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The structure of the Government of Great Britain. The Houses of Parliament.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a parliamentary monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the sixth sovereign queen of Britain and second of her name. She was born in 1926 and crowned in 1953. Her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, was born in 1948. He is also not very young. So, their monarch is "Elizabeth II by the Grace of God" of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, defender of the Faith.

Her life is quite busy. There are hundreds of traditional ceremonies, which the Queen has to keep. Let us take, for example, Royal Garden parties at Buckingham Palace. About 8 thousand guests come to each party.

The Queen acts as head of the government: so, every day she reads official papers from the Government and once a week she has a meeting with Prime Minister. She also has to read the report of the day from Parliament. Any law really becomes the law only if the Queen agrees to it.

British Parliament is the highest legislative body of the country. It consists of two Houses: the House of Commons having 630 members and the House of Lords with approximately 800 peers.

That party, which obtains the majority of seats in the House, is called the Government, and the others - the Opposition. 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 it is the Prime Minister who is the top figure in the government, presiding over the meetings of the cabinet, which are always secret. The Cabinet is the highest executive body of the country, it consists of the Prime Minister and ministers.

People outside Great Britain believe that if a person is elected to sit in Parliament, he or she ought to have a seat. The new House of Commons, built after the Second World War instead of the bombed one, has, however, seats for only two-thirds of its 630 members.

Only four members of the House of Commons have reserved seats. One, of course, is the Speaker. Another is the member who has sat in the House for the longest unbroken period, the member who is known as "the Father of the House of Commons". The other two reserved seats are for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Any MP (Member of Parliament) may introduce a bill to the Parliament. Every bill has three readings at first in the House of Commons. There is no debate allowed after the first reading. After the second reading there may be a discussion. The Speaker calls upon different MPs who are eager to speak. All speeches are addressed to him, beginning with "Mr. Speaker, sir". After the discussion they vote, but not by show of hands (поднятием руки). There are two corridors - "Division Lobbies" - at each side of the House. The one on the right is for the "Yes", and on the left for the "No". When voting is announced, the MPs go out into these Lobbies, to the right or to the left. As they re-enter the House, they are counted at the door, one by one - and it may take 10 or 15 minutes before the Speaker reads out the results of the voting.

After the third reading the bill goes before (представляется) the House of Lords. If the Lords agree to the bill, it will be placed before the Queen for signature. The Queen having signed it, it becomes an Act of Parliament.

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The Prime Minister of the country is Mr. Anthony Blair. He represents the Labour Party - the biggest political party of the country. They have the Conservative party, the party of Liberal Democrats and a number of small parties, as well.

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