Voting and GovernmentCategory: Politics
Great Britain is a monarchy, but the Queen of Great Britain is not absolute, but constitutional. Her powers are limited by Parliament. But the power is hereditary, and not elective.
The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the party that has a majority in the House of Commons. All the affairs of the state are conducted in the name of the Queen (or King), but really the Prime Minister is responsible for every measure submitted to Parliament. He is the virtual ruler of the country, presiding over the meetings of the Cabinet, which are always secret. Unless there is a Coalition Government, the members of the Cabinet belong to one party only.
When once a party has won a majority of votes, it forms the Government, and may hold office for five years, unless it is defeated by the Opposition on some important Bill, or unless it decides to “appeal to the country”, and to have another general election.
The Opposition criticises, attempts to amend or directly opposes the Bills introduced by the Government. If they succeed in defeating the Government on any important Bill, or carry a vote of “No confidence” in the Government, the latter resigns, and the Queen calls upon the leader of the Opposition to form a new Government.
There are 625 Members of the English House of Commons (635 were elected in October 1974.). Any member may introduce a Bill, and ask permission to bring it to the notice of the House. When permission has been obtained, the Bill is brought before the House for the first reading. The first reading of a Bill is scarcely ever objected to, as there is no debate or amendment allowed at this stage; but a date is fixed for the second reading.
When this second reading takes place the Member who has introduced the Bill makes his speech, explaining the proposed new law, and his reasons for bringing it forward. Other Members may support the Bill: but others may oppose it. There may be a discussion. The Speaker calls upon different Members who are eager to speak. All speeches are addressed to him, beginning “Mr Speaker, Sir”.
When these various speeches have been made for and against the Bill, the Speaker will then ask whether the Bill is to pass the second reading, and to go on to the next stage, when it will be discussed in detail by a special committee. The House may be unanimous in favour of the Bill, or, on the other hand, some Members may shout Aye and others No. The Speaker must then call for a division. The Members leave their seats, and pass into the lobbies through different doors, to show which way they are voting. Two tellers, one on each side, count the votes as the Members go through.
When the numbers have been taken the Members return to their seats, and the Speaker reads out the results of the voting. If the Bill has a majority of votes, that means that it has passed the second reading. It will be now fully discussed by committees. After that, it will be read a third time, and then go before the House of Lords.
The House of Lords, or the Upper House, consists of the whole body of English peers, a certain number of elected Irish and Scottish peers, and a certain number of the Bishops of the Church of England. The House of Lords may pass or reject a Bill, but it has no power to throw out a Bill relating to money.
Finally, if the Lords agree to a Bill, it will be placed before the Queen for signature. When the Queen signs it, it becomes an Act of Parliament.
Every person who has the right to vote can vote for a Member of Parliament, (Since 1969 aged 18 and over.) and no one else knows for whom he or she has voted. Voting is by ballot.
On election day, having decided which candidate is in their opinion the best one, the voters go to polling-station and record their votes by placing a cross against their candidate’s name on a printed slip of paper, which they place in ballot-box.
All day long people are going to the poll to record their votes until the evening, when the election officials count up the numbers of votes and the Returning Officer announces the elected candidate.