reigning monarch is the head of the executive body, an integral part of the legislature, the head of the judicial body, the commander- in- chief of the Armed Forces of the Crown, the head of the Established Church of England and the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In reality, the Queen has an essentially ceremonial role, restricted in exercise of power by convention and public opinion, though the monarch does exercise three essential rights: the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn. In practical terms, the political head of the UK is the Prime Minister, who must have the support of the House of Commons. In formal terms, the Crown in Parliament is sovereign.

Parliament, the law- making body of the British people, consists of three elements: the Monarchy, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They meet together only оn occasions of ceremonial significance, such as the state opening of Parliament, although the agreement of all three is normally required for legislation. Parliament in Britain has existed since 1265. Parliament meets at the Раlасе of Westminster.

The House of Commons consists of 651 elected members called Members of Parliament or MPs. Its main purpose is to make laws bу passing Acts of Parliament, as well as to discuss current political issues. The executive branch is headed bу the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister or leader of the Government, is also an MP, usually the leader of the political party with a majority in 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 Prime Minister is advised by the Cabinet of about twenty other ministers. All major decisions of the Government are made by the Cabinet, and therefore it is the Cabinet, which forms Government policy. The Cabinet includes the ministers in charge of major government departments or ministries. Departments and ministries are run by civil servants, who are permanent officials. Even if the Government changes after an election, the same civil servants are employed. Elections to the House of Commons are an important part of Britain's democratic system.

The House of Lords consists of around 1,270 non- elected members: the Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual. The Lords Spiritual are the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, together with twenty- four senior bishops of the Church of England. The Lords Temporal consist of hereditary peers and peeresses who have inherited their titles: life peers who are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Government for various services to the nation: and the Lords of Appeal (Law Lords) who become life peers on their judicial appointments. The latter serve the House of Lords as the ultimate Court of Appeal. This Appeal Court consists of some nine Law Lords who hold senior judicial office. They are presided over by the Lord Chancellor and they form a quorum of three to five when they hear appeal cases. The main legislative function of the House of Lords is to examine and revise bills from the Commons. The Lords cannot normally prevent proposed legislation from becoming law if the Commons insists оn it.

The judicial branch interprets the laws. Тhe highest judicial body is the Supreme Court of Judicature, which consists of two divisions: the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal. 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 Lords Chancellor, and the Home Secretary. The Lords 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. It is often said that English law is superior to the law of most other countries. The English judicial system contains many rules which protect the individual against arbitrary action by the police and the government. There are two mаіn types of court for criminal cases: Magistrates' Courts and Crown Courts for more serious offences.





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