Britain Lesson 7 - Political System

By Andrew Armstrong,2014-05-27 15:06
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Britain Lesson 7 - Political System



     Lesson 7 ?C Political System

     I: The Monarchy

     British Monarchy is hereditary

     Constitutional Monarchy began at the end of the 17th century when Parliament established its rights

     In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen??s power is limited by laws of the nation

     After World War II

     ?C Conservative Party and Labor Party have taken turns being in power

     Current Monarch is Queen Elizabeth II

     ?C She became Queen in 1952 ?C She is married to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

     They have four sons ? The oldest, Prince Charles, is the heir to the throne

     Constitutionally, the Monarch seems to have great power BUT

     ?C Practically everything the Monarch does is done on the advice of her ministers ?C Everything has been decided in advance by the Parliament or the Prime Minister together with the Cabinet

     Most power lies in the Prime Minister and his cabinet

     ?C Lead the departments of the government in managing affairs at home and abroad ?C They make and carry out all of the important decisions

     II: Parliament

     Parliament consists of three parts

     ?C The Crown ?C The House of Lords ?C The House of Commons

     These three branches do different work in different places and meet only on occasions of symbolic significance

     British Parliament is the Legislature = the body which makes or unmakes laws

     Government cannot spend any money without the permission of the House of Commons

     1. The House of Lords

     Oldest part of Parliament

     ?C Very traditional branch ?C Also known as the ??Upper House?? ?C No bill can become a law until they have been consulted

     BUT they are really powerless to decide important things ? Cannot prevent the passing of bills approved by the House of Commons

     2. The House of Commons

     Known as the ??lower house?? ?C where the real power lies ? Head = Speaker or President of the Chamber

     ?C Very influential ?C second to the Prime Minister

     Divided by political parties ?C split in two

     III: The Government

     Every important decision is made and carried out by the Cabinet

     ?C Directs and controls the armed forces, the police, the courts, the prisons, etc.

     ?C The Cabinet is the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Privy Council, the heads of the most important Departments, and a few other ministers

     1. Central Government

     (1) The Privy Council

     ?C Established in the 15th century ?C Now has no importance in terms of exercising real political power

     (2) The Cabinet

     ?C Prime Minister

     Chooses all other ministers

     ?C Very influential: decisionmaking organ, determines government policies ?C Cabinet works in great secrecy ?C Must always answer to Parliament

     (3) The Prime Minister

     ?C Leader of the political party that has won the majority of seats in the House of Commons ?C Organizes the Cabinet and leads their meetings ?C Head of the Government = most influential person in Great Britain

     2. Local Government

     United Kingdom = four big regions (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland)

     ?C Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems

     Local government has limited powers

     ?C Parliament and central government

     Local government has many duties

     ?C Manages local transportation, roads, the police, the fire brigade, local courts, plans and builds houses, deals with garbage, protects the environment, handles education, etc.

     IV: Parties and Elections

     1. Parties and the Two-Party System

     Two major political parties in Britain today

     ?C Conservative Party ?C Labor Party

     First two political parties in Britain

     ?C Tories became the Conservatives in 1833 ?C Whigs became the Liberals in 1860

     Working class was unwilling to follow either party, wanted to have their own party

     ?C Labor party was formed ?C Replaced Liberal party as the other major political party in Britain

     Conservative Party

     ?C Opposed to great changes in society ?C Believe in private enterprise and freedom from state control ?C Conservatives usually have more money (want to keep it)

     Labor Party ?C currently in power (Gordon Brown)

     ?C Believes in the pursuit of greater social and economic equality ?C Aims at nationalization of production, distribution, and exchange

     2. Election

     General elections are held every 5 years ? Every man and woman over 18 can vote (since 1969)

     ?C If the party which had the majority before gets the majority again, government does not change ?C If the other party gets majority, Prime Minister will resign

     V: The Judiciary

     Lord Chancellor presides over the administration of Justice ? Judicial Organizations can be divided into two levels

     ?C The central courts

     Only take more important cases

     ?C The local courts: deal with all cases, big or small

     If the case is too serious for the magistrates, they send it to be tried at a higher court

     Two types of courts (based on cases)

     ?C The Civil Courts: takes cases of debts, contracts, divorce, wills, properties, etc.

     Mostly punish with fines

     ?C The Criminal Courts: deals with various crimes

     Mostly punish with imprisonment

     Jury must be present in most trials

     ?C Decides whether accused person is guilty or innocent

     Judge determines the sentence


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