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Administration of the Law

The Lord Chancellor is the head of the judiciary branch of government. The administration of the law rests with him, the Home Secretary, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The courts of the United Kingdom are the Queen's Courts, the Crown being the historic source of all judicial power.

Judges are appointed from among practicing lawyers. Barristers or advocates advise on legal problems and present cases in the lay justices' and jury courts. Solicitors represent individual and corporate clients and appear in the lay justices' courts. Lay justices need no legal qualifications but are trained to give them sufficient knowledge of the law.

A person in need of legal council may qualify for public funds assistance.

Task 11. The British Government: How Parliament Works

The Houses of Parliament

Parliament, Britain's legislature, is made up of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen in her constitutional role. They meet together only on occasions of symbolic importance such as the state opening of parliament, when the Commons are summoned by the Queen to the House of Lords. The agreement of all three elements is normally required for legislation, but that of the Queen is given as a matter of course to Bills sent to her.

Parliament can legislate for Britain as a whole, or for any part of the country. It can also legislate for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are Crown dependencies and not part of Britain. They have local legislatures which make laws on the island affairs.

As there are no legal restraints imposed by a written constitution, Parliament may legislate as it pleases, subject to Britain's obligations as a member of the European Union. It can make or change any law; and can overturn established conventions or turn them into law. It can even prolong its own life beyond the normal period without consulting the electorate. In practice, however, Parliament does not assert its supremacy in this way. Its members bear in mind the common law and normally act in accordance with precedent. The validity of an Act of Parliament, once passed, cannot be disputed in the law courts. The House of Commons is directly responsible to the electorate, and in this century the House of Lords has recognized the supremacy of the elected chamber. The system of party government helps to ensure that Parliament legislates with its responsibility to the electorate in mind.

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