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The British Government: a Brief Overview
(Система государственного управления в Великобритании)

The System of Government

Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as head of the State. The British constitution, unlike those of most countries, is not set out [излагать] in a single document. Instead it is made up of a combination of laws and practices which are not legally enforceable [могущий быть принудительно осуществленным в судебном порядке], but which are regarded as vital to the working of government.

The Monarchy

The stablility of the British government owes much to the monarchy. Its continuity has been interrupted only once (the republic of 1649-60) in over a thousand years.

Today the Queen is not only the head of State, but also an important symbol of national unity. Her complete official royal title is 'Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms [королевство] and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith' [защитница веры], but she is usually referred to as Her Royal Highness or Queen Elizabeth.

According to the law the Queen is head of the executive branch of the government, an integral part of the legislature, head of the judiciary, the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces of the Crown and the 'supreme governor' of the established Church of England [англиканская церковь]. While that sounds like a lot of responsibility, the real power of the monarchy has been steadily reduced over the years to the point where the Queen is uninvolved in the day-to-day operation of the government. She is impartial and acts only on the advice of her ministers.

The Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and the other members of the royal family take part in traditional ceremonies, visit different parts of Britain and many other countries and are closely involved in the work of many charities.


Parliament, Britain's legislature, is made up of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen in her constitutional role. They meet together only on occasions of ceremonial significance, such as the state opening of Parliament, although the agreement of all three is normally required for legislation.

The House of Commons consists of 659 elected members called Members of Parliament or MPs. Election to the House of Commons is an important part of Britain's democratic system. The main purpose of the House of Commons is to make laws by passing Acts of Parliament, as well as to discuss current political issues.

The House of Lords currently consists of 688 non-elected members (hereditary peers [наследственный пэр] and peeresses [супруга пэра, леди], life peers [пожизненный пэр] and peeresses and two archbishops and 24 senior bishops of the established Church [государственная церковь, официально признана государством и частично финансируется им] of England). Its main legislative function is to examine and revise bills from the Commons, but the Lords cannot normally prevent proposed legislation from become law if the Commons insists on it. It also acts as the final court of appeal. In recent years the House of Lords has undergone a process of reform to make it more democratic and representative. As a first step, the rights of some 750 hereditary peers to sit and vote in Parliament solely on the basis that they inherited their seats were removed. The remaining 92 Hereditary peers are allowed to sit temporarily in the transitional chamber until the full reform programme is in place. The next phase of the House of Lords reform would remove the remaining hereditary peers and create a partly-elected upper house.

The center of parliamentary power is the House of Commons. Limitations on the power of the Lords is based on the principle that the Lords should complement [служить дополнением до целого] the Commons and not rival [соперничать] it. Once passed through both Houses, legislation requires the Royal Assent [королевская санкция, санкция монарха (одобрение монархом законопроекта [bill], принятого обеими палатами парламента, после чего законопроект становится законом [act of Parliament])] to become law.

Parliament has a number of ways to exert control [осуществлять надзор] over the executive branch. Parliamentary committees [парламентский комитет] question ministers and civil servants before preparing reports on matters of public policy and issues can be debated before decisions are reached. However, ultimate power rests in the ability of the House of Commons to force the government to resign by passing a resolution of 'no confidence' [недоверие]. The government must also resign if the House rejects a proposal so vital to its policy that it has made it a matter of confidence [конфиденциальный вопрос; материал, не подлежащий оглашению]. The proceedings [работа] of both Houses of Parliament are broadcast on television and radio, sometimes live or more usually in recorded and edited form.

General elections are held after Parliament has been 'dissolved', either by a royal proclamation [королевская декларация (официальное сообщение по общенациональному вопросу; , о созыве или роспуске парламента [Parliament], об объявлении войны, о заключении мира)] or because the maximum term between elections - five years - has expired. The decision on when to hold a general election is made by the Prime Minister.

For electoral purposes Britain is divided into constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the House of Commons. MPs are elected by the relative majority method - sometimes called the 'first past the post' principle - which means the candidate with more votes than any other is elected.

In elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly [национальное собрание] for Wales and the European Parliament in 1999, forms of proportional representation (PR) were used for the first time in Great Britain. PR was also used in the 1998 elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly [ассамблея Северной Ирландии]. Northern Ireland has used a version of PR in European Parliament elections since 1979.

All British citizens together with citizens of other Commonwealth countries and citizens of the Irish Republic resident in Britain may vote, provided they are aged 18 years or over and not legally barred from [запрещать; исключать] voting. People not entitled to vote include those serving prison sentences, peers and peeresses who are members of the House of Lords, and those kept in hospital under mental health legislation [законодательство по охране психического здоровья].

Commonwealth Содружество, британское Содружество, британское Содружество наций (объединяет Великобританию и ее бывшие доминионы и колонии, ныне независимые государства (с разным статусом); английская королева выступает как символ свободной ассоциации независимых государств-членов Содружества и в этом качестве является его главой; объединение - правопреемник Британского содружества наций, основывавшегося на принципе "общей верности короне" ) Включает 50 государств; устава или конституции, определяющих характер, структуру и цели Содружества, не имеет; создавалось Великобританией для сохранения её экономических и военно-политических позиций в подвластных странах и территориях; население около 1435 человек )

Voting is by secret ballot. At a general election the elector selects just one candidate on the ballot paper and marks an 'X' by the candidate's name. Voting in elections is voluntary. In the June 2001 general election 59.4 per cent of the electorate voted, compared with 72 per cent in 1997.

Any person aged 21 or over who is a British citizen or citizen of another Commonwealth country or the Irish Republic may stand for election to Parliament, provided they are not disqualified. People disqualified include those who are bankrupt, those sentenced to more than one year's imprisonment, members of the clergy, members of the House of Lords, and a range of public servants and officials. Approved candidates are usually selected by their political party organisations in the constituency which they represent, although candidates do not have to have party backing.

The leader of the political party which wins most seats (although not necessarily most votes) at a general election, or who has the support of a majority of members in the House of Commons, is by convention invited by the Sovereign to form the new government.

Political Party System

The political party system is essential to the working of the constitution. Although the parties are not registered or formally recognized in law, most candidates for election belong to one of the main parties. Since 1945 eight general elections have been won by the Conservative Party and six by the Labour Party. A number of smaller parties have national and local organizations outside Parliament, and are also represented in local government.

The Government is formed by the party with majority support in the Commons. The Queen appoints its leader as Prime Minister. As head of the Government the Prime Minister appoints about 100 ministers. About 20 ministers make up the Cabinet, the senior group making the major policy decisions. Ministers are collectively responsible for government decisions and individually responsible for their own departments. The second largest party forms the official Opposition, with its own leader and 'shadow cabinet'. The Opposition has a duty to challenge [оспаривать] government policies and to present an alternative program.

Shadow cabinet "теневой кабинет" (парламентский комитет главной оппозиционной партии [Opposition]. Состоит из ведущих деятелей парламентской фракции этой партии, которые занимаются теми же вопросами, что и члены кабинета [Cabinet]

Policies are carried out by government departments and executive agencies staffed by politically neutral civil servants. Over half the Civil Service, about 295,000 civil servants, work in over 75 executive agencies. Agencies perform many of the executive functions of the government, such as the payment of social security benefits [пособия по социальному обеспечению] and the issuing of passports and drivers' licences. Agencies are headed by chief executives responsible for their performance and who enjoy considerable freedom on financial, pay and personnel matters.

Britain's Legal System [правовая система]

England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legal systems, with minor differences in law, organization and practice.

Criminal Justice [уголовное судопроизводство]

Law enforcement [обеспечение правопорядка] is carried out by 52 locally based police departments [полицейский участок] with about 160,000 police officers. The police are normally unarmed and there are strict limits to police powers of arrest. Firearms must be licensed and their possession is regulated.

In British criminal trials the accused in presumed innocent until proven guilty. Trials are in open court and the accused is represented by a lawyer. Most cases are tried before lay justices [мировой судья] sitting without a jury. The more serious cases are tried in the higher courts before a jury of 12 (15 in Scotland) which decides guilt or innocence.

Civil Justice

The civil law of England, Wales and Northern Ireland covers business related to the family, property, contracts and torts (wrongful acts [противоправное, незаконное деяние; деликт] suffered by one person at the hands of another). Actions brought to court are usually tried without a jury. Higher courts deal with more complicated civil cases. Most judgements are for sums of money, and the costs of an action are generally paid by the losing party.

tort деликт, гражданское правонарушение Причинение вреда личности или имуществу (кроме связанного с нарушением контракта). Под это определение подпадают такие правонарушения, как угроза [assault], нанесение физического ущерба [battery], незаконное задержание [illegal confinement] , слова или действия, причиняющие моральный ущерб. Сюда же относятся действия в форме самообороны при защите, как личности, так и собственности, а также нанесение морального ущерба незаконными действиями работников транспорта и сферы обслуживания. Иски граждан к административным органам на сумму, не превышающую 1 тыс. долларов, могут удовлетворяться не в судебном, а в административном порядке

Administration of the Law [применение норм права]

The Lord Chancellor is the head of the judiciary branch of government. The administration of the law rests with [возлагать ответственность] him, the Home Secretary, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The courts of the United Kingdom are the Queen's Courts, the Crown being the historic source of all judicial power.

Lord Chancellor лорд-канцлер (глава судебного ведомства и верховный судья Англии, председатель палаты лордов и одного из отделений Верховного суда)

Home Secretary министр внутренних дел Великобритании

Attorney General генеральный прокурор (министерский пост)

Judges are appointed from among practicing lawyers. Barristers [адвокат, барристер] or advocates advise on legal problems and present cases in the lay justices' and jury courts. Solictors represent individual and corporate clients and appear in the lay justices' courts. Lay justices need no legal qualifications but are trained to give them sufficient knowledge of the law.

barrister барристер (адвокат, имеющий право выступать в высших судах; является членом одного из "Судебных иннов" [Inns of Court])

solicitor солиситор, стряпчий (юрист, консультирующий клиентов, организации и фирмы; подготавливает дела для барристера [barrister]; имеет право выступать в низших судах)



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