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The British Government: The Structure of Her Majesty's Government
The British Government: A Brief Overview
Information courtesy of The British Information Services

Her Majesty's Government is the body of ministers responsible for the conduct of national affairs. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Queen, and all other ministers are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Most ministers are members of the Commons, although the Government is also fully represented by ministers in the Lords. The Lord Chancellor is always a member of the House of Lords.

The composition of governments can vary both in the number of ministers and in the titles of some offices. New ministerial offices may be created, others may be abolished, and functions may be transferred from one minister to another.


The Prime Minister
The Prime Minister is also, by tradition, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. The Prime Minister's unique position of authority derives from majority support in the House of Commons and from the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. By modern convention, the Prime Minsiter always sits in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister presides over the Cabinet, is responsible for the allocation of functions among ministers and informs the Queen at regular meetings of the general business of the Government. The Prime Minister's other responsibilities include recommending a number of appointments to the Queen. These include:

1. Church of England archbishops, bishops and eans and other Church appointments;
2. senior judges, such as the Lord Chief Justice;
3. Privy Counsellors; and
4. Lord-Lieutenants.
They also include certain civil appointments, such as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Poet Laureate, Constable of the Tower, and some university posts; and appointments to various public boards and institutions, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), as well as various royal and statutory commissions. The Prime Minister also makes recommendations for the award of many civil honors and distinctions.

The Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street, the official residence in London, has a staff of civil servants who assist the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister may also appoint special advisors to the Office to assist in the formation of policies.

Departmental Ministers
Ministers in charge of government departments are usually in the Cabinet; they are known as 'Secretary of State' or 'Minister', or may have a special title, as in the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Non-Departmental Ministers
The holders of various traditional offices, namely the Lord President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Lord Privy Seal, the Paymaster General and, from time to time, Ministers without Portfolio, may have few or no department duties. They are therefor available to perform any duties the Prime Minister may wish to give them.

Lord Chancellor and Law Officers
The Lord Chancellor holds a special position, as both a minister with departmental functions and the head of the judiciary. The four Law Officers of the Crown are: for England and Wales, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General; and for Scotland, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Ministers of State and Junior Ministers
Ministers of State usually work with ministers in charge of departments. They normally have specific responsibilities, and are sometimes given titles which reflect these functions. More than one may work in a department. A Minister of State may be given a seat in the Cabinet and be paid accordingly.

Junior Ministers - generally Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State or, where the senior minister is not a Secretary of State, simply Parliamentary Secretaries - share in parliamentary and departmental duties. They may also be given responsibilitiy, directly under the departmental minister, for specific aspects of the department's work.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you aren't confused yet, wait a minute. It is easy to see where Jonathan Swift got the inspiration for "Gulliver's Travels".



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