|Her Majesty's Government|
| Welsh: Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig|
Irish: Rialtas na Ríochta Aontaithe
Scots: Govrenment o the Unitit Kinrick
|Leader||Prime Minister (Boris Johnson)|
|Appointed by||The Monarch of the United Kingdom (Elizabeth II)|
|Main organ||Cabinet of the United Kingdom|
|Ministries||25 ministerial departments, 20 non-ministerial departments|
|Responsible to||Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Annual budget||GB£882 billion|
|Headquarters||10 Downing Street, London|
|This article is part of a series on|
|Politics of the United Kingdom|
The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, since 24 July 2019 [update] ) who selects all the other ministers. The country has had a Conservative-led government since 2010, with successive prime ministers being the then leader of the Conservative Party. The prime minister and their most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet.is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The government is led by the prime minister (currently Boris Johnson,
Ministers of the Crown are responsible to the House in which they sit; they make statements in that House and take questions from members of that House. For most senior ministers this is usually the elected House of Commons rather than the House of Lords. The government is dependent on Parliament to make primary legislation,and since the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years to elect a new House of Commons, unless there is a successful vote of no confidence in the government or a two-thirds vote for a snap election (as was the case in 2017 and 2019) in the House of Commons, in which case an election may be held sooner. After an election, the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) selects as prime minister the leader of the party most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons, usually by possessing a majority of MPs.
Under the uncodified British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch, although this authority is exercised only after receiving the advice of the Privy Council.The Prime minister, the House of Lords, the Leader of the Opposition, and the police and military high command serve as members and advisers of the monarch on the Privy Council. In most cases the cabinet exercise power directly as leaders of the government departments, though some Cabinet positions are sinecures to a greater or lesser degree (for instance Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or Lord Privy Seal).
The government is sometimes referred to by the metonym "Westminster" or "Whitehall", due to that being where many of its offices are situated. These metonyms are used especially by members of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive in order to differentiate their government from HMG.
The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy in which the reigning monarch (that is, the king or queen who is the head of state at any given time) does not make any open political decisions. All political decisions are taken by the government and Parliament. This constitutional state of affairs is the result of a long history of constraining and reducing the political power of the monarch, beginning with Magna Carta in 1215.
Since the start of Edward VII's reign in 1901, the prime minister has always been an elected Member of Parliament (MP) and thus directly answerable to the House of Commons. A similar convention applies to the chancellor of the exchequer. It would probably now be politically unacceptable for the budget speech to be given in the House of Lords, with members of Parliament unable to question the Chancellor directly, especially now that the Lords have very limited powers on money bills. The last chancellor of the exchequer to be a member of the House of Lords was Lord Denman, who served as interim chancellor of the exchequer for one month in 1834.
The British monarch, currently Elizabeth II, is the head of state and the sovereign, but not the head of government. The monarch takes little direct part in governing the country and remains neutral in political affairs. However, the authority of the state that is vested in the sovereign, known as the Crown, remains as the source of executive power exercised by the government.
In addition to explicit statutory authority, the Crown also possesses a body of powers in certain matters collectively known as the royal prerogative. These powers range from the authority to issue or withdraw passports to declarations of war. By long-standing convention, most of these powers are delegated from the sovereign to various ministers or other officers of the Crown, who may use them without having to obtain the consent of Parliament.
The prime minister also has weekly meetings with the monarch, who "has a right and a duty to express her views on Government matters...These meetings, as with all communications between The Queen and her Government, remain strictly confidential. Having expressed her views, The Queen abides by the advice of her ministers."
Royal prerogative powers include, but are not limited to, the following:
Even though the United Kingdom has no single constitutional document, the government published the above list in October 2003 to increase transparency, as some of the powers exercised in the name of the monarch are part of the royal prerogative.However, the complete extent of the royal prerogative powers has never been fully set out, as many of them originated in ancient custom and the period of absolute monarchy, or were modified by later constitutional practice.
As of 2019, there are around 120 government ministerssupported by 560,000 civil servants and other staff working in the 25 ministerial departments and their executive agencies. There are also an additional 20 non-ministerial departments with a range of further responsibilities.
In theory a government minister does not have to be a member of either House of Parliament. In practice, however, convention is that ministers must be members of either the House of Commons or House of Lords in order to be accountable to Parliament. From time to time, prime ministers appoint non-parliamentarians as ministers. In recent years such ministers have been appointed to the House of Lords.
Under the British system, the government is required by convention and for practical reasons to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. It requires the support of the House of Commons for the maintenance of supply (by voting through the government's budgets) and to pass primary legislation. By convention, if a government loses the confidence of the House of Commons it must either resign or a general election is held. The support of the Lords, while useful to the government in getting its legislation passed without delay, is not vital. A government is not required to resign even if it loses the confidence of the Lords and is defeated in key votes in that House. The House of Commons is thus the responsible house.
The prime minister is held to account during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) which provides an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject. There are also departmental questions when ministers answer questions relating to their specific departmental brief. Unlike PMQs both the cabinet ministers for the department and junior ministers within the department may answer on behalf of the government, depending on the topic of the question.
During debates on legislation proposed by the government, ministers—usually with departmental responsibility for the bill—will lead the debate for the government and respond to points made by MPs or Lords.
Committeesof both the House of Commons and House of Lords hold the government to account, scrutinise its work and examine in detail proposals for legislation. Ministers appear before committees to give evidence and answer questions.
Government ministers are also required by convention and the Ministerial Code,when Parliament is sitting, to make major statements regarding government policy or issues of national importance to Parliament. This allows MPs or Lords to question the government on the statement. When the government instead chooses to make announcements first outside Parliament, it is often the subject of significant criticism from MPs and the speaker of the House of Commons.
The prime minister is based at 10 Downing Street in Westminster, London. Cabinet meetings also take place here. Most government departments have their headquarters nearby in Whitehall.
The government's powers include general executive and statutory powers, delegated legislation, and numerous powers of appointment and patronage. However, some powerful officials and bodies, (e.g. HM judges, local authorities, and the charity commissions) are legally more or less independent of the government, and government powers are legally limited to those retained by the Crown under common law or granted and limited by act of Parliament. Both substantive and procedural limitations are enforceable in the courts by judicial review.
Nevertheless, magistrates and mayors can still be arrested for and put on trial for corruption, and the government has powers to insert commissioners into a local authority to oversee its work, and to issue directives that must be obeyed by the local authority, if the local authority is not abiding by its statutory obligations.
By contrast, as in European Union (EU) member states, EU officials cannot be prosecuted for any actions carried out in pursuit of their official duties, and foreign country diplomats (though not their employees) and foreign members of the European Parliamentare immune from prosecution in EU states under any circumstance. As a consequence, neither EU bodies nor diplomats have to pay taxes, since it would not be possible to prosecute them for tax evasion. When the UK was a member of the EU, this caused a dispute when the US ambassador to the UK claimed that London's congestion charge was a tax, and not a charge (despite the name), and therefore he did not have to pay it – a claim the Greater London Authority disputed.
Similarly, the monarch is totally immune from criminal prosecution and may only be sued with her permission (this is known as sovereign immunity). The monarch, by law, is not required to pay income tax, but Queen Elizabeth II has voluntarily paid it since 1993, and also pays local rates voluntarily. However, the monarchy also receives a substantial grant from the government, the Sovereign Support Grant, and Queen Elizabeth II's inheritance from her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, was exempt from inheritance tax.
In addition to legislative powers, HM Government has substantial influence over local authorities and other bodies set up by it, by financial powers and grants. Many functions carried out by local authorities, such as paying out housing benefit and council tax benefit, are funded or substantially part-funded by central government.
Neither the central government nor local authorities are permitted to sue anyone for defamation. Individual politicians are allowed to sue people for defamation in a personal capacity and without using government funds, but this is relatively rare (although George Galloway, who was a backbench MP for a quarter of a century, has sued or threatened to sue for defamation a number of times). However, it is a criminal offence to make a false statement about any election candidate during an election, with the purpose of reducing the number of votes they receive (as with libel, opinions do not count).
While the government is the current group of ministers (the British Government frontbench), the government is also sometimes seen more broadly as including people or organisations that work for the ministers. The civil service, while 'independent of government',is sometimes described as being part of the government, due to the closeness of its working with ministers, in advising them, supporting them, and implementing their executive decisions. Some individuals who work for ministers even have the word 'Government' in their title, such as the Government Actuary and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, as do civil service organisations such as the Government Statistical Service, the Government Legal Profession, and the Government Office for Science. Companies owned by the government can also be seen as parts of the government, such as UK Government Investments and HS2 Ltd.
Similarly, Parliamentary Private Secretaries are not ministers and so not part of the government.However, they are bound by parts of the ministerial code, are part of the payroll vote, and can be seen as being on the 'first rung of the ministerial ladder'. They are sometimes described as being part of the government.
Since 1999, certain areas of central government have been devolved to accountable governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are not part of Her Majesty's Government, and are directly accountable to their own institutions, with their own authority under the Crown; in contrast, there is no devolved government in England.
Up to three layers of elected local authorities (such as county, district and parish Councils) exist throughout all parts of the United Kingdom, in some places merged into unitary authorities. They have limited local tax-raising powers. Many other authorities and agencies also have statutory powers, generally subject to some central government supervision.
The House of Commons is the lower house and de facto primary chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British overseas territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the sovereign (Crown-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Both houses of Parliament meet in separate chambers at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.
The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government in the United Kingdom. The prime minister advises the sovereign on the exercise of much of the royal prerogative, chairs the Cabinet and selects its ministers. As modern prime ministers hold office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons, they sit as a member of Parliament.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state with devolution that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state while the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, currently Boris Johnson, is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the British government, on behalf of and by the consent of the monarch, and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. The British political system is a two party system. Since the 1920s, the two dominant parties have been the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Before the Labour Party rose in British politics, the Liberal Party was the other major political party, along with the Conservatives. While coalition and minority governments have been an occasional feature of parliamentary politics, the first-past-the-post electoral system used for general elections tends to maintain the dominance of these two parties, though each has in the past century relied upon a third party, such as the Liberal Democrats, to deliver a working majority in Parliament. A Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government held office from 2010 until 2015, the first coalition since 1945. The coalition ended following parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015, in which the Conservative Party won an outright majority of seats, 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, while their coalition partners lost all but eight seats.
The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary government that incorporates a series of procedures for operating a legislature. This concept was first developed in England.
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and is composed of three parts: the Monarch, the Senate, and the House of Commons. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and may initiate certain bills. The monarch or her representative, normally the governor general, provides royal assent to make bills into law.
Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature, either directly or through an official acting on the monarch's behalf. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy, royal assent is considered little more than a formality. Even in nations such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Liechtenstein which still, in theory, permit their monarch to withhold assent to laws, the monarch almost never does so, except in a dire political emergency or on advice of government. While the power to veto by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.
In a parliamentary or semi-presidential system of government, a reserve power is a power that may be exercised by the head of state without the approval of another branch or part of the government. Unlike in a presidential system of government, the head of state is generally constrained by the cabinet or the legislature in a parliamentary system, and most reserve powers are usable only in certain exceptional circumstances. In some countries, reserve powers go by another name; for instance, the reserve powers of the President of Ireland are called discretionary powers.
The monarchy of Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as the reigning monarch and head of state of Antigua and Barbuda since 1 November 1981. As such she is Antigua and Barbuda's sovereign and officially called Queen of Antigua and Barbuda.
In the Commonwealth realms, Queen's Consent is a convention whereby ministers and parliament allow the monarch to exercise consultative and veto powers over laws affecting the prerogatives or the interests of the relevant crown. In the United Kingdom, this extends to matters affecting the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall; for the latter, Prince's Consent must also be obtained. The Scottish Parliament adheres to the same requirement of consent, under the name "Crown consent". While consent as such is always granted, and is a formality, the consent procedure has been used to allow the monarch to vet legislation before the parliaments of both the UK and Scotland, and to arrange for changes that benefit the monarch.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity attached to the British monarch, recognised in the United Kingdom. The monarch is regarded internally as the absolute authority, or "sole prerogative", and the source of many of the executive powers of the British government.
The Constitution of the United Kingdom or British constitution comprises the written and unwritten arrangements that establish the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a political body. Unlike in most countries, no attempt has been made to codify such arrangements into a single document. Thus, it is known as an uncodified constitution. This enables the constitution to be easily changed as no provisions are formally entrenched. However, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom recognises that there are constitutional principles, including parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, democracy and upholding international law.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that for the first time sets in legislation a default fixed election date for a general election to the Westminster parliament. Before the passage of the Act elections were required by law to be held at least once every five years, but could be called earlier if the Prime Minister advised the monarch to exercise the royal prerogative to do so. Prime Ministers often employed this mechanism to call an election before the end of the five-year term, sometimes fairly early in it, and some critics saw this as giving an unfair advantage to an incumbent Prime Minister. The FTPA removed this longstanding power of the prime minister. Prior to the FTPA, an election could also take place following a vote of no confidence in the government: such a motion would be passed with an ordinary simple majority of those voting in the House of Commons and would, according to constitutional convention, force the government to resign, at which point the Prime Minister would generally advise the monarch to call for a new election.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.
While the United Kingdom does not have a codified constitution that is contained within a single document, the collection of legal instruments that have developed into a body of law known as constitutional law has existed for hundreds of years.
In 2011, the government of the United Kingdom acknowledged that a constitutional convention had developed whereby the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter before troops are committed. It said that it proposed to observe that convention except when there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate.
Prorogation in the United Kingdom is an act in United Kingdom constitutional law that is usually used to mark the end of a parliamentary session. Part of the royal prerogative, it is the name given to the period between the end of a session of the UK Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. The average length of prorogation since 2000 is approximately 18 days. The parliamentary session may also be prorogued before Parliament is dissolved. The power to prorogue Parliament belongs to the Monarch, on the advice of the Privy Council. Like all prerogative powers, it is not left to the personal discretion of the monarch but is to be exercised, on the advice of the Prime Minister, according to law.
The next United Kingdom general election is scheduled to be held on Thursday 2 May 2024, in line with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. If held to schedule, it would be the second general election to be held at the end of a fixed-term Parliament, and the first since 2015.
The powers of the prime minister of the United Kingdom come from several sources of the UK constitution, including both statute and constitutional convention, but not one single authoritative document. They have been described as "...problematic to outline definitively."
The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, originally drafted as the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill, is a proposed Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that would repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. It would reinstate the constitutional situation before that Act by reviving the prerogative powers of the monarch to dissolve and summon parliament. As the monarch exercises this power on the advice of the prime minister, in effect this would restore the power of the prime minister to call a general election at a time of their choosing. Announced formally in the 2021 State Opening of Parliament, it received its first reading on 12 May 2021. It was introduced by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove.
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