United Kingdom/Government - شهية الطبخ المغربي

United Kingdom/Government

United Kingdom/Government
National government. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy.
The monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state, but the prime
minister and a cabinet of senior politicians govern the country. The prime
minister is the head of the government. Parliament is the chief lawmaking
The constitution of the United Kingdom is not one document, as are the
constitutions of many other countries. Some parts of the constitution are
laws passed by Parliament. Other parts come from common law, a body of
laws and judgments based on traditional customs and beliefs. There are
also many unwritten constitutional conventions-ideas and practices
developed through the years, such as the cabinet system of government.
The one unalterable principle of the British constitution is that Parliament
has supreme lawmaking authority on all matters. Parliament even has
authority to make constitutional changes in the same manner in which it
makes normal laws. Most countries with constitutions require special
measures to change their constitutions.
The monarchy in Britain can be traced back almost 1,200 years, although
its role has changed significantly. The monarch must approve all bills
passed by Parliament before they can become laws. However, no monarch
has rejected a bill since the early 1700's.
The prime minister is usually the leader of the political party that has the
most seats in the House of Commons. After each general election, the
monarch ceremonially appoints the prime minister and asks him or her to
form a government. The prime minister then picks a special group of
about 25 ministers to make up the Cabinet. The prime minister also
makes appointments to many other ministerial offices.
The Cabinet directs the general conduct of the government. The prime
minister and Cabinet control what new laws and what amendments to
existing laws will be introduced to Parliament. The prime minister chairs
the Cabinet. Ministers who head the most important government
departments are always included in the Cabinet. These departments
include the Treasury, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, the Department of Health, and the Ministry of Defense.
The largest political party in the House of Commons that opposes the
party in power is called Her (or His) Majesty's Opposition. The head of
that party is the leader of the opposition. The opposition has the duty of
criticizing the government in power and standing ready to set up a new
government. For this reason, the leading members of the opposition party
are popularly referred to as the Shadow Cabinet.
Parliament makes the laws of the United Kingdom. A bill (proposed law)
must be approved by both houses of Parliament to become law. The
British Parliament has been called the Mother of Parliaments because
many of the world's legislatures have copied features from it.
The House of Commons, often called simply the Commons, is by far the
more powerful of Parliament's two houses. The House of Commons has
659 members, elected from the four main political units that make up the
United Kingdom. Each member represents a district called a constituency.
A member does not have to live in the constituency he or she represents.
Members are chosen in a general election, in which the whole nation
votes. A general election must be held at least every five years. However,
an election may be called anytime by the prime minister. Almost all
citizens 18 years old or older may vote. Those who cannot vote include
peers (members of the nobility) and the mentally ill.
The House of Lords, often called the Lords, has little power. It can delay,
but not defeat, any bill that the Commons is determined to pass. The
House of Lords has about 700 members. Ninety-two members are drawn
from among the kingdom's dukes, earls, countesses, and other hereditary
peers and peeresses. Hereditary peers and peeresses are members of the
nobility who have inherited their titles. The 2 archbishops and 24 of the
bishops of the Church of England have seats in the House of Lords. The
remaining members are life peers and peeresses, given the rank of baron
or baroness in honor of some outstanding accomplishment. Their titles do
not descend to their children. Among the life peers are about 30 law lords,
who are judges appointed for life to handle legal matters that come to
Membership in the European Union -an organization that promotes
political and economic cooperation among member states-requires the
United Kingdom to adopt certain European laws. The British Parliament
cannot significantly change these laws, but the British judicial system
enforces them. This arrangement gives British courts more power than
they have had in the past. European Union laws also fill in some of the
gaps in the British constitution.
Regional government. In referendums held in 1997, Welsh voters
approved plans for a 60-member assembly for Wales, and the Scots voted
to accept plans calling for the election of 129 representatives to a Scottish
parliament. These legislative bodies met for the first time in 1999. They
have control in certain domestic affairs.
A 1998 political settlement in Northern Ireland created three new political
bodies: the Northern Ireland Assembly; the North-South Ministerial
Council; and the British-Irish Council. These groups began meeting in
The Northern Ireland Assembly has responsibility for many domestic
matters. The voters of Northern Ireland elect the Assembly's 108
The North-South Ministerial Council handles affairs of the entire island of
Ireland. In includes representatives from the governments of both
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The council's decisions are
subject to the approval of the Irish Parliament and the Northern Ireland
The British-Irish Council addresses issues of concern to all of the United
Kingdom and Ireland. The council brings together representatives from
the parliaments of both countries; the assemblies of Northern Ireland,
Scotland, and Wales; and the governments of the Channel Islands and the
Isle of Man.
Local government. The units of local government in Scotland and Wales
are unitary authorities. Northern Ireland is divided into districts. England
has various administrative units, including counties, metropolitan districts,
and unitary authorities. The counties are divided into shire districts.
Each unit of local government has its own elected council. The councils
deal with such matters as education, housing, recreation, refuse
collection, and roads. Local governments may collect taxes, but about half
of their income comes from the national government.
Politics. The two largest political parties in the United Kingdom are the
Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The Conservative Party
developed from the Tory Party, which began in the late 1600's. The
Labour Party began in 1900. Much of its support comes from labor unions,
called trade unions. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, was formed in
Other parties in the United Kingdom include nationalist parties in Northern
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These parties favor independence from the
United Kingdom.
Courts of the United Kingdom operate under three separate legal systemsone
for England and Wales, one for Northern Ireland, and one for
Scotland. In each system, some courts hear only criminal cases and other
courts handle only civil cases. Decisions made by lower courts may be
appealed to higher courts.
In all three systems, the House of Lords is the highest court of appeal in
civil cases. It is also the highest court of appeal in criminal cases, except
in Scotland. In Scotland, people convicted of a crime may appeal their
case to the High Court of Justiciary. They have no further appeal to the
House of Lords.
The monarch appoints all British judges on the advice of the government.
Judges serve until retirement, and thus they are free from political
Armed forces of the United Kingdom are made up of volunteers. About
215,000 volunteers serve in the nation's army, navy, and air force.
United Kingdom/People
Population. The United Kingdom is more thickly populated than most
countries. Most of its people live in cities and towns. About one-third of
the country's residents live in England's seven metropolitan areas. Greater
London, the largest metropolitan area, has about 10 percent of the United
Kingdom's total population. The six other metropolitan areas are as
follows, with the largest city of each area shown in parentheses: Greater
Manchester (Manchester), Merseyside (Liverpool), South Yorkshire
(Sheffield), Tyne and Wear (Newcastle upon Tyne), West Midlands
(Birmingham), and West Yorkshire (Leeds).
More than four-fifths of the population of the United Kingdom live in
England. London and England as a whole have great influence over the
rest of the United Kingdom because of their large populations.
Ancestry. Celtic-speaking people lived in what is now the United Kingdom
by the mid-600's B.C. Over the next 1,700 years, the land was invaded by
the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans. Most of the
British are descendants of these early peoples.
Since the 1950's, many immigrants have come to the United Kingdom
from countries that belong to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is
an association of countries and other political units that were once part of
the British Empire. Many immigrants have come from Commonwealth
countries in Asia and the West Indies. Most of the newcomers have settled
in cities and towns already facing housing shortages. In the early 1960's,
the British government began restricting immigration.
Language. English is the official language of the United Kingdom and is
spoken throughout most of the country. English developed chiefly from
the language of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman invaders.
Less than a fifth of the people of Wales speak both English and Welsh, a
language that developed from one of the languages of the Celts. A few
people of Wales speak only Welsh.
Thousands of people in Scotland speak the Scottish form of Gaelic, which
is another Celtic language. The Irish form of Gaelic is spoken by a small
number of people in Northern Ireland.

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