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Political and social Portrait of great Britain


Great Britain has a parliamentary government based on the party system. Parliament has two parts: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Members of the House of Commons are elected by the voters of 650 constituencies. The Prime Minister, or leader of the Government, is a Member of Parliament (MP), usually the leader of the political party with a majority in the House of Commons. The chief officer of the House of Commons is the Speaker. The House at the beginning of each Parliament elects him. His chief function is to preside over the House in its debate. When elected the Speaker must not belong to any party.

The House of Lords is composed of about 1, 200 members. They are the Lords Spiritual, and the Lords temporal, consisting of all hereditary peers, all life peers and 21 law lords, to assist the House in its judicial duties, because for a long time the House of Lords was the highest court of law in the land, and it still is the supreme court of appeal.

A Cabinet of about twenty other ministers advises the Prime Minister. The Cabinet includes the ministers in charge of major government departments or ministries. Civil servants, who are permanent officials, run departments and ministries. Even if the Government changes after an election, the same civil servants are employed. In the performance of its functions the Cabinet makes considerable use of a system of committees. The Cabinet is the centre of the political power of the United Kingdom at the present time. Normally it meets for about two hours once or twice a week during parliamentary sitting.

The main political parties in the UK are the Conservative party (right wing), the Labour party (left wing) and the Liberal Democrats (centre).

The Conservative party believes in free enterprise and the importance of a capitalist economy, with private ownership preferred to state control. The Labour party believes that private ownership and enterprise should be allowed to flourish, but not at the expense of their traditional support of the public services. The Liberal Democrats believe that the state should have some control over the economy, but that there should be individual ownership.

Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy, and the Crown is a permanent and continuous institution. The Queen is the official Head of State and, for many people, a symbol of the unity of the nation. According to the Constitution the powers of the Crown are very great. Every action of the government is carried in its name. But the Queen cannot act independently. She reigns but does not rule. Although the Queen is deprived of actual power, she has retained many important, though formal functions.


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