British Parlament

             British Parliament.

Great Britain is a constitutional  monarchy.  This  means  that  it  has  a
monarch as its Head of the State. The monarch reigns with  the  support  of
Parliament. The powers of the monarch are not defined precisely. Everything
today is done in the Queens name. It is her government, her armed  forces,
her law courts and so on. She appoints all  the  Ministers,  including  the
Prime Minister. Everything is done however on the  advice  of  the  elected
Government, and the monarch takes no part in the decision-making process.
Once the British Empire included a large number of countries  all  over  the
world ruled by Britain. The process of decolonisation  began  in  1947  with
the independence of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. Now there is no  Empire  and
only few small islands belong to Britain. In  1997  the  last  colony,  Hong
Kong, was given to China. But the British ruling classes tried not  to  lose
influence over the former colonies of the British Empire. An association  of
former members of the British Empire and Britain was founded in 1949. It  is
called the Commonwealth. It includes many countries such as Ireland,  Burma,
the Sudan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others.  The  Queen  of  Great
Britain is also a Head of the Commonwealth, and also the  Queen  of  Canada,
Australia, New Zealand...
The British Constitution.  The British Constitution is to a large  extent  a
product of many historical events and has thus evolved aver many  centuries.
Unlike the constitutions of most other countries, it is not set out  in  any
single document. Instead it is made  up  of  statute  law,  common  law  and
conventions. The constitution can be change by Act  of  Parliament,  or  by
general agreement to alter a convention.
The Monarchy in Britain.  When the Queen was born on  21  April  1926,  her
grandfather, King George V, was on the throne and her uncle was  his  heir.
The death of her grandfather and the abdication of her uncle  (King  Edward
VIII) brought her father to the throne in 1936 as King George VI. Elizabeth
II came to the throne an 6 February 1952 and was crowned on  2  June  1953.
Since then she made many trips to different countries and to the  UK  also.
The Queen is very rich, as are others  members  of  the  royal  family.  In
addition, the government pays for her expenses as Head of the State, for  a
royal yacht, train and aircraft as  well  as  for  the  upkeep  of  several
palaces. The Queens image appears on stamps, notes and coins.
The Powers of Parliament. The three elements, which make up Parliament the
Queen, the House  of  Lords  and  the  elected  House  of  Commons  ,  are
constituted on different principles. They meet together only  on  occasions
of symbolic significance such as the State Opening of Parliament, when  the
Commons are invited by the Queen to the House of Lords.
Parliament consists of two chambers known as the  House  of  Lords  and  the
House of Commons. Parliament and the monarch have  different  roles  in  the
government  of  the  country,  and  they  only  meet  together  on  symbolic
occasions such as coronation of a new monarch or the opening of  Parliament.
In reality, the House of Commons is the only one of the three which is  true
power. It is here  that  new  bills  are  introduced  and  debated.  If  the
majority of the members arent in favour of a bill it goes to the  House  of
Lords to be debated and finally to the monarch to be signed.  Only  than  it
becomes law. Although a bill must be supported  by  all  three  bodies,  the
House of Lords only has limited powers, and the monarch  hasnt  refused  to
sign one.
The Functions of Parliament. The main functions of Parliament are: to  pass
laws; to provide, by voting taxation, the means of carrying on the work  of
government; to scrutinise government policy and administration;  to  debate
the major issues of the day. In carrying  out  these  functions  Parliament
helps to bring the relevant facts and  issues  before  the  electorate.  By
custom, Parliament is  also  informed  before  all-important  international
treaties and agreements are ratified.
A Parliament has a maximum duration of five years, but in practice  general
elections are usually held before the  end  of  this  term.  Parliament  is
dissolved and rights for a general election are ordered by the Queen on the
advice of the Prime Minister. The life of  a  Parliament  is  divided  into
sessions. Each usually lasts for one year  normally beginning  and  ending
in October or November. The adverse number of "sitting" days in  a  session
is about 168 in the House of Commons and about 150 in the House  of  Lords.
At the start of each session the Queen's speech to Parliament outlines  the
Governments policies and proposed legislative programme.
The House of Commons.  The House of Commons is elected and consists of  651
Members of Parliament (MPs). At present there are 60 women, three Asian and
three black Mps. Of the 651 seats, 524 are for England, 38  for  Wales,  72
for Scotland, and 17 for Northern  Ireland.  Members  are  paid  an  annual
salary of 30,854.  The chief officer  of  the  House  of  Commons  is  the
Speaker, elected by the MPs to preside over the House. The House of Commons
plays the major role in law making.
MPs sit on two sides of the hall, one side for the governing party  and  the
other for the opposition. Parliament has intervals during its work. MPs  are
paid for their parliamentary work and have to attend the sittings. MPs  have
to catch the Speaker's eye when they want to  speak,  then  they  rise  from
where they have been sitting to address the House and  must  do  so  without
either reading a prepared speech or consulting notes.

The House of Lords. The House of Lords consists of the Lords Spiritual  and
the Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual are the Archbishops  of  Canterbury
and York, and the 24 next most senior bishops of the Church of England. The
Lords Temporal consist of: all hereditary  peers   of   England,  Scotland,
Great Britain and the United Kingdom; all other life peers. Peerages,  both
hereditary and life, are created by the Sovereign  on  the  advice  of  the
Prime Minister. They are usually  granted  in  recognition  of  service  in
politics or other walks of life. In 1992 there were 1,211  members  of  the
House of Lords, including the two archbishops and  24  bishops.  The  Lords
Temporal consisted of 758 hereditary peers and 408 life peers. The House is
presided over by the Lord Chancellor, who takes his place on  the  woolsack
as the Speaker of the House.
The division of Parliament into two Houses goes back  over  some  700  years
when feudal assembly ruled the country.  In  modern  times,  real  political
power rests in the elected House although members  of  the  House  of  Lords
still occupy important cabinet posts.
The Political Party System.  The present political system depends upon  the
existence of organised  political  parties,  each  of  which  presents  its
policies to the electorate for approval. The parties are not registered  or
formally recognised in law, but in practice most candidates  in  elections,
and almost all winning candidates, belong to one of' the main parties.
For the last 150 years there were only 2 parties:  the  Conservative  Party
and  the Labour Party. A new party   the Liberal Democrats  was formed in
1988. Social Democratic Party is also the new one founded  in  1981.  Other
parties  include two nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru (founded in Wales  in
1925) and the Scottish National Party (founded in 1934).
The effectiveness of the party system in Parliament rests  largely  on  the
relationship between the Government and the Opposition  parties.  Depending
on the relative strengths of the parties  in  the  House  of  Commons,  the
Opposition may seek to overthrow the Government by defeating it in  a  vote
on a  "matter  of  confidence".  In  general,  however,  its  aims  are  to
contribute to the formation of policy and   legislation   by   constructive
criticism;  to  oppose  government proposal - it  considers  objectionable;
to seek amendments to government bills; and to put forward its own policies
in order to improve its chances of winning the next general election.
Because of the electoral method in use, only two major parties obtain  seats
in the House of Commons. People belonging to smaller political parties  join
one of the larger parties and work  from  within  to  make  their  influence
felt. The exception to this are members of the Scottish National  and  Welsh
Nationalist Parties, who, because their influence votes are concentrated  in
specific geographical areas, can manage to win seats  although  their  total
support is relatively small.
Her Majesty's  Government:  Prime  Minister,  the  Cabinet.  Her  Majesty's
Government  is   the    body    of    ministers    responsible    for   the
administration  of national affairs. The Prime Minister is appointed by the
Queen, and all other ministers are  appointed   by   the   Queen   on   the
recommendation  of  the  Prime Minister. Most ministers are members of  the
Commons, although the Government is also fully represented by ministers  in
the Lords. The composition of governments can vary both  in the  number  of
 ministers and in  the  titles  of  some offices. New  ministerial  offices
may be created, others may be abolished and functions  may  be  transferred
from one minister to another.
The Prime Minister is also, by tradition, First Lord of  the  Treasury  and
Minister for the Civil Service.  The Prime Ministers  unique  position  of
authority derives from majority support in the House of  Commons  and  from
the power  to  appoint  and  dismiss  ministers.  By modern convention, the
Prime Minister always sits in the House  of  Commons.  The  Prime  Minister
presides over the Cabinet, is responsible for the allocation  of  functions
among ministers and informs  the   Queen  at   regular  meetings   of   the
general  business  of  the  Government.  The  Prime  Minister's  Office  is
situated at 11 Downing Street.
The Cabinet is composed of about 20 ministers chosen by the Prime Minister.
The functions of the Cabinet are initiating and  deciding  on  policy,  the
supreme  control  of  government  and  the  co-ordination   of   government
departments. The exercise  of  these functions  is   vitally   affected  by
the  fact  that  the Cabinet is a group of party representatives, depending
upon majority support in the House of Commons. The Cabinet meets in private
and its proceedings are confidential. Its members are bound by  their  oath
as Privy Counsellors not to disclose  information  about  its  proceedings,
although  after  30  years   Cabinet  papers  may  be  made  available  for
inspection.
So Great Britain is the constitutional monarchy. Monarch is the Head of the
State. But Queen or King rules with the  support  of  the  parliament.  And
practically monarch have  no  real  political  power.  The  main  political
decisions are made by the Parliament and Cabinet. And the House of  Commons
are more powerful.


"British Parlament"