The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.
The government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining ministers. The prime minister and the other most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet. The government ministers all sit in Parliament, and are accountable to it. The government is dependent on Parliament to make primary legislation, and since the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years to elect a new House of Commons, unless there is a successful vote of no confidence in the government or a two-thirds vote for a snap election (as was the case in 2017) in the House of Commons, in which case an election may be held sooner. After an election, the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) selects as prime minister the leader of the party most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons, usually by possessing a majority of MPs.
Under the uncodified British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch, although this authority is exercised only by, or on the advice of, the prime minister and the cabinet. The Cabinet members advise the monarch as members of the Privy Council. In most cases they also exercise power directly as leaders of the Government Departments, though some Cabinet positions are sinecures to a greater or lesser degree (for instance Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or Lord Privy Seal).
The current prime minister is Theresa May, who took office on 13 July 2016. She is the leader of the Conservative Party, which won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election on 7 May 2015, when David Cameron was the party leader; although at the last general election she failed to secure a majority government. Prior to this, Cameron and the Conservatives led a coalition from 2010 to 2015 with the Liberal Democrats, in which Cameron was prime minister.
The Government is occasionally referred to with the metonym Westminster, due to that being where many of the offices of the government are situated, especially by members in the Government of Scotland, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in order to differentiate it from their own.
|Her Majesty's Government|
in the United Kingdom
Logo of Her Majesty's Government
|State||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland|
|Appointed by||Secretaries of State and other Ministers of the Crown are appointed by the Monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, if or when, and as long as, the monarch is or can be satisfied that the Prime Minister can or is able to command the confidence of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.|
|Headquarters||10 Downing Street|
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy in which the reigning monarch (that is, the King or Queen who is the Head of State at any given time) does not make any open political decisions. All political decisions are taken by the government and Parliament. This constitutional state of affairs is the result of a long history of constraining and reducing the political power of the monarch, beginning with Magna Carta in 1215.
Parliament is split into two houses: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Commons is the lower house and is the more powerful. The House of Lords is the upper house and although it can vote to amend proposed laws, the House of Commons can usually vote to overrule its amendments. Although the House of Lords can introduce bills, most important laws are introduced in the House of Commons – and most of those are introduced by the government, which schedules the vast majority of parliamentary time in the Commons. Parliamentary time is essential for bills to be passed into law, because they must pass through a number of readings before becoming law. Prior to introducing a bill, the government may run a public consultation to solicit feedback from the public and businesses, and often may have already introduced and discussed the policy in the Queen's Speech, or in an election manifesto or party platform.
Ministers of the Crown are responsible to the House in which they sit; they make statements in that House and take questions from members of that House. For most senior ministers this is usually the elected House of Commons rather than the House of Lords. There have been some recent exceptions to this: for example, cabinet ministers Lord Mandelson (First Secretary of State) and Lord Adonis (Secretary of State for Transport) sat in the Lords and were responsible to that House during the government of Gordon Brown.
Since the start of Edward VII's reign in 1901, the prime minister has always been an elected member of Parliament (MP) and therefore directly accountable to the House of Commons. A similar convention applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would likely be politically unacceptable for the budget speech to be given in the Lords, with MPs unable to directly question the Chancellor, especially now that the Lords have very limited powers in relation to money bills. The last Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a member of the House of Lords was Lord Denman, who served as interim Chancellor of the Exchequer for one month in 1834.
Under the British system, the government is required by convention and for practical reasons to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. It requires the support of the House of Commons for the maintenance of supply (by voting through the government's budgets) and to pass primary legislation. By convention, if a government loses the confidence of the House of Commons it must either resign or a General Election is held. The support of the Lords, while useful to the government in getting its legislation passed without delay, is not vital. A government is not required to resign even if it loses the confidence of the Lords and is defeated in key votes in that House. The House of Commons is thus the Responsible house.
The prime minister is held to account during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) which provides an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject. There are also departmental questions when ministers answer questions relating to their specific departmental brief. Unlike PMQs both the cabinet ministers for the department and junior ministers within the department may answer on behalf of the government, depending on the topic of the question.
During debates on legislation proposed by the government, ministers—usually with departmental responsibility for the bill—will lead the debate for the government and respond to points made by MPs or Lords.
Committees of both the House of Commons and House of Lords hold the government to account, scrutinise its work and examine in detail proposals for legislation. Ministers appear before committees to give evidence and answer questions.
Government ministers are also required by convention and the Ministerial Code, when Parliament is sitting, to make major statements regarding government policy or issues of national importance to Parliament. This allows MPs or Lords to question the government on the statement. When the government instead chooses to make announcements first outside Parliament, it is often the subject of significant criticism from MPs and the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The monarch takes little direct part in governing the country, and remains neutral in political affairs. However, the legal authority of the state that is vested in the sovereign, known as The Crown, remains the source of the executive power exercised by the government.
In addition to explicit statutory authority, in many areas the Crown also possesses a body of powers known as the Royal Prerogative, which can be used for many purposes, from the issue or withdrawal of passports to declaration of war. By long-standing custom, most of these powers are delegated from the sovereign to various ministers or other officers of the Crown, who may use them without having to obtain the consent of Parliament.
The head of the government, the prime minister, also has weekly meetings with the monarch, when she "has a right and a duty to express her views on Government matters...These meetings, as with all communications between The Queen and her Government, remain strictly confidential. Having expressed her views, The Queen abides by the advice of her ministers."
Royal Prerogative powers include, but are not limited to, the following:
Even though the United Kingdom has no single constitutional document, the government published the above list in October 2003 to increase transparency, as some of the powers exercised in the name of the monarch are part of the Royal Prerogative. However, the complete extent of the Royal Prerogative powers has never been fully set out, as many of them originated in ancient custom and the period of absolute monarchy, or were modified by later constitutional practice,
As of 2017, there are around 120 government ministers supported by 560,000 Civil Servants and other staff working in the 24 Ministerial Departments and their executive agencies. There are also an additional 26 non-Ministerial Departments with a range of further responsibilities.
Since 1999, certain areas of central government have been devolved to accountable governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are not part of Her Majesty's Government, and are accountable to their own institutions, with their own authority under the Crown; in contrast, there is no devolved government in England.
Up to three layers of elected local authorities (such as County, District and Parish Councils) exist throughout all parts of the United Kingdom, in some places merged into Unitary Authorities. They have limited local tax-raising powers. Many other authorities and agencies also have statutory powers, generally subject to some central government supervision.
The government's powers include general executive and statutory powers, delegated legislation, and numerous powers of appointment and patronage. However, some powerful officials and bodies, (e.g. HM judges, local authorities, and the Charity Commissions) are legally more or less independent of the government, and government powers are legally limited to those retained by the Crown under Common Law or granted and limited by Act of Parliament, and are subject to European Union law and the competencies that it defines. Both substantive and procedural limitations are enforceable in the Courts by judicial review.
Nevertheless, magistrates and mayors can still be arrested for and put on trial for corruption, and the government has powers to insert commissioners into a local authority to oversee its work, and to issue directives that must be obeyed by the local authority, if the local authority is not abiding by its statutory obligations.
By contrast, as in every other European Union (EU) member state, EU officials cannot be prosecuted for any actions carried out in pursuit of their official duties, and foreign country diplomats (though not their employees) and foreign Members of the European Parliament are immune from prosecution in the UK under any circumstance. As a consequence, neither EU bodies nor diplomats have to pay taxes, since it would not be possible to prosecute them for tax evasion. This caused a dispute in recent years when the US Ambassador to the UK claimed that London's congestion charge was a tax, and not a charge (despite the name), and therefore he did not have to pay it – a claim the Greater London Authority disputed.
Similarly, the monarch is totally immune from criminal prosecution and may only be sued with her permission (this is known as sovereign immunity). The monarch, by law, is not required to pay income tax, but Queen Elizabeth II has voluntarily paid it since 1993, and also pays local rates voluntarily. However, the monarchy also receives a substantial grant from the government, the Sovereign Support Grant, and Queen Elizabeth II's inheritance from her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, was exempt from inheritance tax.
In addition to legislative powers, HM Government has substantial influence over local authorities and other bodies set up by it, by financial powers and grants. Many functions carried out by local authorities, such as paying out housing benefit and council tax benefit, are funded or substantially part-funded by central government.
Even though the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is supposed to be independent of the government on a day-to-day level and is supposed to be politically unbiased, some commentators have argued that the prospects of the BBC having its funding cut or its charter changed in future charter renewals in practice cause the BBC to be subtly biased towards the government of the day (or the likely future government as an election approaches) at times.
Neither the central government nor local authorities are permitted to sue anyone for defamation. Individual politicians are allowed to sue people for defamation in a personal capacity and without using government funds, but this is relatively rare (although George Galloway, who was a backbench MP for a quarter of a century, has sued or threatened to sue for defamation a number of times). However, it is a criminal offence to make a false statement about any election candidate during an election, with the purpose of reducing the number of votes they receive (as with libel, opinions do not count).
Air transport for the British Royal Family and the Government of the United Kingdom is provided, depending on circumstances and availability, by a variety of military and civilian operators. This includes the RAF VIP Voyager of the Royal Air Force (No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron) and The Queen's Helicopter Flight which forms part of the Royal Household. In past years chartered civil aircraft and scheduled commercial flights, mainly with British Airways, the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, have been utilised.Cabinet Manual
The Cabinet Manual is a government document in the United Kingdom which sets out the main laws, rules and conventions affecting the conduct and operation of the Government of the United Kingdom. It was written by Her Majesty's Civil Service, led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, and was published by the Cabinet Office on 14 December 2010. The Manual gives an overview of the UK's system of government, reflecting the importance of Parliament, Cabinet government and the democratic nature of the UK’s constitutional arrangements by explaining the powers of the Executive, Sovereign, Parliament, international institutions (most notably the European Union), the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Manual was written as a guide for members of Cabinet, other ministers and civil servants in the execution of government business, but also serves to consolidate many of the previously unwritten constructional conventions through which the British government operates.
The writing of the Manual was originally initiated by Gordon Brown as part of his broader plan to establish a written constitution for the UK. However, in 2011 the House of Lords Constitution Committee stated that the document was "not the first step to a written constitution" as it only describes the existing rules and does not "set existing practice in stone". The Manual does not need to be formally approved by Parliament and can be modified at any time by the Cabinet Secretary.Cabinet reshuffle
A cabinet reshuffle or shuffle is when a head of government rotates or changes the composition of ministers in their cabinet. They are more common in parliamentary systems, and less so in democracies where cabinet heads must be confirmed by a separate legislative body, and occur at pleasure in autocratic systems without suitable checks-and-balances.Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a ministerial office in the Government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister.The Chancellor is answerable to Parliament for the governance of the Duchy. However, the involvement of the Chancellor in the running of the day-to-day affairs of the Duchy is slight, and the office is held by a senior politician whose main role is usually quite different. The position is currently held by David Lidington.Chequers
Chequers, or Chequers Court, is the country house of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A 16th century manor house in origin, it is located near the village of Ellesborough, halfway between Princes Risborough and Wendover in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, at the foot of the Chiltern Hills. It is about 40 miles (65 km) north west of central London. Coombe Hill, once part of the estate, is located two thirds of a mile northeast. Chequers has been the country home of the Prime Minister since 1921. The house is listed Grade I on the National Heritage List for England.Command paper
A command paper is a document issued by the UK Government and presented to Parliament.
White papers, green papers, treaties, government responses, draft bills, reports from Royal Commissions, reports from independent inquiries and various government organisations can be released as command papers, so called because they are presented to Parliament formally "By Her Majesty's Command".
Command papers are numbered. Since 1870 they have been prefixed with an abbreviation of "command" which has changed over time to allow for new sequences.
Command papers are:
produced by government departments
printed on behalf of Her Majesty's Stationery Office
presented to Parliament "by Command of Her Majesty" by the appropriate government minister
recorded by the House of Commons and the House of Lords
published by government departments on gov.uk
subject to statutory legal depositCountries of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom (UK) comprises four countries: England, Scotland and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland (which is variously described as a country, province or region).Within the United Kingdom, a unitary sovereign state, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The UK Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom, remains fully the responsibility of the UK Parliament centralised in London.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK, compiled by British Standards and the UK's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for most sports, including rugby union.The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the Crown and are not part of the UK. Similarly, the British overseas territories, remnants of the British Empire, are not part of the UK.
Historically, from 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1921 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland left the United Kingdom under the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922.England and Wales
England and Wales (Welsh: Lloegr a Chymru) is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four nations of the United Kingdom. "England and Wales" forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows a single legal system, known as English law.
The devolved National Assembly for Wales (Welsh: Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was created in 1999 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom under the Government of Wales Act 1998 and provides a degree of self-government in Wales. The powers of the Assembly were expanded by the Government of Wales Act 2006, which allows it to pass its own laws, and the Act also formally separated the Welsh Government from the Assembly. There is no equivalent body for England, which is directly governed by the Parliament and the government of the United Kingdom.Hillsborough Castle
Hillsborough Castle is an official government residence in Northern Ireland. It is the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the official residence in Northern Ireland of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family when they visit the region, as well as a guest house for prominent international visitors.
From 1924 until the post's abolition in 1973, it was the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland. Since April 2014, it has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces, and is open to the public on certain dates.JANET
Janet is a high-speed network for the UK research and education community provided by Jisc, a not-for-profit company set up to provide computing support for education. It serves 18 million users and is the busiest National Research and Education Network in Europe by volume of data carried. JANET was previously a private, UK government-funded organisation, which provided the Janet computer network and related collaborative services to UK research and education.
All further- and higher-education organisations in the UK are connected to the Janet network, as are all the Research Councils; the majority of these sites are connected via 20 metropolitan area networks across the UK (though Janet refers to these as regions, emphasising that Janet connections are not just confined to a metropolitan area). The network also carries traffic between schools within the UK, although many of the schools' networks maintain their own general Internet connectivity. The name was originally a contraction of Joint Academic NETwork but it is now known as Janet in its own right.
The network is linked to other European and worldwide NRENs through GEANT and peers extensively with other ISPs at Internet Exchange Points in the UK. Any other networks are reached via transit services from commercial ISPs using Janet's Peering Policy.The Janet network is operated by Jisc Services Limited, part of Jisc. Janet is also responsible for the .ac.uk and .gov.uk domains. On 1 December 2012, Janet and Jisc Collections joined together to form Jisc Collections and Janet Limited, as subsidiary organisations to Jisc. In March 2015, Jisc Collections and Janet Limited was renamed to Jisc Services Limited. Jisc Services continues to operate under the brand name of Janet, with the same remit. Janet was previously known as the JNT Association, and prior to that, UKERNA (the United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association).Local government in the United Kingdom
Local government in the United Kingdom has origins that pre-date the United Kingdom itself, as each of the four countries of the United Kingdom has its own separate system. For an overview, see Administrative geography of the United Kingdom. For details, see:
Local government in England
Local government in Northern Ireland
Local government in Scotland
Local government in WalesFor the history of local government in each country, see:
History of local government in England
History of local government in Northern Ireland
History of local government in Scotland
History of local government in WalesFor local government entities in each country, see
Category:Local authorities of England
Category:Local authorities of Northern Ireland
Category:Local authorities of Scotland
Category:Local authorities of WalesMinister of the Crown
Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister to the reigning sovereign or their viceroy. The term indicates that the minister serves at His/Her Majesty's pleasure, and advises the sovereign or viceroy on how to exercise the Crown prerogatives relative to the minister's department or ministry.Non-departmental public body
In the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations). NDPBs are not an integral part of any government department and carry out their work at arm's length from ministers, although ministers are ultimately responsible to Parliament for the activities of bodies sponsored by their department.
The term includes the four types of NDPB (executive, advisory, tribunal and independent monitoring boards) but excludes public corporations and public broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4 and S4C).Parliamentary Private Secretary
A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is a United Kingdom or New Zealand Member of Parliament (MP) designated by a senior minister in government or shadow minister to act as the minister's contact with MPs. This role is junior to that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which is a ministerial post, salaried by one or more departments.Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
A Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (also called a Parliamentary Secretary, especially in government departments not headed by a Secretary of State) is the lowest of three tiers of government minister in the government of the United Kingdom, immediately junior to a Minister of State, which is itself junior to a Secretary of State.The Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 provides that at any one time there can be no more than 83 paid ministers (not counting the Lord Chancellor, up to 3 law officers and up to 22 whips). Of these, no more than 50 ministers can be paid the salary of a minister senior to a Parliamentary Secretary. Thus if 50 senior ministers are appointed, the maximum number of paid Parliamentary Secretaries is 33.The limit on the number of unpaid Parliamentary Secretaries is given by the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 ensuring that no more than 95 government ministers of any kind can sit in the House of Commons at any one time; there is no upper bound to the number of unpaid ministers sitting in the House of Lords.The position should neither be confused with the Permanent Secretary which is the most senior civil servant in a government department (officially also known as the Permanent Under-Secretary of State), nor with a Parliamentary Private Secretary (an MP serving as an assistant to a minister entitled to directly relevant expenses but no further pay).Of his tenure as an under-secretary in Macmillan's 1957–1963 Conservative government from the Lords, the Duke of Devonshire noted "No one who hasn't been a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State has any conception of how unimportant a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State is".Press Recognition Panel
The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) was created on 3 November 2014 by the Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press.The PRP was established following the Leveson Inquiry (2011–2012), a judicial public inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.
The PRP's function is to carry out activities relating to the recognition of press regulators.The new system of independent press regulation received all-party support when it was devised. The system was designed to protect the public as well as promote the freedom of the press.
In October 2016, IMPRESS became the UK's first recognised press regulator, after its application was approved by the independent PRP Board.Sino-British Joint Declaration
The Sino–British Joint Declaration is an international bilateral treaty signed between the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom on 19 December 1984 in Beijing. The Declaration stipulates the sovereign and administrative arrangement over Hong Kong after 1 July 1997, when the lease of the New Territories was set to expire according to the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory.
The Declaration was signed by Premier Zhao Ziyang of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom (UK) on behalf of their respective governments. It entered into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification on 27 May 1985, and was registered by the PRC and UK governments at the United Nations on 12 June 1985. In the Joint Declaration, the PRC Government stated that it had decided to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) with effect from 1 July 1997, and the UK Government declared that it would hand over Hong Kong to the PRC with effect from 1 July 1997. The PRC Government also declared its basic policies regarding Hong Kong in the document.
In accordance with the "one country, two systems" principle agreed between the UK and the PRC, the socialist system of PRC would not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years until 2047. The Joint Declaration provides that these basic policies should be stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law and that the socialist system and socialist policies shall not be practised in HKSAR. However, with the start of the Umbrella Revolution in 2014, a campaign against the perceived infringements in the HKSAR by mainland China, the British Foreign Office announced that Chinese officials now treat the Joint Declaration as "void".Unitary authorities of England
Unitary authorities of England are local authorities that are responsible for the provision of all local government services within a district. They are constituted under the Local Government Act 1992, which amended the Local Government Act 1972 to allow the existence of counties that do not have multiple districts. They typically allow large towns to have separate local authorities from the less urbanised parts of their counties and provide a single authority for small counties where division into districts would be impractical. Unitary authorities do not cover all of England. Most were established during the 1990s and a further tranche were created in 2009. Unitary authorities have the powers and functions that are elsewhere separately administered by councils of non-metropolitan counties and the non-metropolitan districts within them.Visa requirements for British citizens
Visa requirements for British citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of the United Kingdom. As of 26 March 2019, British citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 185 countries and territories, ranking the British passport 5th in terms of travel freedom (tied with Austrian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swiss passports) according to the Henley Passport Index. Additionally, the World Tourism Organisation also published a report on 15 January 2016 ranking the British passport 1st in the world (tied with Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Singapore) in terms of travel freedom, with a mobility index of 160 (out of 215 with no visa weighted by 1, visa on arrival weighted by 0.7, eVisa by 0.5, and traditional visa weighted by 0).Visa requirements for other classes of British nationals such as British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Protected Persons or British Subjects are different.
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Heads of governments of British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
Departments of Her Majesty's Government
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United Kingdom articles