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Great Britain: constitution. Politics. Law

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Discipline: "British history"


The Constitution. Unlike the constitutions of the US, France and many Commonwealth countries, the British constitution has never been assembled at any time into a single, consolidated document. Instead, it is made up of common law, statute law ( , , ), and convention.

Britain does have some important constitutional documents, including the Magna Carta (1215) which protects the community against the Crown (61 clauses deal with free church, feudal law, towns, trade, and merchants, the behaviour of royal officials, royal forests); the Bill of Rights (1689) which extended the powers of parliament, making it impossible for the sovereign to ignore the wishes of government; the Reform Act (1832), which reformed the system of parliamentary representation.

Common law has never been clearly defined it is deduces from custom or legal precedents and interpreted in court cases by judges. Many conventions derive from the historical events through which the British system of Government has evolved.

The Public Attitude to Politics. Politicians in Britain do not have a good reputation. To describe someone as a politician means to criticize them, suggesting a lack of trustworthiness. It is not that people hate their politicians. They just regard them with high degree of suspicion. They do not expect them to be corrupt or to use their position to amass personal wealth, but they do expect them to be frequently dishonest. People are not really shocked when the government is caught lying. On the other hand, they would be very shocked indeed if it was discovered the government was doing something anything really illegal.

The lack of enthusiasm for politicians may be seen in the fact that surveys have shown a general ignorance of who they are. More than half of the adults in Britain do not know the name of their local member of Parliament, and quite a high proportion do not even know the names of the important government ministers or the leaders of the major political parties.

The British were not always so unenthusiastic. In the centuries past, it was a maxim of gentlemens clubs that nobody should mention politics or religion in polite conversation. If anybody did there was a high there was a danger that the conversation would become too heated, people would become too bad-tempered and perhaps violent. However, there has not been any real possibility of a revolution or even of a radical change in the style of government for almost two centuries now. The stability is now taken for granted. Most people rarely see any reason to become passionate about politics and nobody regards it as a dangerous topic of conversation. They are more likely to regard it as a boring topic of conversation. Still, three-quarters of the adult population are interested enough in politics to vote at national elections.

The Style of Democracy. Two unique aspects of British life will make this clear:

Britain is one of the few European countries whose people do not have identity cards. Before the 1970s, when tourism to foreign countries became popular (and so holding of passports became more common), most people went through life without ever owning a document. Even now British people do not have to carry their identification with them. You even do not have to have your driving license with you in your car. If the police ask to see it, you have 24 hours to take it to them.

Britain is also the only country in the EU without a Freedom of Information Act. There is no law which obliges a government authority or agency to show you what information it has collected about you.

The relationships between an individual and the state both should leave each other alone as much as possible. The duties of an individual towards the state are confined to not breaking the law and to paying taxes. There is no military service; people are not obliged to vote at elections; people do not have to register their change of address with any authority if they move house. Similarly, if the government wants to make an important change in the way the country is run (e.g. the electoral system or the powers of Prime Minister) it does not have to ask people to vote in a referendum. It does not even have to have a special vote in Parliament with an especially high number of MPs in favour. It just needs to get Parliament agree.

In Britain, democracy has never meant that people have a hand in running the country; rather, it means that people choose who will govern the country, and then let them go on with it!

The system of government. In theory, the constitution has three branches: Parliament, which makes laws, the Government, which 'executes' laws, i.e. puts them into effect, and the law courts, which interpret laws. Although the Queen is officially head of all three branches, she has little direct power.

The Queen reigns but does not rule

The Sovereign. Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen. Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

The UK is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the official Head of State and, for many people, a symbol of the unity of the nation. For a thousand years England (and later the whole of the United Kingdom) has been united under one sovereign, a continuity broken only after the Civil War, by the republic of 1649 to 1660. The Crown is passed to the sovereigns eldest son, although in future it will pass to the eldest child, whether son or daughter. The Queen has a central role in state affairs, not only through her ceremonial functions, such as opening Parliament, but also because she meets the Prime Minister every week and receives copies of all Cabinet papers. However, she is expected to be impartial or above politics, and any advice she may offer the Prime Minister is kept secret.

Other countries have citizens, but in the UK people are legally described as subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. Moreover, there is a principle of English law that the monarch can do nothing that is generally wrong. In other words, Queen Elizabeth II is above the law.

Functions of the Sovereign:

opening Parliament every autumn. The Queen makes a speech where she says what my government intends to do in the coming year. As far as the law is concerned, she can choose anybody to run the government for her. In reality, she appoints the head of the party that has won the majority of seats in the House of Commons. The same is true for the people to fill some hundred or so of ministerial positions. Officially speaking, they are all servants of the Crown (not servants of the country or the people). In reality, it is the Prime Minister who decides who the government ministers are going to be (although the Prime Minister simply advises the monarch who to choose). In reality the Queen has almost no power at all. For the ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament, the speech she makes is written for her. She makes no secret of the fact and very obviously reads out of the script, word for word. If she strongly disagrees with one of the policies of the government she might ask to change the wording in the speech, but she cannot stop the government from pursuing the policy.

approving the appointment of the Prime Minister;

giving her Royal Assent ( ) to bills. In theory, the Queen could refuse the Royal Assent and so stop a bill becoming law, but no monarch has actually done so since 1708. The Royal Assent is so automatic that the Queen doesnt even bother to give it in person, somebody else signs the document for her;

giving honours such as peerages, knighthoods and medals. Traditionally, by giving people titles, the monarch honoured them for their services. These days, the decision who gets which honour is made by the Prime Minister, so a high proportion of honours id given to politicians, civil servants, business people, sport stars, musicians and other entertainers.

Head of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a voluntary organisation of 54 independent countries who all share a common history as part of Britains imperial past. The countries are as diverse as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan, Cyprus, India, Barbados, Sri Lanka and Zambia. The British Commonwealth of Nations was set up in 1931 on dismantling of the British Empire, since 1949 it has been known simply as the Commonwealth. Any nation wishing to join must be independent, and its application must be acceptable to existing members. All member states recognize the British monarch as head of the Commonwealth, though he\she is not necessarily the head of each individual state. Members of the Commonwealth have special links with the UK and with each other. All members are equal and agree to work together to advance democracy, human rights and social and economic development, and organises special programmes to help promote trade, science, health, young people and many other specific issues in its member countries. There are no legal or constitutional obligations involved in the membership.

Head of the Church of England;

Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

The National Anthem

God save our gracious () Queen!

Long live our noble Queen!

God save the Queen!

Send her victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us,

God save the Queen!

Many members of the Royal Family undertake official duties in Britain and abroad. Their various responsibilities reflect tradition, their own personal interests and Britains former imperial status.

For example, among her many titles the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) is Chancellor of the University of London, Colonel-in-Chief of eleven Army regiments, including the 8th Canadian Hussars [hu'za:] and the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps, and president of the Save the Children Fund, for whom she has travelled widely.

The Royal Family's money comes from two sources: government funds and their own personal wealth, which is considerable. On the one hand the Queen is certainly one of the richest women in the world, while on the other her power is limited by the fact that so many of her expenses are paid for by government money. Parliament has had effective control of the monarch's finances since the seventeenth century. A survey in 1989 found that 71% of people in Britain thought that the Royal Family offered value for money this was fewer than in previous surveys. As many as 74 per cent thought the younger Royals should get proper jobs.

The British Parliament works in a large building called the Palace of Westminster (popularly known as the Houses of Parliament). This contains offices, committee rooms, restaurants, bars, and libraries. It also contains two larger rooms. One is where the House of Lords meets, the other is where the House of Commons meets. The House of Commons a far more important of the two houses consists of 651 members (524 for England, 38 for Wales, 72 for Scotland, 17 for Northern Ireland). Members of the House of Commons are elected by the voters of about 650 constituencies. They are known as MPs, or Members of Parliament.

The General Election of June 2001 Results

Number of MPs elected % share of vote LABOUR 412 40.7 CONSERVATIVE 166 31.7 LIBERAL
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Great Britain: constitution. Politics. Law


Great Britain: constitution. Politics. Law

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland. The land and the people
The UK of Creat Britain and Nothern Ireland occupies the territory of the British Isles. It consists of 4 main countries which are England, Scotland, Scotland,Wales and Nothern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Cardiff and Belfast.
The British people
The 4 parts of the UK represent 4 nations, which are distinct from each other in almost every aspect of life. They are different racially. The people of Ireland, Wales and Scotland belonged to the Celtic race. Those in England and Scotland were ma
Government and Politics
Introduction 3
How is political power distributed among members of society? 3
Traditional Authority 4
Legal-Rational Authority 4
The Queens House
The Duke of Buckinghams house, which George III purchased in 1762, was designed by the architect William Winde, possibly with the advice of John Talman, in 1702.
The new house, a handsome brick and stone mansion crowned with statuary and
The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland
The United Kingdom is situated in the north-west coast of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean on the north-west and the North Sea on the east.
The U. K. includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Great Britain, the largest island i
The People Trade
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