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The British Government

The British Government

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By Jane Lawson at DailyStep.com

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When you think of the British state, perhaps the first image that comes to mind is the Royal Family. Actually, the Queen is still our Head of State, but she does not have any real power any more.

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The system of government in Britain is a Constitutional Monarchy, which is quite funny because Britain is one of the only democratic countries without a written constitution. But nevertheless, the powers of the monarch are limited by our laws and historic conventions, starting in the year 1215 with a document called the Magna Carta, which restricted the power of the monarch for the first time.

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Our Parliament consists of two parts: the House of Commons, also called the Lower House, and the House of Lords, also called the Upper House. Both the Commons and the Lords meet at the Houses of Parliament, otherwise known as the Palace of Westminster. You can see it in the top picture – its clock is the world famous Big Ben, one of the most iconic images of Britain.

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The House of Commons is where the democratically elected MPs (Members of Parliament) work. There are 650 MPs, who are elected by voters in each general election. Most of the MPs come from 3 political parties – the Conservative party (the Tories), the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats (the Lib Dems). The party that wins the most votes in the general election forms the government, and the head of that party then becomes the Prime Minister, or PM. The current government is actually a coalition of the Tories and the Lib Dems, because no single party got enough votes to form a government at the last election. The main party that is not in power is called the ‘Opposition’. Currently, this is the Labour Party, and it is their job to challenge the Government.

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The House of Lords used to be the more powerful House of Parliament, but now much of their power has transferred to the Commons. The members of the Lords are not elected – and this is a controversial issue. The Lords used to be filled with hereditary peers, in other words, people who had inherited the title ‘Lord.’ But that system is changing. The problem is, though, that members of the Lords are now appointed by the Prime Minister, so they are political appointments, often given for the wrong reasons – such as big financial donations to the Prime Minister’s election campaign. In 2006, several people that Tony Blair tried to appoint to the House of Lords were rejected by the Appointments Commission for this very reason, and the media called this the ‘Cash for Peerages’ scandal.

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The Speaker of the House of Lords, who chairs the debates, still sits on a chair stuffed with wool, called the Woolsack – as you can see in the bottom picture. This tradition goes back to the fourteenth century (the 1300s), when wool was our most important export, and the woolsack was a symbol of prosperity!


Категория: Мои статьи | Добавил: Светлана (24.11.2011)
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