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British Institutions

   Parliament is the most important authority in Britain. Parliament first met in the 13th century. Britain does not have a written constitution, but a set of laws. In 1689 Mary II and William III became the first constitutional monarchs. They could rule only with the support of the Parliament. Technically Parliament is made up of three parts: the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
   The continuity of the English monarchy has been interrupted only once during the Cromwell republic. Succession to the throne is hereditary but only for Protestants in the direct line of descent.
   Formally the monarch has a number of roles. The monarch is expected to be politically neutral, and should not make political decisions. Nevertheless, the monarch still performs some important executive and legislative duties including opening and dissolving Parliament, signing bills passed by both Houses and fulfilling international duties as head of state.
   The present sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1953. The House of Lords comprises about 1 200 peers. The house is presided over by the Lord Chancellor. The House of Lords has no real power but acts as an advisory council for the House of Commons. As well as having legislative functions, the Lords is the highest court of appeal. The House of Commons consists of Members of Parliament who are elected by the adult suffrage of the British people in general elections which are held at least every five years. The country is divided into 650 constituencies each of which elects one Member of Parliament.
   The Commons, therefore, has 650 Members of Parliament. The party which wins the most seats forms the Government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister. The functions of Commons are legislation and security of government activities. The house is presided over by the Speaker. The government party sits on the Speaker's right while on his left sit the members of the opposition.
   1. What is the most important authority in Britain?
   2. Does Great Britain have its constitution?
   3. Who were the first constitutional monarchs?
   4. What are the parts the Parliament made up of?
   5. Does the monarch have any duties?
   6. Who is present sovereign?
   7. How many peers are there in the House of Lords?
   8. Does the House of Lords have real power?
   9. How are the Members of Parliament elected?
   10. How many Members of Parliament are there in the House of Commons?
   11. Who becomes the Prime Minister?