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Despite being one of the longest-established examples of a democratic society in the world, some immigrants to the UK might find the British government unusual in its lack of a written constitution. However, through its use of institutions, conventions and traditions, the same level of guidance is provided.
As a constitutional democracy, the UK favours a number of institutions to ensure fair and efficient governing, as opposed to one over-arching power. Additionally, the developments of recent years have seen devolved administrations set up for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As Head of State for the United Kingdom (as well as acting as monarch or Head of State for a number of countries within the Commonwealth), Queen Elizabeth II's powers and responsibilities are assigned according to the UK's status as a constitutional monarchy. This means she does not rule directly, and instead is required simply to appoint the democratically elected UK government when required. However, she can still act in an advisory role on policies and actions taken by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
As a parliamentary democracy, the UK is divided into 646 parliamentary constituencies. Each of these constituencies has a Member of Parliament (or MP) to represent their needs and opinions, who are democratically elected every five years. Most MPs belong to a political party (with the major parties currently being the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats), and the party with the most MPs in the House of Commons forming the government. The 646 elected MPs form the House of Commons, which combines with the peers who make up the House of Lords to form Parliament.
Law requires that a general election to elect MPs be held at least every five years, though the Prime Minister has the option to hold them sooner if they so decide. In the instance that an MP dies or resigns, there will be another election (known as a 'by-election') in his or her constituency. Elections work to the 'first past the post' system. This system works so that in each constituency, the candidate who attains the most votes is elected. Following this, the ruling government is decided by the party with the members who have won the majority of constituencies.
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The UK Visa Bureau is a division of Visa Bureau Ltd, an independent UK company specialising in visa and immigration services to the UK.
OISC No. F200600117 Authorised to Advise Sponsors
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