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University 18 Yrs + | The Core Executive

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The UK Core Executive – Major Public Organisations

There are a few major public organisations which are not included in the Government list – notably the BBC, the Bank of England and the National Health Service, which, as Peter Mandelson commented, in second only to the Chinese Army in the world as a public employers.

The Armed Forces

The army, air force and navy are politically controlled through the Ministry of Defence, although they obviously have considerable operational independence. The Defence Council is the forum in which politicians and the military, especially the Chief of the Defence Staff, come together to decide strategic issues.

The Security Services

MI5 (Security Services) deals with domestic counter-intelligence and security and MI6 with (Special Intelligence Services) intelligence from across the world. The Home Secretary is responsible for MI5 and the Foreign Secretary for MI6, although effective political control and parliamentary scrutiny has often been an issue.

The Church of England

This is mostly independent but is an established church. The Prime Minister appoints the two Archbishops and the Bishops. The Prime Minister received two names and could choose either – Mrs. Thatcher vetoed the Church’s preferred candidate for the Bishop of Birmingham as too left-wing. Gordon Brown changed the system so that the Church would only give the Prime Minister one name.

Parliament has to approve the Church’s Book of Common Prayer and Bishops sit in the House of Lords. The Church of Scotland is also an established church but has no bishops or compulsory prayer book and the 1921 Act made it independent of political control. The Church of England in Wales was disestablished in 1920 so there are no Welsh Bishops in the House of Lords.

The Monarchy

In Presidential systems the President’s office is clearly a government department with the President’s powers defined in the constitution.

The Queen, metaphorically speaking, rather hovers above the State as, in Britain, the medieval notions of all land being held by permission of the Crown and the population as subjects of the Queen has never been replaced by a written Constitution. In a practical sense, the Monarchy has various links to the Core Executive:-

The Queen appoints the Prime Minister. This is normally formal but in some instances such as the appointment of Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 and Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1963, there has been controversy

The Queen meets the Prime Minister weekly to be consulted and give her views on government policy. The content of these meetings have never been revealed by PMs, not even in their memoirs.

The Queen has to sign Acts of Parliament although it is a convention that she never refuses. The Government is also able to make decisions, including a declaration of war and bringing into being the new system of press regulation, under the Queen’s authority through an Order in Council. Ministers meet as the Privy Council and the Queen then signs the Orders they have decided on.

The Queen’s Private Secretary is the key link between the Government and the Monarch, and with the Military and the Church and provides advice on political and constitutional issues.