Friday, 26 April 2013

Politcs in the UK- The British government

The government of the United Kingdom is more often referred to as Her Majesty’s Government, sometimes simply as HMG, the British Government or the UK Government; and this comprises the central government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Government is headed by the Prime Minister, who is charged with nominating ministers of the respective government departments. The Prime Minister and the most senior ministers comprise the supreme decision-making committee, referred to as the Cabinet. The government is mainly dependent on parliament for the enactment of primary legislature. Prime ministerial elections are held every five years.

Under the British constitution, executive authority lies in the hands of the monarch, though such authority is exercised in the form of advice to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Equally, the Cabinet members advise the monarch as members of the Privy council and also have the right to directly exercise power as leaders of various government departments.

A key principle of the British Constitution is that the Government is answerable to Parliament. The concept is referred to as responsible government. Ministers are usually expected to be members of the House of Commons. They are required to make statements in the House and response to questions from members of that House.  Generally, most senior ministers usually sit in the elected House of Commons rather than the House of Lords. Nonetheless, there are exceptional cases whereby some Cabinet ministers may belong to the House of Lords.

In the modern era, the Prime Minister must always be an elected Member of Parliament (MP), in the House of Commons; and thus accountable to that House. Equally, in practice, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must also always be a member of the Commons.

Under the British system, the Government is by convention required to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons, not least because the Commons play a cardinal role in endorsing the bills presented for parliamentary scrutiny. If the government loses the confidence of the House of Commons, it would normally be expected to resign, or a General Election is held.

The Prime Minister is normally held into account during Prime Minister’s Questions Time (PMQs), which offers an occasion for MPs from all parties to question the Prime Minister on any subject pertaining to the government. In the like manner, ministers heading the various departments make statements in the House of Commons; and are expected to respond to any questions from the MPs, on matters relating to their respective departments.

Committees of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords hold government into account, scrutinise its work and meticulously examine proposals for legislation.  Ministers appear before the committee to give evidence and respond to any concerns or questions.
Government ministers are expected to adhere to the ministerial code that stipulates the ethics and principles of their behaviour as ministers.

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