THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN: KEY INSTITUTIONS

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Fatih ÖZKARTAL

        INTRODUCTION

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, known as the United Kingdom or Britain. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and it is a parliamentary system of governance. The United Kingdom is one of the few democratic in the world without a codified constitution.

The United Kingdom has a constitutional monarch and it has a parliamentary system. The King has a symbolic place in the political system. The sovereignty of the monarc have been shaped by lords and commons since 1215 which has started with Magna Carta. Because of that the monarc can not effect to political structure directly.

In this article, I’m going to examine the political structures  and political regime of Britain, what monark , parliament and cabinet do, role of the prime minister in cabinet, role of the monark in Cabinet, how the House of Lords and House of Commons work in the parliament, what parliament does, its role in UK politics, and its relationship with government, how they make laws, what is the constitution of the Britain, main organs of the state, how legislation and execution work in Britain.

 

        MAIN CONSTITUTIONS

The United Kingdom has no a codified constitution. People often refer to the UK having an ‘unwritten constitution’ but that’s not strictly true. It may not exist in a single text, like in the USA or Germany, but large parts of it are written down, much of it in the laws passed in Parliament – known as statute law.

Therefore, the UK constitution is often described as ‘partly written and wholly uncodified’. Uncodified means that the UK does not have a single, written constitution.Relationship between main  organs of of the state and the balance of power between monarc and lords and commons has became traditionally in historical process. Thus, Britain has a exceptional place in the world. [1]

General pirinciples of British political system has shaped with Acts, Cale-Law and Constitutional Conventions. [2] In this direction, Acts has shaped , started with Magna Carta (1215), continues with Petition of Rights (1628) , Habeas Corpus Act (1679), Bill of Rights (1689) , Act of Settlement (1701) , Judicature Acts (1873 and 1875) and finally finished with Parliamentary Acts (1911 and 1949) . Briefly, authority of the monarc has transfered to The House of Lords and House of Commons and by the way, legislatures discribed their duties and authorities between each other by means of that Acts. Today, this Acts are the most important texts in British political system. [3]

In the past, British have tried to create a constitutional regime. Forming the Act of Reform is the first and one constitutional process in British history, in 1832. It was not exactly democratic act but it was an important step for freedom in that period.

 

        I.THE CROWN

The Monarc is one of the key institution and the oldest institution in British political system. But its not effective on governing what it is before. Adolphe Thiers’ word “king reign; but not governce (le roi regne, mais ne gouverne pas)” [4] is a good discription to understand the democratic monarchies. Monarc has gived up to use of  the political power in Britain. Today, Cabinet has a important place on governing instead of the monarc. But The King and its family still have an important symbol and an agent for British people.

Today, the family of Honavre reign in the British throne and after the first World War its named the family of Winsdor. [5]

According to Act of Settlement that prapered by the parliament which is accepted, in 1701, there are two important principle to be a king or queen: First one is to be a family of Honevre  and the successor have to be consanguineous. And the other principle is the successor have to be protestant and accept the study of religious discipline of Anglican Church.

When we compare monarch and cabinet, we can clearly see that, government and monarchy have separated. Cabinet has succeeded to become the head of the government and the king has succeeded to preserve the monarchy. Nevertheless, The King and The Queen are powerless and weak constitutionally. The King has never denied the Bills which be sent from the parliament since 1707. [6] Monarc have to deputise the leader of the majority party with a few exceptions. The King can object to the election of the members of Cabinet however the last decision is made by the Chancellor.

 

  1. CABINET

There are a lot of dependence between Cabinet and government in British political system by the way it is possible to use  these two terms in the same meaning, but government is more extensive from the Cabinet. Because it includes everything about executive. At the present time, Cabinet is a comitee of a mayor party in the House of Commons.

Cabinet is responsible to the Parliament and it’s a connection between The King and parliament. In today, it seems as a comitee of a major party which dominate in two party system. So cabinet occur by the leader of the election in the House of Commons.

 

        III. PARLIAMENT

Parliament includes the House of Lords and the House of Commons in British political system. Stated in other words, three institutions be understood: The King; the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

 

       I.THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Importance of the House of Lords has dicreased for years in comparison with the House of Commons. Many members continue to be active in their fields and have successful careers in business, culture, science, sports, academia, law, education, health and public service. They bring this knowledge to their role of examining matters of public interest that affect all UK citizens.[7]

Currently, there are about 825 members who are eligible to take part in the work of the House of Lords. The majority are life peers. Others include 26 archbishops and bishops and 92 hereditary peers. There is no upper limit on the total number of members.

Crossbenchers do not support any political party. Many are appointed principally because of their experience outside the House. Their participation allows voices that might not otherwise be heard in the political process to contribute to discussion of draft laws and in-depth consideration of government policy. Numbers in each of the parties and Crossbench groups fluctuate.

There are a lot of members of the House of Lords:

Life peers: The majority (about 700) of members are appointed for their lifetime by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Any British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen who is a UK resident and taxpayer over the age of 21 is eligible to be nominated or can apply to become a member, via the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Archbishops and bishops: 26 Church of England archbishops and bishops sit in the House. When they retire as bishops their membership of the House ceases and is passed on to the next most senior bishop.

Elected hereditary members: The House of Lords Act 1999 ended the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House. Ninety-two remain.[8]

 

  1. THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

The UK public elects 650 Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs consider and propose new laws, and can scrutinise government policies by asking ministers questions about current issues either in the Commons Chamber or in Committees.[9]

The House of Commons theoritically takes for five years. Majority party can cancellation the House of Commons for taking advantage of political atmosphere and try to maximize their majority thereby go to the new selection in the Parliament. [10]

Some of politician have tried that like R. Mac Donald (1924), C.Attlee (1951) and M. Thatcher (1987) for take advantage of political atmosphere. [11]

The House of Commons keep legislative power and check the activity of the government. Bills absolutely turn into an act after voting in the House of Commons. The King have to sing that act for effectiveness and The King can not deny that act.

The principal methods are questioning government ministers, debating and the investigative work of committees. The government can publicly respond to explain and justify policies and decisions.For new legislation to become law, or for changes to existing laws to be made, the House of Commons and House of Lords must both debate, amend and vote on the proposals.[12]

 

             MAIN ORGANS OF THE STATE LEGISLATION

The United Kingdom is one of the few democratic in the world without a codified constitution but it has democratical roots base on historical experiances. Legislative power of the Britain is mediated through the parliament. Order of the parliament is formed by  the Crown, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Parliament examines what the Government is doing, makes new laws, holds the power to set taxes and debates the issues of the day. The House of Commons and House of Lords each play an important role in Parliament’s work.[13] In this three gradual system, the House of Commons is the strongest one.

In the parliament, members of parliament (MP) have no legislative immunity but a MP has a parliamentary immunity. MP’s are equal to other British people in respect to criminal investigation. The UK Parliament has MPs from areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, there is a Parliament in Scotland, a National Assembly in Wales and a National Assembly in Northern Ireland. A MP do not have a right of resignation

Separate elections are held for these devolved political bodies (which have been granted powers on a regional level that the UK Parliament was formerly responsible for) – candidates who win seats in these elections do not become MPs in the UK Parliament.[14]

The chief of the House of  Commons is named as Speaker.  The Speaker is an MP who has been elected by other MPs to act as Chair during debates in the House of Commons. They are responsible for ensuring that the rules are observed and order is maintained in the Chamber. When a Speaker is elected they cease to be involved in party politics and become politically impartial. The assistant of a chairman is called Whip.

Parliament’s two main functions are to make and change legislation and check execution. The House of Lords also has the same authorisation but the power of the House of Lords is shortened widely. The House of Commons keeps basically legislative prerogative. In the process of legislation, bills are introduced in either the House of Commons or House of Lords for examination, discussion and amendment.[15] Details of bill are named as “Clause”.

When both Houses have agreed on the content of a Bill it is then presented to the reigning monarch for approval. After that  a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and a law.

There are two types of bill: Private Bills and Puplic Bills. [16] Public Bills are introduced in either House and go through a number of set stages that generally involve Members of both Houses examining the Bill.Bills that are largely financial, or involve the public’s money – like new taxes or public spending – are always introduced in the Commons. [17]

Bills can start in either House. The formal stages of Private Bills are broadly the same as Public Bills.Parliament requires that Private Bills are publicised through newspaper adverts, official gazettes of local areas, and in writing to all interested parties. People directly affected by a Private Bill – for example, residents near a proposed site for a new cemetery – should also be informed.[18]

Public Bills are sended from the Government or a member of parliament (MP). There are two types of Public bill: Government Bill and Private Member’s Bill. Government Bill is suggested government and Private Member’s Bill is suggested by a MP.

Public bills in the parliment are checked by Standing Commitee in the Parliament. This committee is constituted by the Speaker in legislation year. This committee put the last touches on the bill then the bill goes the general assembly. In this process , there are five stage for become law. [19]

 

        BRITISH LEGISLATION PROCESS

  1. First Reading: First reading is the first stage of a bill’s passage. It is usually a formality, it takes place without debate.
  2. Second Reading: Second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill.
  3. Committee Stage: Report stage gives MPs an opportunity, on the floor of the House, to consider further amendments (proposals for change) to a Bill which has been examined in committee.
  4. Report Stage: Report stage gives all members of the Lords a further opportunity to examine and make amendments (changes) to a bill.
  5. Third Reading: The last stage. In this stage, there is no debate widely. Committee can not deny that stage. But if committee don’t be convinced, it can send to the third stage again.

Parliament have to finish the legislative process in one year. Otherwise it will not become an Act.

 

      EXECUTION

In Britain,execution have three basic  institutions: the Crown, Privacy Council, Cabinet and Government. These institutions are not independent each other.

 

      I.THE CROWN

This  is the oldest part of the system of government in this country. Time has reduced the power of the monarchy, and today it is broadly ceremonial. It is the real owner of the United Kingdom and the agent of the royal family. [20]  This institution is the head of execution for the sake of formality. On the other hand, it has some important work related to military, judicatory and spiritual meaning. Thus, the head of British judicial system, chief commander of armament and the highest agent of British Anglican Church. The crown has some works in government named  “Prerogative Powers”. Some of this powers are that: The Royal Assent; Reading of the Crown speech on opening of the parliament; Assingnment of the Prime Minister; Calling the parliament to a meeting for justified urgent situations; Assingment of some lords at the request of Prime Minister. [21]

While the Crown doing that, the Crown do not delay to work and authorisation of the parliament traditionally. For any reason, the Crown can not exceed decision and authority of the parliament.

 

      II.PRIVACY COUNCIL

Privacy council is one of the most rootly institutions in British state tradition. It has been established for war declaration, determination of national strategies, forming of the foreing policy in twenteeth century. [22] The Privy Council is an advisory body to the Monarch; its members are known as Privy Counsellors. It is one of the oldest parts of the UK’s constitutional arrangements, with its origins dating back to at least the thirteenth century.

The Privy Council advises the Queen on the carrying out of her duties, including the exercise of the Royal Prerogative and other functions assigned to the Sovereign by Acts of Parliament. Although some of the Privy Council’s powers are ceremonial in nature, many relate to matters of constitutional importance. In almost every instance, however, the advisory role of the Privy Council is a fiction, and the body is effectively a vehicle for executive decisions made by the Government which are then formally issued in the Queen’s name.[23]

 

   III. CABINET AND GOVERNMENT

Primary element of British execution system is Prime Minister and his or her ministers of government. There are about one hundred members of Government. All ministers are  members of government but only some of these ministers are members of government. That’s why government and cabinet have different meanings in Britain. [24]

In Britain, the head of government and cabinet is the prime minister and the prime minister in the key aspect to define the general policy of the government. [25] Monark assing as a Prime minister who is the leader of the majority party in the parliament. All ministers are connected in their work to Prime Minister. At the same time, Prime minister has two important caption and assignment namely the First Lord Of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. There are a lot of responsibilies of the prime minister: specifying  the agenda of the Cabinet, being in the chair to cabinet, shaping authorisation and duties between minitries and informing to monarc abour works of the government. Moreover, prime minister is the last decision maker about public administration. [26]

Cabinet is the team of 20 or so most senior ministers in the Government who are chosen by the Prime Minister to lead on specific policy areas such as Health, Transport, Foreign Affairs or Defence.[27]

 

REFERENCES

[1]http://www.publications.parliament.uk

[2] Koray KARASU, “İngiltere”, Kamu Yönetimi Ülke İncelemeleri, 2004, s:88-89

[3] http://www.publications.parliament.uk

[4]  Mention: Delperee, “Roi”, op. cit., s.937

[5] Esad ÇAM, “Çağdaş Devlet Sistemleri”, s.29

[6] Esad ÇAM, “Çağdaş Devlet Sistemleri”, s.32

[7] http://www.parliament.uk

[8] http://www.parliament.uk

[9] http://www.parliament.uk

[10] H. Morison: Government and Parliament, London 1964, s.33 George Vedel: a.g.e., 220

[11] Esad ÇAM, “Çağdaş Devlet Sistemleri”, s.53

[12]http://www.parliament.uk

[13] Bekir PARLAK: Karşılaştırmalı Siyasal ve Yönetsel Yapılar, 2009, s.113

[14] http://www.parliament.uk

[15] http://www.direct.gov.uk

[16] Bekir PARLAK: Karşılaştırmalı Siyasal ve Yönetsel Yapılar, 2009, s.117

[17] http://www.parliament.gov.uk

[18] http://www.parliament.gov.uk

[19] Bekir PARLAK: Karşılaştırmalı Siyasal ve Yönetsel Yapılar, 2009, s.117

[20] Roberts ANDREW, The House of Windsor (Royal History of England), University of California Press, 2000, p: 4-6

[21] Roberts ANDREW, The House of Winsdor (Royal History of England), University of California Press, 2000, p:58-76

[22]  Koray KARASU, “İngiltere”, Kamu Yönetimi Ülke İncelemeleri, edition number:1, Ankara, 2004, p:92

[23] http://www.privacycouncil.com

[24] Bekir PARLAK and Cantürk CANER, ‘Karşılaştırmalı Siyasal ve Yönetsel Yapılar’,”Büyük Britanya ve Kuzey Irlanda Birleşik Krallığı (İngiltere), Alfa Aktüel, 2009, p:125

[25] http://www.number-10.gov.uk

[26] John Adler, Constitutional and Administrational Law, Macmillan Pres, London, 1994, p:45-58

[27] http://www.parliament.gov.uk

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