Institutions of the British Constitution


The Power of Government

Government is the term given to all bodies that make, propose and carry out the policy and laws.


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Prime Minister and Cabinet

The Prime Minister is Head of Government and is normally the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons.

The Cabinet is formed of the most senior members of the government, appointed by the Prime Minister and members head up government departments. The four most senior members are the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary.

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The Sovereignty of Parliament

Only parliament can pass laws in the UK and can repeal or change them.

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The Roles of the Legislature

Another name for Parliament, the body that can pass and amend laws. This can be done through the House of Commons or the House of Lords. The Scottish Parliament also has some ability to pass legislation relating to some Scottish matters.

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The Opposition

The title 'Official Opposition' is given to the largest party not in government. It sits opposite the governing party in the House of Commons.The term 'Opposition' relates to all those MP's representing parties not in the government. The role is to hold the government to account for its actions and oppose government policies they disagree with.

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Political Parties

Political plurality in a democratic system means that the electorate has a range of political parties from which to chose between at elections. A political party is a group of people who share a common ideology and political beliefs and wishes to to win elections in order to carry out their ideas.

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The Monarch

In the UK the Monarch is Head of State. Over the years most of the powers of the monarch have been transferred to elected government. The monarch stills signs every new Act of Paerliament into law and could refuse to do this. The Monarchy in the UK is a constitutional monarchy.

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Without citizens there would be no state so citizens are the most important element of the constitution. In the UK citizens determine the government through voting and the growth in the use of referendums has enhanced the power of the citizens. 

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The Judiciary

In the UK the Judiciary is seperate from government and its members are politically impartial. It is very difficult to remove a judge from office.

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The Police

In the UK there are a number of regional police forces, all of which are unarmed. They prevent crime, arrest suspects and gather evidence.

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The Civil Service

Employees of the government which carry out the policies of the government and advise government. The civil service is based upon three core principles:

Impartiality- Civil servants serve the crown not a specific government. They cannot be members of political parties.

Anonymity- Civil servants are anonymous individuals who should not be identified or associated with specific policies.

Permamence- Civil servants stay in their posts when a government leaves office, they are expected to serve governments irrespective of their composition.

HM Civil Service logo.svg

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