Study Notes

Executive branch (UK Politics)

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The executive branch is the part of government with authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state. It executes, or enforces, the law. The idea of separation of powers in a liberal democracy means that there is an executive, legislative and judicial branch, with authority thus distributed among these branches, so as to protect individual liberty in response to the possibility of tyrannical leadership. So, the legislature makes the laws, the judiciary interprets the laws, whilst the executive enforces the law.

That said, the executive branch can be the source of certain types of law, because they are able to make executive decrees or executive orders, and executive bureaucracies can be the source of regulations. So, the executive branch of government consists of leaders of offices, with the top leadership roles including the ‘Head of State’ (the Queen in the UK, a ceremonial position), the ‘Head of Government’ (the Prime Minister in the UK, and the de facto leader), in addition to a defence minister, an interior minister (the Home Secretary in the UK), a foreign minister, a finance minister (the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK) and a justice minister.

In the study of the Government of the UK, we look at the effectiveness of the checks and balances on the power of the executive provided by the legislature (in both the House of Commons and House of Lords) and the judiciary. We also look at how the civil service works with the executive and how the power of the executive itself is balanced with the power of the Prime Minister.

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