- British Constitution
Britain is a constitutional monarchy: it is ruled by a king or queen who accepts the advice of Parliament. It is also a parliamentary democracy, a country whose government is controlled by a parliament that has been elected by the people. The highest positions in government are taken by elected Members of Parliament, also called MPs. The king or queen now has little real power.The principles and procedures by which Britain is governed have developed over many centuries. They are not written down in a single document that can be referred to in a dispute. The British Constitution is made up of statute law (= laws agreed by Parliament), common law (= judges’ decisions made in court and then written down) and conventions (= rules and practices that people cannot be forced to obey but which are considered necessary for efficient government). The Constitution can be altered by Acts of Parliament, or by general agreement.Similarly, there is no single document that lists people’s rights. Some rights have been formally recognized by Parliament through laws, e.g. the right of a person not to be discriminated against (= treated differently) because of his or her sex. The Human Rights Act 1998 made all the rights established in the European Convention on Human Rights part of British law. It is generally understood that these rights are part of the Constitution.A new government department, the Department for Constitutional Affairs was set up in 2003 with responsibility for the areas of government where there are constitutional changes, for example the reforms in the House of Lords and relations with the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly..
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