The political system of Great Britain
The UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been the official title of the British state ever since 1922.
The UK is constitutional monarchy. This means that the official head of state is the monarch, but his or her powers are limited by the constitution. The British constitution is not written in any single document. Only some of these rules are written down in the form of ordinary laws passed by Parliament at various times.
Parliament is the supreme law-making body in the country. It consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. British parliamentary system is one of the oldest in the world, it developed slowly during the 13th century after King John’s signature of Magna Charta in 1215.
The Commons has 650, elected and paid Members of Parliament. The Lords is made up of hereditary and life peers, two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England.
The House of Lords is also the final court of appeal for civil cases in the United Kingdom and for criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only the Lords of Appeal (Law Lords) – of whom there are 12 employed full-time – take part in judicial proceedings.
The major part of Parliament’s work is revising the Government’s work. From Monday to Thursday all ministers must answer MP´s questions for one hour, the Prime Minister must answer their questions two days a week.
Another important parliamentary task is law-making. A bill (a proposal of a new law) must pass through the Houses and then is sent to the Queen for Royal Assent.
General elections to choose MP´s are held every five years. Voting is not compulsory and is from the age of 18. In 1997 won the Labour Party headed by Tony Blair.
The Government is formed by the party which has the majority in the Parliament and the Queen appoints its leader as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints a team of main ministers as the Cabinet (about 20 people).
The second largest party form the official opposition with its own leader and „shadow cabinet“. At present it is the Conservative Party headed by John Major. The third party represented in the Parliament are the Liberals.
British national flag is called „Union Jack“. It symbolises the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland and dates back from 1801. The flag is made up of the crosses of the patron saints of England (St George’s red cross on a white field), Ireland (St Patrick’s red diagonals on a white field) and Scotland (St Andrew’s white diagonals on a blue field). Wales is not represented because when the flag first appeared it was already united with England. The design and colours (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories.
National anthem is „God Save The Queen“. Each part of the UK has its own symbol:
England – red rose
Ireland – shamrock
Wales – leek, daffodil
Scotland – thistle