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THE UK SECTION: THE BRITISH STATE

The State is the decision-making agency of the British society. It consists of three elements:

  • a decision-making body - Parliament
  • a bureaurocracy that carries out the decisions - the civil service
  • an organisation that enforces the law - the police and judiciary (the courts)

    Parliament

    The House of Commons is the elected body of representatives. The Members of Parliament (MPs) are divided on party lines. Normally the largest party forms the government. There is also the House of Lords which is only partly elected. Proposed laws (known as 'bills') have to be passed three times to become law and are then passed to the Queen for her assent.
    Many critics have pointed out the unrepresentative nature of MPs. They are overwhelmingly male, white and middle class. It is therefore possible for them truly to reflect the will of the people?

    The Civil Service

    The civil service is the bureaurocracy that runs the State on behalf of the government. In total there are over 700 000 civil servants. Whereas ministers (secretaries) rarely stay in one ministry (government department) for more than two years, civil servants spend their whole careers there. Often civil servants manipulate ministers into taking the decisions that they want them to.
    A second point of concern is that top civil servants come largely from a very exclusive social background. In 1984, for example, over half of all recruits to the top jobs in the civil service came from public schools, which are the type of school attended mainly by the British upper class.

    The Police and the Judiciary

    There are almost 200,000 full-time police officers in Britain, concentrated mainly in large cities.
    The judiciary, composed of judges and magistrates (who judge lesser offences), have the role of interpreting and fairly applying the law passed by Parliament. It should be noted that judges too are drawn from a very restricted social class background, just like senior civil servants and generally attended public schools.




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