The political system of Great Britain

The United Kingdom of Great Britain is constitutional monarchy. It has a monarch (the Queen) as its Head of State. The monarch reigns, with the support of Parliament. The Queen is a symbol of the country's history and its traditions. The real power in the country belongs to the British Parliament and to the British Government.

Everything in the country officially is done in the name of the Queen but the Prime Minister is responsible for the policy conducted by Parliament. The Prime Minister lives and works in the official residence 10, Downing Street, London. Downing Street has been the home of the British Prime Minister since 1735.

The British Parliament consists of two chambers known as the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Lords, like the House of Commons, assembles in the Palace of Westminster.

The House of Commons plays the major role in lawmaking. It consists of Members of Parliament, each of whom represents an area in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The members of the House of Commons are elected. There are 650 of them in the House of Commons. The House of Commons is presided over by the Speaker. The Speaker is appointed by the Government.

The House of Lords consists of the Lords "Spiritual and Temporal". The Lords Spiritual are the two archbishops (Canterbury and York) and twenty-four bishops of the Church of England. The Lords Temporal include peers by hereditary right, peers by virtue of their office (the Law Lords), and Life peers.

The members of the House of Lords debate a bill passed by the House of Commons. The members are not elected. The House of Lords comprises about 1,200 peers. The House of Lords is presided by the Lord Chancellor. The House of Lords has no real power. It's in the House of Commons that new bills are introduced and debated. If the majority of the members are in favour of a bill, it goes to the House of Lords to be debated. The House of Lords has the right to reject a new bill twice. But after two rejections they are obliged to accept it. And finally a bill goes to the monarch to be signed. Only then it becomes law.

Parliamentary elections are every five years. The minimum voting age is 18, and the voting is taken by secret ballot. The political parties choose candidates in elections. The party which wins the majority of seats forms the Government, and its leader usually becomes Prime Minister. He chooses the Cabinet of Ministers. The Prime Minister usually takes policy decisions with the agreement of the Cabinet. The second largest party becomes the official opposition with its own leader.

The Cabinet is a formal body composed of the most senior government ministers chosen by the Prime Minister. Most members are heads of government departments with the title "Secretary of State". Formal members of the Cabinet are usually drawn from the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The main political parties of Great Britain are: the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party, the Party of Liberal Democrats and the Social Democratic Party.

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