The Prime Minister

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT

Her majesty's Government is the main executive body in GB. Its major function is to "execute" -laws, to put them into effect. The composition of governments can vary both in the number of ministers and in the titles of some offices. New ministerial offices can be created, others can be abolished, and functions may be transferred from one minister to another. Yet, the whole structure of the G. remains the same and we can divide it into three parts: the Ministry, G. Departments and the Privy Council.

The Ministry is the government of the moment. The head of the Ministry is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Sovereign and, by modern convention, is the leader of the political party, which has a majority in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister is also, by tradition, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister of the Civil Service. The Prime Minister has a unique position of authority arid we can say that he or she is well placed to dominate the Government. The Prime Minister presides over the Cabinet, is responsible for an allocation of functions among ministers and informs the Queen at regular meetings of the general business of the G. The PM's other responsibilities include recommending a number of appointments to the Queen. The PM also makes recommendations for the award of many civil honors and distinctions. One of the most important functions of the PM is selection of the Cabinet. The Cabinet consists of the 16 to 24 senior ministers and it meets about once a week at the PM's Office at 10 Downing Street. All major decisions of the G. are made by the Cabinet, and therefore it is the Cabinet which forms G. policy. The functions of the Cabinet are to initiate and decide on policy, the supreme control of G. and the coordination of G. Departments. The Cabinet meets in private and its proceedings are confidential. Its . members are bound by their oath as Privy Counselors not to disclose information about its proceedings. To keep the work of the Cabinet more successful a great deal of its work is carried on through the committee system.

After the PM has formed his Cabinet, he selects the rest of the ministry. Those ministers become the departmental ministers and they form Government Departments, that are responsible for implementing G. policy. The modern G. is arranged in about 15 departments. Each of them is headed by two people: a political head and an administrative head. Nearly all political heads of the Departments are the Cabinet members and they usually have the official title of "Secretary of State"; or may have a special title as in the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Administrative heads are the members of the Civil Service -and they are called "Permanent secretaries". "Permanent secretaries" are responsible for a permanent staff, which is the part of the Civil Service.

We must say a few words about the Civil Service. It is wholly non-political. Those of its ministers who are in any way concerned with administration are forbidden to be candidates for Parliament or to give public political support to any political party. When a new G. conies into office the same civil servants must work for the new ministers, who a week ago led the attack on the old ministers' policies. Each D. has a large staff of professional civil servants who do most of the work of running the D. on the minister's behalf.

Among all 15 departments the most important one is the Treasury, which controls the economy pf the nation. The PM is usually the political head of the Treasury.

As well as G. D-s there are Government agencies formed to operate public services, f.e. - the Post Office, British Rail and so on. Most of these agencies are subject to the control of one of the G. D.

One of the most interesting things concerning the ministry in GB is the doctrine of "ministerial responsibility". "Ministerial responsibility" refers both to the collective responsibility for government policy, and actions, which ministers share, and to ministers' individual responsibility for their departments' work.

The doctrine of collective responsibility means that the Cabinet acts unanimously even when Cabinet ministers do not all agree on a subject. The policy of departmental ministers must be consistent with the policy of the G. as a whole. Once the G's policy on a matter has been decided, each minister is expected to support it or resign.

The individual responsibility of ministers for the work of their departments means that they are answerable to Parliament for all their departments and activities. They bear the consequences of any failure in administration, any aspect of policy, which may be criticized in Parliament. Ministers must defend themselves against criticism in person.

The Privy Council developed from a small group of royal advisers at court into the chief source of executive authority. But its position was weakened in the 18th  and 19th centuries as more of his functions were transferred to a developing parliamentary Cabinet. Today the main function of the Privy Councils to advise the Queen on the approval of Orders in Council, including those made under prerogative powers and those made under statutory powers. The Privy Council also advises the Sovereign on the issue of Royal proclamations, such as those summoning or dissolving Parliament. The most important task of the Privy Council is performed by its Judicial Committee, which functions as the final court of appeal from those dependencies and Commonwealth countries, which have retained this avenue of appeal. It may also be used as an arbiter for a wide range of courts and committees in Britain and overseas.

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