The Crown is the symbol of the executive power represents both the Sovereign and the Government. The Crown is identified in the person of the Sovereign, but its functions are exercised by Ministers who respond to Parliament. Thus Britain is a parliamentary democracy, “governed by Her Majesty’s Government in the name of the Queen”. The present sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, is one of the longest reigning British monarchs; in fact she ascended the throne in 1952.
Besided being a symbol of national unity, the Queen is Britain’s Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and of the Church of England. She opens and closes Parliament and, in case of government crisis, she dissolves it. She gives her Royal Assent to transform a Bill into law.
The Queen has also the power to confer peerages and other titles and can, on ministerial advice, grand pardon to people convicted of crime. However, the power to conclude treaties, to declare war and to make peace rests with the Government, under the Royal Prerogative.
Parliament and Government
Parliament consists of three elements: the Queen (who summons, prorogues and sometimes dissolves Parliament), the House of Lords (who are not elected by the people) and the House of Commons, chosen general elections. The House of Commons with its 659 representatives is the supreme legislative authority in the UK: it makes laws by passing Acts of Parliament and discusses important political issues. The 688 non-elected members of the House of Lords (hereditary and life peers, two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England) are partially involved in the legislative process: they examine and revise Bills from the House of Commons.
General elections are held every five years: the people elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in Westminster Palace in London. Each MP represents one on 59 constituencies, or “seats”, in the UK and is also normally a member of one of the major political parties. The leader of the party that wins most seats at a general election is invited by the Queen to form the Government Executive which determines the country’s policy. The Executive includes the Prime Minister (or Premier) and the Cabinet Ministers. The remaining MPs are grouped into opposition and other parties. The result is an assembly that reflects a broad of range of political opinions all of which have a voice in the debates about key government issue and policies.