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The British System of Government Britain is a constitutional monarchy. That means it is a country governed by a king or a queen who accepts the advice of a parliament. It is also a parliamentary democracy. That is, it is a country whose government is controlled by a parliament which has been elected by the people. The highest positions in the government are filled by the members of the directly elected parliament. In Britain, as in many European countries, the official head of state, whether a monarch (as in Belgium, the Netherlands or Denmark) or a president (as in Germany, Greece or Italy) has little power.
The Government The most powerful person is the Prime Minister. He is the leader of his party, he is the head of the government and has a seat in the House of Commons. He chooses the Cabinet-Ministers, who are the Foreign-, Home- and Defense-Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He recommends a number of appointments to the monarch. The Cabinet takes decisions about new policies, the implementation of existing policies and the running of the various government departments. The most popular Prime Ministers are Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and present one, Tony Blair.
The Monarch For the evidence of written law only, the Queen has almost absolute power, and it all seems very undemocratic. She is the head of state, the head of the Church of England and the Head of the Armed Forces. Every autumn at the state opening of parliament Elisabeth II. makes a speech. In it, she says what "my government" intends to do in the coming year. And indeed, it is her government - not the people`s. As far as the law is concerned, she can choose anybody she likes to run the government for her. The same is true for her choices of people to fill some hundred other ministerial positions. And if she gets fed up with her ministers she can just dismiss them.
Officially speaking they are all "servants of the Crown". Furthermore nothing the parliament has decided can become law until she has agreed to it. There is also a principle of English law, that the monarch can do nothing that legally wrong. But these facts are only written law. In reality it is very different. Of course she cannot choose anyone she likes to be Prime Minister, but she has to choose someone who has the support of the majority of MPs and the House of Commons - because "her" government can only collect taxes with the agreement of the Commons, so if she did not choose such a person, the government would stop function. With parliament it is the same story - the Prime Minister will talk about "requesting" a dissolution of parliament when he or she wants to hold an election, but it would normally be impossible for the monarch to refuse this request. So in reality the Queen cannot actually stop the government going ahead with any of its politics.
Important roles of the monarch are the following ones: It is argued that the monarch could act as a final check on a government that was becoming dictorial. Second, the monarch has to play a very practical role as being a figurehead and representing the country. The souvereign reigns but does not rule.
The Parliament Britain is administered from the Palace of Westminister in London (also known as the Houses of Parliament) The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom and British overseas territories. It alone has parliamentary sovereignty, conferring it ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and its territories. At its head is the Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. The parliament is bicameral, with an upper house, the House of Lords, and a lower house, the House of Commons. The Queen is the third component of Parliament.
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Treaty of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland passing Acts of Union. However, in practice the parliament was a continuation of the English parliament with the addition of Scottish MPs and peers. The Parliament of England had itself evolved from the early medieval councils that advised the sovereigns of England. England has been called "the mother of parliaments“, its democratic institutions having set the standards for many democracies throughout the world, and the United Kingdom parliament is the largest Anglophone legislative body in the world.
The House of Lords The first one, which is less important, is the House of Lords. It can be described as politically conservative. It consists of different groups. There are the Lord Spiritual. Those are archbishops and bishops. Furthermore the Lords Temporal. These are hereditary peers, which got their titles from their fathers or grandfathers, and life peers, which got their titles for their whole life, and finally there are the Lords of Appeal, which are the High Court Judges. The Lords` main functions are to examine and to discuss the Bills introduced in the House of Commons. They can also delay the legislation for a year, but they can´t stop those Bills completely. They have also the function to introduce Bills which are mostly unimportant and non-controversial. They must approve a Bill, before it becomes an act. The power of the Lords has decreased dramatically. There was even a strong movement to abolish the House of Lords completely.
The House of Commons The second House is the House of Commons. The 651 Members of Parliament (MPs) who sit in the Commons are elected representatives of the British people. Each MP represents one of the 651 constituencies into which the UK is divided. The House of Commons has a maximum term of five years, at the end of which a general election must be held. However, a general election can be called in the government at any time. MPs sit on parallel rows of seats known as benches with those who support the government on the one side and the opposition on the other. The important persons are the front-benchers, the less important ones are the back-benchers. The Commons` main functions are to define and to pass the laws and regulations governing the UK and to examine closely all the activities of the government.
The Party System Britain is normally described as having a two-party-system. This is because, since 1945, one of the big parties has, by itself, controlled the government, and members of these two parties have occupied more than 90 % of all the seats in the House of Commons. One of the two big parties is the Conservative Party, also known as the Tories, which is right of centre and standing for hierarchical interference in the economy. They would like to reduce income tax and the give a high priority to national defense and internal law and order. A famous Tory is John Major, the former Prime Minister. The second big party is the Labour Party, which is left of centre and stands for equality, for the social weaker people and for more government involvement in the economical issues. Another smaller party is the Liberal Democratic Party. It was formed from a union of Liberals and the Social Democrats - a breakaway group of Labour politicians. It is regarded to be slightly left of centre and has always been strongly in favour with the European Union.
The Parties The Labour Party The Conservative Party The Liberal Democrats emergeded at the end of the 19thcentury came to power in 18thcentury Formed in the late 1980s The leader is Tony Blair M.Thatcher was deposed as leader in 1990 Close relations whit Labour Party It returned to power in 1997 It is popular among older people
The Electoral System of Great Britain Elections to the House of Commons, known as parliamentary elections, form the basis of Britain's democratic system. First universal suffrage was demanded by the British working people in 1837 in the petition known as People's Charter. Now each British citizen over eighteen has the right to vote (except prisoners, lords and mentally ill). General election to choose MPs must be held at least every five years. Voting is by secret ballot.
The foundations of the British electoral system were laid in the Middle Ages. The system still has its old form with each community electing one representative to serve as its MP until the next general election. The whole country is divided into 650 parliamentary constituencies everyone of which is supposed to choose a single member. Any number of candidates from all parties can stand for election in each constituency.
A relative majority system of voting is used. In a constituency where a single member is supposed to be elected, the candidate who gets more votes than each other candidate separately taken wins. A candidate, for example, might get only 11% of votes but if it is more than each of his rivals gets separately taken he is elected, though 89% of voters didn't support him and the party he represents. An absolute majority system is more democratic. It means that a candidate is elected if he gets 50% of votes and one vote more.
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