THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT Britain is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy based on the principle that the people have the right to choose their representatives, who will sit in the parliament and legislate for the nation.
Britain does not have a written constitution but a set of laws that have been developed since the Magna Carta (1215) up to the present, side by side with the growth of power of Parliament itself. The British Parliament is made up of three components: the monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The monarch is the official head of the Parliament, head of executive, head of judiciary, head of state, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and supreme governor of the Church of England.
He/she reigns but does not rule in England. Nevertheless, he/she can perform some important executive and legislative duties as opening and dissolving the Parliament, signing bills which have been passed by both Houses (the Royal Assent), holding audiences with the Prime Minister and carrying out international duties as head of state. He/she is expected to be politically neutral, in fact he/she acts only on the advice of political ministers and cannot make laws, impose taxes, spend public money or act unilaterally. The succession to the throne is hereditary but only for Protestants in the direct line of descent. The actual sovereign is Queen Elisabeth II, who was crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1953. The parliament is composed by two Houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords (or Upper House), presided over by the Lord Chancellor, has no real power and can suggest only amendments to a bill proposed by the Commons. This House is a peculiar feature of the British parliamentary system: its members are not elected, they are either Lords Temporal (lay peers) or Lords Spiritual (archbishops and bishops). The House of Commons (or Lower House) consists of Members of Parliament (659 members (MPs) after the elections in 1997) who are elected by the British people in general elections which are held at least every five years (but in practice it is the Prime Minister who chooses the best moment for a new election). Its functions are legislation and scrutiny of government activities. The person who controls discussion in this House, supervises voting and announces the final result is the Speaker (who is appointed by the government after consultation with the leader of the Opposition). General elections are held by secret ballot, but voting is not compulsory in Britain, where you can vote if you are resident in Britain, aged 18 or over, registered in a constituency and not subject to disqualification. Each political party puts up a candidate for each constituency and the one who wins more votes is elected MP for that area (simple majority system or “first past the post” system). Thanks to the British electoral system there are few political parties in Britain. The