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State Structure of the United Kingdom
Subject of Study:
Texts: A. State Structure of the United Kingdom.
B. The Monarchy
C. Electoral System
D. Political Party System
A. Tenses in the Active Voice
Degrees of Comparison
Text A. Read and translate the text. Do exercises given bellow.
The Constitutional Monarchy
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the powers of the monarch are limited by the country's constitution.
The British constitution, unlike that of most other countries, is an unwritten constitution, not being contained in any single legal document. It is formed partly by statute law(Acts of Parliament)and important documents (such as Magna Carta),partly by common law(a series of laws dating back to the Middle Ages), and partly by customs and conventions and can be altered by a simple Act of Parliament like any other law. The constitution thus is constantly changing in response to the interpretation of laws in the courts and the introduction of new Acts of Parliament and adapts readily to changing political conditions and ideas. In theory the Constitution safeguards the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
The legislature,which consists of both Houses of Parliament and formally the monarch, is the supreme authority, the supreme law-making body.
The executiveconsists of the Government – the Cabinet and government ministries (or departments) headed by ministers (or secretaries of state). The government is responsible for putting laws into effect and directing national policy and acts formally in the name of the monarch.
The judiciaryis composed mainly of the judges of the higher courts who determine the common law and interpret Acts of Parliament and decide on cases arising out of the laws. The judiciary is supposed to be independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.
The organs of government are clearly distinguishable, although their functions often intermingle and overlap. The monarch is formally the head of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. A member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons and a member of the House of Lords may both be in the government of the day. A Law Lord in the House of Lords also serves the House of Lords as the highest appeal court.
The division of powers is shown in the table:
Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative authority and consists of three separate elements: the Queen, the House of Lords and the elected House of Commons. These are outwardly separate, constituted on different principles, and meet together only on occasions of symbolic significance such as the state opening of Parliament. Over the centuries the balance between the three parts of the legislature has changed, so that the Queen's role is now only formal and the House of Commons has gained supremacy over the House of Lords.
Functions of Parliament
The main functions of British Parliament today are as follows:
• to pass laws
• to vote on financial bills so that the government could carry on his work
• to discuss the government's administrative policies — foreign affairs, the state of agriculture, educational problems, etc.
• to debate important political issues of the day.
By custom, Parliament is also informed before the ratification of all important international treaties and agreements. The making of treaties is, however, a royal prerogative exercised on the advice of the government and is not subject to parliamentary approval.
Meeting of Parliament
A Parliament has a maximum duration of five years, but it is not fixed, and the government of the day may dissolve it and call for a general election at any time during the term. This is done by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The life of a Parliament is divided into periods, called sessions.Each usually lasts for one year — normally beginning and ending most often in October or November. Each session is ended by prorogation.Parliament then 'stands prorogued', until the new session begins. Prorogation terminates nearly all parliamentary business: in particular, bills which have not been passed by the end of the session are lost, and every new session begins with a clean slate.
At weekends, at Christmas, Easter and the late Spring Bank Holiday as well as during a long summer 'recess' (usually late July until October) Parliament is adjourned.
Making legislation or creating laws is Parliament's main function and the most important job of MPs. Every year, Parliament passes about a hundred laws directly, by making Acts of Parliament. As this can be a long process, Parliament sometimes passes a very general law and then leaves a minister (or a civil servant) to fill in the details (these usually involve Orders and Regulations). This procedure, called delegated legislation, is designed to save parliamentary time and increase the number of laws and regulations to about 2,000.
A draft law takes the form of a parliamentary bill. There are two main types of bills — Private Bills and Public Bills. Private Bills are intended to give powers or benefits to individuals (such as certain proposals relating to railways and roads) or to particular bodies (such as individual local authorities) and thus can affect only one particular area or organisation and not the whole country.
Most are Public Bills,called so, as they are intended to change the general law and thus to affect the public as a whole. Public bills are introduced into either House, by a government minister and are known as 'Government Bills'.
An ordinary ('private' or 'backbench') member (or peer) also has a right to initiate bills. These are then called Private Member's Billsand often concern moral issues.
Before a government bill is drafted, there usually takes place a full public discussion in the form of consultations with specialists, professional and voluntary organisations, various pressure groups. The government proposals, documents and consultation papers are usually collected and published in what is called 'Green Papers'. The purpose of a Green Paper is to acquaint the public with them and, consequently, invite views and comments from those interested in government proposals while they are still taking shape. The following preliminary document stating the details of what the government plans is called a 'White Paper' and is circulated around and possibly debated in Parliament before a bill is introduced.
Public Bills must normally be passed by both Houses. Government bills likely to raise political controversy usually go through the Commons before being discussed in the Lords, while bills of a technical but non-political nature often pass through the Lords first. A bill with a mainly financial purpose is nearly always introduced in the Commons.
The process of passing a public (or government) bill is similar in both Houses. Its publication in printed form is announced in the chamber, and this announcement is called its first reading. The process is formal and there is no voting at this stage.
The term ‘reading’ dates back to the days before printing, when the only way MPs could find out what a bill contained was by having the contents read out to them. Therefore the next stages within parliament are known as 'readings', although now MPs do have a printed copy.
After an interval ranging from one day to several months, the bill will receive its second reading, during which the general principles of the bill are discussed.
If the House votes for the bill, it proceeds to the committee stage. This involves a standing committee (of about 18 MPs) examining the bill in detail and suggesting amendments.
If the House so decides the whole House sitting in committee may refer to the bill.
The committee stage is followed by the report stage (‘consideration’) on the floor of the House, during which further amendments may be considered. In the Commons, the report stage is usually followed immediately by the third reading debate.
The third reading considers the revised bill in its final form, usually on a purely formal basis. However, debate is still possible if demanded by at least six MPs. (This delaying tactic may be used by the opposition parties to hold up the passage of a bill). After the third reading, a Commons bill will be sent to the House of Lords; this second chamber has time to examine bills and make amendments. As in the Commons, the bills go through the same stages once more: the first reading introduces the Bill, the second explains it in more detail, then it goes on to the Committee stage, which is different in that it is conducted in the chamber itself, not in a committee room. Any Lord who is interested in the bill can take part in the discussion. This stage is followed by the report stage and then the third reading, where the Lords get their last chance to look at the bill as a whole. Amendments made by the second House must be agreed by the first, or a compromise reached.
Traditionally, the British government is based on the Cabinet principle which means that out of one hundred of ministers, the 20 or so senior ministers are invited by the Prime Minister to form the Cabinet. The principle also means that the position of the Prime Minister is that of 'first among equals'. Among the 20 Cabinet ministers (the number can vary) there are the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Defence, Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the Secretary of Trade and Industry and the Secretary of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
The Cabinet presided by the Prime Minister, usually meets for a few hours once a week in the Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street. The Cabinet meets in private and its proceedings are secret (its members are bound by an oath not to disclose information about them).
The Cabinet's functions are to make the main decisions about government policy as well as to exercise the supreme control over and to coordinate Government Departments. There are many cabinet committees, some permanent and meeting regularly, others set up to deal with special problems. Each of these committees includes ministers from relevant departments. The Prime Minister decides who is to be in each committee, what each one has to do, and what matters are included in the full cabinet's agenda; he also has informal meetings with one or two ministers alone.
These arrangements are made necessary by the complexity of modern government, but they also increase the Prime Minister's personal influence. This authority is also helped by the Prime Minister's power to appoint all ministers, and to dismiss any of them at any time.
The Prime Minister's other responsibilities include informing the Queen during the weekly audience of the general policies and business of the government; recommending a number of appointments to the Queen such as Church of England archbishops, bishops and deans, senior judges, Privy Councillors and Lord-Lieutenants. They also include certain civil appointments, such as Poet Laureate, Constable of the Tower, some university posts; and appointments, such as chairmanship of nationalised industries, the BBC and various boards.
As the Prime Minister has great power within the British system of government, there are arguments that the office has become like an all-powerful presidency. It is partially true, as there seems to be a greater emphasis upon the prime ministerial government rather than on the traditional constitutional notions of the Cabinet government according to which the Cabinet collectively initiates and decides government policy. It also has control of the government apparatus and ministries because it is composed of members of the majority party in the Commons. Still, the popular convention that Government rule is Cabinet rule seems to have become much weaker. Since it is the Prime Minister who is responsible for the Cabinet agendas and the control of the Cabinet proceedings, the Cabinet itself can become merely a 'rubber-stamp' to policies which have already been decided upon by the Prime Minister, or by a smaller group (sometimes called the Inner Cabinet).
Much depends on the personality of the Prime Minister in this situation. Some are strong and like to take the lead. Others have given the impression of being able to work within a traditional Cabinet structure.
The judiciary is independent of the executive; its judgements are not subject to ministerial direction or control. The Prime Minister recommends the highest judicial appointments to the Crown. The Lord Chancellor is the head of the judiciary except in Scotland (although Britain is a unitary state, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legal systems). The Lord Chancellor’s responsibilities include administration of all courts, judicial appointments and appointment of magistrates.
Ex. 1.Read the words. Mind the stress.
Ex. 2. Complete the list of derivatives. Use a dictionary if necessary.
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