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Question 16. How does British constitution differ from many other countries constitution?

Britain is a constitutional monarchy. That means it is a country governed by a king or 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. In other words, the basic system is not so different from anywhere else in Europe. However, there are features of the British system of government which make it different from that in other countries and which are not “modern” at all. The most notable of these is the question of the constitution. The British constitution, unlike that of most other countries, is an unwritten constitution, not being contained in any single legal document. Of course, there are rules, regulations, principles and procedures for the running of the country-all the things that political scientists and legal experts study and which are known collectively as ”the constitution”. But there is no single written document which can be appealed to as the highest law of the land and the final arbiter in any matter of dispute. Nobody can refer to “article 6” or “the first amendment” or anything like that, because nothing like that exists.

There is no written law in Britain that says anything about who can be the Prime Minister or what the powers of the Prime Minister are,even though he or she is probably the most powerful person in the country. Similarly, there is no single written document which asserts people’s rights. Some rights which are commonly accepted in modern democracies (for ex, the rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex or race ) have been formally recognized by Parliament through legislation; but others (for ex, the rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion or political views) have not. Nevertheless, it is understood that these latter rights are also part of the constitution. It is formed partly by statute law(Acts of Parliament) and important documents(such as Magna Carta), partly by common law (a series of laws dating back to the Middle Ages), and partly by customs and conventions and can be altered by a simple Act of Parliament like any other law. The constitution thus is constantly changing in response to the interpretation of laws in the courts and the introduction of new Acts of Parliament and adapts readily to changing political conditions and ideas. In theory the Constitution safeguards the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

The legislature, which consists of both Houses of Parliament and formally the monarch, is the supreme authority, the supreme law-making body.

The executive consists of the Government-Cabinet and government ministries(or departments) headed by ministers (or secretaries of state). The government is responsible for putting laws into effect and directing national policy and acts formally in the name of the monarch.

The judiciary is composed mainly of the judges of the higher courts, who determine the common law and interpret Acts of Parliament and decide on cases arising out of the laws. The judiciary is supposed to be independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.

The organs of government are clearly distinguishable, although their functions often intermingle and overlap. The monarch is formally the head of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. A member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons and a member of the House of Lords may both be in the government of the day. A Law Lord in the House of Lords also serves the House of Lords as the highest appeal court.

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