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Chapter 13 System of Government December, 2004 Xiao Huiyun
A 1 Introduction Basic Structure of UK Central Government
The System of Government • RepresentativeDemocracy and also known as Parliamentary Democracy • Monarch -- Constitutional Monarch • What powers does the Queen have? • The Sovereign personifies the state and is, in law, an integral part of the legislature, head of the executive, head of the judiciary, the commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Crown and the ‘supreme Governor’ of the Church of England The Crown is the permanent
Queen Elizabeth II Real name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor Birth: 21 April 1926 in London Children: 3 sons, 1 daughter The Monarch
Legislature • Parliament is the highest legislative authority in the United Kingdom – the institution responsible for making and repealing UK law. It is also known as the Legislature. It consists of three constituent parts: • House of Commons • House of Lords • Crown
EXECUTIVE ‘Prime Minister’ and ‘Ministers’ or ‘Secretaries of State’ (about 25) (Political Heads of Government Departments), all MPs, form Cabinet Also Junior Ministers Civil Service(non-political) Permanent officials employed by government. Advise Ministers and implement policy. Top officials popularly known as ‘mandarins’ but accountable to Parliament Executive
Judiciary • JUDICIARY(non-political) • Headed by Lord Chancellor, a leading Law Lord appointed by the Prime Minister. House of Lords is the highest court – will be replaced by the Supreme Court and there will not be Lord Chancellor in the near future, and all this is part of the Constitutional Reform promised by Labour government
A 2 Legislature • Parliament has three main functions: • to examine proposals for new laws; • to scrutinise government policy and administration; • to debate the major issues of the day.
Parliamentary Sovereignty • Parliamentary Sovereignty – Parliamentary Supremacy :Parliament has absolute & ultimate power within the British system • Parliament can pass, repeal and alter any of Britain’s laws. This is one of the major powers that a government has. • In theory there is no body that can declare a law passed by Parliament as unconstitutional - though the full impact of the European Court is not yet known
The Principles of Parliamentary Democracy a.Parliament is Elected and Sovereign b.Parliament selects the executive (“The Cabinet”) c.The cabinet retains executive power only as long as it retains the “confidence” of parliament d.Usually the head of the executive retains the power to disband parliament and call for elections
Parliamentary Elections • General elections are held after Parliament has been ‘dissolved’. • For electoral purposes Britain is divided into (659) constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the House of Commons • The British electoral system is based on the relative majority method sometimes called the ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) principle which means the candidate with more votes than any other is elected. • The leader of the political party which wins most seats (although not necessarily most votes) at a general election, or who has the support of a majority of members in the House of Commons, is by convention invited by the Sovereign to form the new government.
Parliamentary Supremacy & the Sources of Britain’s Constitution • Britain does not have a constitution written down in a single document. The constitution flows from 6 sources: • The Royal Prerogative -- Personal prerogatives are held by the monarch as a person and political prerogatives as head of state. The latter are the most important to the efficient constitution and include the rights to declare war or make peace, pardon criminals, dissolve Parliament, appoint ministers and assent to legislation. With the gradual erosion of the effective powers of the monarchy these ...[have been]..... inherited by the Cabinet and the Prime Minister. • Statue • Common Law • Convention • Authoritative Opinion • European Union Law
Separation of Power, British Style • There is actually no separation of power between the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.*** • This principle of dividing the functions of government is meant to ensure that there is no excessive use or abuse of power by any small group of people.
Separation of Power, British Style • The Prime Minister is an active member of the legislative, yet he is also the leading member of the executive. • Also the Lord Chancellor is a member of the cabinet and therefore of the executive as well as being head of the judiciary • The House of Lords also has a right to vote on bills so they are part of the legislative but the Lords also contains the Law Lords who are an important part of the judiciary • As with the PM, the members of the Cabinet are also members of the legislative who have the right, as a Member of Parliament, to vote on issues
Power vs Corruption • Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.(Lord Acton, British historian, 1834-1902) • Politicians are almost always liars • I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. (Thomas Jefferson)
Freedom & Dutiesthe Limits to Freedom • Civil Liberties under Parliamentary Democracy: • the freedom to organise politically • the freedom of speech • the freedom of the press • the equality of all people under the law • These rights are not absolute but have to be established and limited by the law. For example freedom of speech is limited by the law of libel and contempt. Such laws are decided by Parliament.
Libel? Contempt? • "Prime Minister, do you have blood on your hands? Are you going to resign?“ • Those were the shocking questions posed by a British journalist to Tony Blair at his press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on July 19, 2003 • The questions left Blair shaken and literally speechless for the first time in his premiership. His Japanese counterpart rescued him by grabbing his arm and leading him out of the press room.
Constitutional Reform • Constitutional Reform • Devolution • House of Lords reform • Partial independence for Bank of England • Freedom of Information • Parliamentary select committees • Electoral reform • A written constitution; a “bill of rights”
House of Lords House of commons
The House of Lords • 750 Members were not elected. The 1999 Act reduced the number to 92. • 503 Members are called life peers appointed by the Queen • 600 members will be chosen to ensure that the House represents a cross-section of British society. Constitutional Reform*
Reforms to the House of LordsConstitutional Reform • a second chamber of 600 members • an end to 92 hereditary peers still in the Lords • 120 members elected by the public • 120 appointed by a statutory independent commission • the rest would be appointed by political parties in proportion to votes received by a party at the most recent general election • the second chamber would have no veto over government legislation - merely the right to delay its introduction • bishops to be reduced from 25 to 16 • a minimum of those in the second chamber will be female; minority groups will be represented • the final tally of 600 will be met over a 10 year period
The House of Commons • The House of Commons consists of 659 Members of Parliament (MPs) who are elected by the people to be their representatives. • Each MP represents the voters in an area called a constituency (often referred to as an MP’s seat) • Members of Parliament hold their seats only for the life-time of a Parliament. Unlike the Lords, they have to be re-elected when a new government is formed at a General Election. They are paid a salary of about £50,000, as well as an allowance for hiring a secretary.
The House ‘sits’ in Westminster from Mondays to Fridays, usually from about 2.30pm until 10.30pm, and often continues through the night when important debates are going on. The House of Commons cont
What Goes on in the House of Commons? • Debates — Many hours are spent debating issues of national and international importance. Most often a motion is proposed by one or two of the Government’s front benchers and then the same number of persons from the Opposition front benches oppose it • The Speaker decides who is allowed to speak and he/she must ensure that each side is given equal opportunity and time to speak. After the debate the MPs vote for or against the motion. • MPs vote by going into ‘lobbies’, corridors outside the chamber, one for ‘aye’ and one for ‘no’ votes where they are counted • The MPs vote is recorded so that anybody can know which way an MP voted on any particular issue • After the votes are counted the results are announced in the chamber.
What Goes on in the House of Commons cont • Question Time • Four times a week Government ministers have to give short, oral answers to questions put to them in the House of Commons by MPs. • Many questions are answered during each question time which lasts for 55 minutes. • The Prime Minister also has a question time of 30 minutes once a week.
What Goes on in the House of Commons cont • Making new laws • This is what happens in the chamber, but in fact there is much happening elsewhere in the Commons which has hundreds of rooms. • There are committee rooms, offices and a library, a barbers shop, post office and restaurants. • MPs meet in committees, or do their office work or meet visitors.
How is the Speaker Chosen? • Contrary to what the title would imply, the Speaker of the House of Commons does not speak, that is, he or she does not make speeches or take part in debates • the Speaker’s central function is to maintain order in a debate, and he or she may not vote other than in an official capacity that is when the result of a vote is a tie • The Speaker is not a Minister nor a member of any political party • He or she is still a Member of Parliament, representing a constituency and the constituents’ interests • The choice of Speaker is by election, with Members of Parliament each having one vote
State Opening of Parliament • As Head of State the Queen presides over the State Opening of Parliament. This takes place usually each November when Parliament reopens after the summer break for the next Session . The Queen reads a speech which outlines the policies and main bills that the government intends to introduce during the Parliamentary Session • The Queen has to give the Royal Assent of agreement to any new law that is passed by parliament • She is kept in touch with the government by a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister in Buckingham Palace.
From Buckingham to Westminster Sovereign’s Entrance at Westminster The State Opening of ParliamentWednesday November 26, 2003
Queen Elizabeth II makes her way from the Sovereign's entrance, Britain's former prime minister sits alone The State Opening of ParliamentWednesday November 26, 2003
Partners in crime Tony Blair alongside leader of the opposition, Michael Howard The State Opening of Parliament
I'll make them pay The education secretary, Charles Clarke, and former Tory chairwoman Theresa May process into the chamber of the House of Lords. The State Opening of Parliament
Schools and hospitals first The Queen sets out the government's legislative programme including civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The State Opening of Parliament
Hide and speak Her majesty peers out from her carriage as she leaves Westminster The State Opening of Parliament
Which one's the journalist? The Queen and her footmen return to Buckingham Palace. The State Opening of Parliament
Tuition fees -- The speech promises a bill to place universities on a "sound financial footing" and enable more people to benefit from higher education. In keeping with the government's 'study now, pay later' proposals, it says up-front fees will abolished for all full-time students Child Trust Fund A bill to give all children born after September 2002 a cash endowment (with more for poorer children) they can invest and then draw on at the age of 18. Gay marriages -- Legislation on the registration of civil partnerships between same-sex couples The Queen's speech: the key pointsWednesday November 26, 2003
Asylum-- A single tier of appeal against asylum decisions to "reduce the scope for delay caused by groundless appeals Child protection -- A bill to improve the services designed to protect children and the establishment of a Children's Commissioner for England. Pensions -- A pension protection fund to protect employees and pensioners if companies become insolvent. The government also promises to bring in legislation to encourage employers to provide good-quality pensions and for individuals to save more effectively for their retirement The Queen's speech: the key pointsWednesday November 26, 2003
Constitutional reform -- Establishment of a supreme court, reforming the judicial appointments system and providing for the abolition of the current office of Lord Chancellor. Also, legislation to remove hereditary peers from the House of Lords and set up an independent appointments commission to select non-party members. Housing Legislation to "help create a fairer housing market" and the continuation of a bill introduced last session that aims to make the planning system "fairer and faster The Queen's speech: the key pointsWednesday November 26, 2003
A 3 The Executive -- the Prime Minister • the leader of his party in the House of Commons • the head of government • he has the right to select his cabinet, hand out departmental positions, decide the agenda for cabinet meetings which he also chairs. • he can dismiss ministers if this is required • he directs and controls policy for the government • he is the chief spokesman for the government • he keeps the Queen informed of government decisions • he exercises wide powers of patronage and appointments in the civil service, church and judiciary
The Prime Minister cont • he can amalgamate or split government departments • he represents the country abroad • he decides the date for a general election within the five-year term • he decided the timetable of government legislation in the House (though this has been delegated to the Leader of the House before)
The Prime Minister cont • The powers of the Prime Minister within the British political structure have developed in recent years to such an extent that some political analyst now refer to Britain as having a Prime Ministerial government rather than a Cabinet government • The Prime Minister selects his own Cabinet and he will select those people who: • Have ability • Have demonstrated good party loyalty • Have clearly demonstrated loyalty to the Prime Minister himself
The Cabinet *** • The Cabinet is appointed by the Prime Minister. The senior positions within the Cabinet are usually appointed by the Prime Minister within hours of an election victory • In British Politics, all Cabinet members are serving MP's or peers • The most senior members of the Cabinet are the Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary . • There has never been a set number for posts within the Cabinet. The most common figure for a Cabinet is 22 • *** for cabinet members and salaries
THE CABINET • Meets weekly at No. 10 Downing Street • Collective responsibility or resignation e.g.former foreign secretary Robin Cook • Generalists rather than specialists • 22 is large by international standards • Ministers responsible (accountable) for their particular department • Oppositions have a ‘Shadow Cabinet’
The Civil Service • Civil servants are servants of the Crown, they do not hold a political or judicial office, and they are paid with public money which is voted through Parliament. • Civil servants are officials who serve the elected political government of the day. They themselves are not elected. • They are career officials who remain in office despite changes in government. • Top civil servants offer advice about the possible consequences of policy, and are also responsible for implementing the policies that the government, with Parliament’s approval, decides to pursue. • To enter at the higher levels of the civil service you have to pass a rigorous civil service exam.
THE CIVIL SERVICE Permanent, well-educated elite • Politically neutral (unlike USA) • Anonymous (since Minister takes responsibility) • Now less than 500,000 (751,000 in 1976)
THE CIVIL SERVICE • Reformed in 19th C (Northcote-Trevalyan reforms) – meritocracy • Dominated by Oxbridge (75%) • Generalists rather than specialists, typically with a classics education