United Kingdom Politics

Great Britain and Northern Ireland have neither a codified constitution nor a constitutional law of higher rank than ordinary statute law. The constitutional order is largely based on unwritten law (Common Law) or on individual laws, including Magna Charta Libertatum (1215), Petition of Right (1628), Habeas Corpus Act (1679), Bill of Rights (1689), Act of Settlement (1701), Treaty of Union (1707), Union with Ireland Act (1800), Reform Acts (1832 and 1867), Parliament Acts (1911 and 1949), Representation of the People Acts (1918-2000), Human Rights Act (1998), House of Lords Act (1999). In addition, legal sources are: Judicial precedents created by court decisions on constitutional issues and constitutional conventions which, without being actual legal norms, have an effect comparable to these.

According to educationvv, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a parliamentary-democratic hereditary monarchy of the House of Windsor (renamed Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha in 1917). The monarch (since 1952 Elizabeth II) is head of state, head of the Commonwealth of Nations and secular head of the Anglican Church (Church of England) to which he must belong. Heir to the throne is the eldest son, who usually takes the title of Prince of Wales; in the absence of sons, female succession to the throne is also possible. The renunciation of the throne requires legal approval. The monarch’s political participation rights are very limited today: the crown’s real task lies in the symbolic embodiment of the nation and its historical continuity. The monarch has a comprehensive right of consultation and enjoys full access to files in all government affairs, but fulfills v. a. Representative tasks. The monarch’s powers include advising the government; Criminal proceedings are conducted on his behalf and he has the privilege of pardon. In addition, he is responsible for the nominal supreme command of the armed forces, the appointment of the prime minister, the reading of the annual speech from the throne, which is drafted by the prime minister as a government program, as well as the formal signature of all laws passed by parliament (Royal Assent). A royal veto of laws was last introduced in 1708.

The legislature lies with the monarch and the bicameral parliament, consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The full sovereignty of Parliament is a key rationale of British constitutional law. As a result, Parliament cannot pass laws that limit its future capacity to act, and courts cannot constitutionally review parliamentary laws. This principle has long been used as an argument against the enactment of a modern charter of fundamental rights, as it is taken for granted in other western democracies. The Human Rights Act 1998, which made the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights an integral part of domestic law, also has the character of a simple law. Brexit), Parliament strengthened its constitutional position.

The House of Lords (June 2017) has 800 members (excluding 30 absent or excluded members), including 90 hereditary peers, 685 life-long members of the crown at the proposal of the government and 25 bishops of the Anglican Church during their term of office. Until the reform of the House of Lords in 1999, the members of the hereditary nobility had the right to a seat and vote in the House of Lords. This hereditary privilege, which was partly controversial in public due to “lack of democratic legitimation”, was abolished with the implementation of the parliamentary reform in November 1999, with a transition period. The House of Lords’ rights to participate in legislation are limited; the actual legislative powers rest with the House of Commons.

The lower house currently has (after the elections at the beginning of June 2017) 650 members elected by general election (Members of Parliament). Majority voting applies (one seat corresponds to a constituency in which the candidate who receives the absolute or relative most votes is elected). Eligible to vote are all citizens over the age of 18 and all UK and Northern Ireland electoral Commonwealth citizens and Irish nationals; general women’s suffrage since 1928. As speaker of the lower house to the monarch, the upper house and others. The speaker, who was elected on the recommendation of the prime minister and opposition leader and whose traditional office, which can be traced back to the 13th century, obliges him to be politically neutral, acts as its chairman. Another important task is the Leader of the House, a member of the Cabinet who is responsible for ensuring that the House deals with the government’s legislative proposals comprehensively and on time. To this end, he works with the parliamentary managing directors, the »whipping« (Whip) and the opposition leadership closely. Because of the close dovetailing of the lower house majority and government (since the British constitutional theorist W. Bagehot If one speaks of the government as a »parliamentary committee«) the main work of parliamentary control of the government lies with the opposition, which is protected by special rights (e.g. regular question-and-answer sessions) and their leader (Leader of the Opposition) together with his “Shadow Cabinet” shapes the dualism of the British parliamentary system. In 2011, a five-year electoral term was introduced for the lower house. As a result, the prime minister lost the right to propose the dissolution of the lower house to the monarch at any time. At the same time, the lower house was given the right to dissolve itself. A two-thirds majority of MPs is required for self-dissolution.

The executive power lies nominally with the crown, but practically with a committee of ministers, the cabinet (Cabinet) chaired by the prime minister, since 2019 B. Johnson . The prime minister and the ministers he proposes are appointed by the monarch. You must belong to the House of Commons. The government in the broader sense (Ministry) consists of about 100 people, of which only about 20 form the narrow government as a cabinet. The persons who regularly belong to the cabinet include the Foreign and Interior Ministers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as the President of the Privy Council (Lord President), the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy Lancaster. The Prime Minister himself is usually the holder of the honorary office of the First Lord of the Treasury. Its position has been emphasized since 1905 by the award of a special protocol status (Special Precedence). The Privy Council exists as a further organ (Privy Council). Its 400 members include the Cabinet and other persons appointed by the Crown on the proposal of the Prime Minister; it only meets as a plenary at the death of the monarch. Its tasks, which are carried out in committees with a limited number of participants, include the approval of certain government regulations (Orders in Council).

Although Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a centralistically governed and administered unitary state, there are regional parliaments in Scotland (Scottish Parliament), Wales (National Assembly for Wales) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Assembly) with different administrative and legislative powers Proportional representation to be determined. The heads of regional governments are called First Ministers.

The foreign policy of Great Britain is in the tradition of a former world power (the British Empire) and has a global focus. There are strong ties to the former colonies in the Commonwealth of Nations and to the USA. Great Britain is a founding member of NATO and, as a nuclear power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Great Britain is also one of the G7 countries. Despite leaving the European Union, the country continues to play a key role in the common security and defense policy. On joining the European Economic and Monetary Union and the Schengen Agreement Britain has renounced.

United Kingdom Politics 2011

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