The British system of government

As Britain has no written constitution and it rules on a mixture of statute law, common law and conventions (that is, practices and precepts that although not a part of a legal code are nevertheless generally accepted), the system of government has remained flexible.

Britain is a monarchy. In theory the monarchs powers are as absolute as they were during the Middle Ages, but in practice this power is restricted in a number of ways.

The system of government that exists in Britain today can perhaps be best described as a mixed governmental system, with the monarch seeming to be, and Parliament in fact being, the senior partner. The monarchy is hereditary, and so when a king or queen dies he or she is automatically succeeded by the next in line. Membership of the House of Lords is largely hereditary, too, although there are also various categories of life peers. The lower house, the House of Commons, is however elected by the British people, and thus represents, or is claimed to represent, their wishes. Over the centuries the crown and the Lords, that is the hereditary elements of the system, have gradually lost power to the Commons, the representatives of the people.

The Queen, in addition to her hereditary right reigns with the consent of Parliament, as has every monarch since William III. All the actions of government are carried out in the Queens name, and automatically have her approval, although she has no personal knowledge of them.

The Queen is the personification of the British State. She is the symbol of the state. This is the function of the British monarch today a symbol and as such the Queens functions are virtually all ceremonial. She opens Parliament, but takes no part in its deliberations and is in fact forbidden to enter the House of Commons. No Bill can become an Act, that is have the force of law, unless the monarch has approved it. It is the monarch who has the responsibility of choosing the Prime Minister and other government ministers. However, in practice, the Queen must choose the leader of the party which has the majority in the House of Commons. It is the electorate who decide which the largest party will be, and the members of the party who select their leader, and so the Queens freedom of choice is extremely limited. Once a Prime Minister has been appointed it is he or she who chooses the members of the government, and these men and women are then presented to the Queen as her ministers.

Another interesting point concerning the monarchs power is the question of the dissolution of Parliament. Parliament is dissolved by the monarch but can only be dissolved with its own consent.

Between 1945 and the late seventies it was generally agreed that Britain had a two party system of parliamentary government, one party, either the Conservative or Labour Party, formed the Government, while the other formed the Opposition. Although the Government and the Opposition may oppose each others philosophies and policies they both owe loyalty to the Crown which represents the British constitutional system. Each session of Parliament opens with the Queens Speech, which contains details of the Governments programme for the session. If the Queen makes a public statement she does so on the advice of her ministers, and the statement will have been prepared by them. It is the Privy Councils duty to offer advice to the monarch, and it is through the Council that he or she exercises statutory powers. In addition to having this advisory function the Privy Council also discharges certain other duties not directly concerned with the monarch.

Ex.3 Answer the questions:

1. Is there a written constitution in Britain?

2. What laws does Britain rely upon?

3. Are the monarchs powers really absolute?

4. What is the monarchs power restricted by?

5. Why is the system of government in Britain considered to be a mixed one?

6. What tales place when a king or queen dies?

7. Which of the two houses of Parliament is elected?

8. How are the House of Lards and the House of Commons formed?

9. Which of the two houses of Parliament has more powers in Great Britain?

10. Who is the personification and the symbol of the British state?

11. What does the Queen do in Parliament?

12. When can a parliamentary bill become an act?

13. Who chooses the Prime Minister and other government ministers?

14. Can the Queen dissolve the Parliament without its own consent?

15. What party system exists in Britain?

16. What parties usually form the government?

17. How is each session of Parliament opened?

18. What does the opening speech of the Queen contain?

19. Does anybody advise the Queen if she makes a public statement?

20. What is the duty of the Privy Council?


Ex.4 Match the words in A with their Ukrainian equivalents in B:

a) Statute law; common law; legal code; absolute power; restricted powers; hereditary membership; life peer; lower house; upper house; the House of Lords; the House of Commons; the Consent of Parliament; Parliamentary Bill; the force of law; precept; the responsibility to choose; freedom of choice; the decision of the electorate; dissolution of Parliament; loyalty to the Crown; public statement; Privy Council; statutory powers; advisory functions.


b) , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ; , ; , , .


Ex.5 Ask your friend to answer:

a) If there is a written constitution in Great Britain.

b) If Britain is a parliamentary republic.

c) If the monarchs powers absolute.

d) If the upper house of Parliament is elected?

e) In whose name the actions of the government are carried out.


Ex.6 Change into Reported Speech:

1. John Brown asked me: Is there a written constitution in your country?

2. Peter said to George: My country is a monarchy, but the monarchs powers are limited by Parliament

3. This state relies on a mixture of common law, statute law and conventions, said the Englishman.

4. The lecturer said to the audience: The monarchy in most countries is hereditary.

5. The TV reporter said : The King of Belgium has died. He will be succeeded by Prince Albert.

6. As the House of Commons is elected its members are claimed to represent the wishes of the people, said the visiting professor.

7. Henry Brown said to his students: The Crown and the Lords have lost power to the Commons.

8. The teacher said to me: Tell us all you know about the hereditary elements of the British system of government.

9. The MP said to the lady: The Queen will have to choose the leader of the party which has the majority in the House of Commons.


Ex.7 Open the brackets using the right tense form:

1. If she has some legal problem she (to go and see) a solicitor.

2. If the Bill is passed by the Commons it (to go) to the Lords next week.

3. If there are no laws in a society people (to rely) only on the law of jungle.

4. If a magistrate (to hear) this crime the accused (to sentence) to six months in jail.

5. He will answer the phone if he (to be) in the office.

6. If Ted (to be) at home tomorrow we are going to visit him.

7. He (to buy) a new house if he has money?

8. She will be very happy if he (to come) right now.

9. If Leo is more careful, he (not to make) any mistakes in his tests.

10. If Brenda (to have) time, she (to meet) us at the station.

Ex.8. Translate into English:

. . . , , . - , , , . , , , . . 볿 1946 . , . . , , , , . . : , , , . , , . ̳ , 䳿 .

Unit 28

Topic for Discussion: Political Parties

Grammar: Conditional Sentences (unreal condition)

Ex.1 Read and translate the following text in writing :

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