British government departments
The government of the United Kingdom exercises its executive authority through a number of government departments or departments of state. A department is composed of employed officials, known as civil servants, is politically accountable through a minister. Most major departments are headed by a secretary of state, who sits in the cabinet, supported by a team of junior ministers. There are a number of non-ministerial departments; these are headed by senior civil servants, but are linked to a ministerial department through whose ministers they are accountable to Parliament. Departments serve to implement the policies of Her Majesty's Government, regardless of the government's political composition; as a consequence, officials within government departments are required to adhere to varying levels of political impartiality and neutrality. There are two types of government departments. Ministerial departments are led politically by a government minister a member of the cabinet and cover matters that require direct political oversight.
For most departments, the government minister in question is known as a secretary of state. He or she is supported by a team of junior ministers; the administrative management of a department is led by a senior civil servant, known as a permanent secretary. Subordinate to these ministerial departments are executive agencies. An executive agency has a degree of autonomy to perform an operational function and report to one or more specific government departments, which will set the funding and strategic policy for the agency. At "arm's length" from a parent or sponsor department there can be a number of non-departmental public bodies, known colloquially as quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations. Non-ministerial departments cover matters for which direct political oversight is judged unnecessary or inappropriate, they are headed by senior civil servants. Some fulfil a regulatory or inspection function, their status is therefore intended to protect them from political interference; some are headed by Second Permanent Secretaries.
Charity Commission for England and Wales Competition and Markets Authority Crown Prosecution Service Food Standards Agency Forestry Commission Government Actuary's Department Government Legal Department Her Majesty's Land Registry Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs National Crime Agency National Savings and Investments Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills Office of Gas and Electricity Markets Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation Office of Rail and Road Ordnance Survey Serious Fraud Office Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The National Archives UK Statistics Authority UK Trade & Investment Water Services Regulation Authority Office of the Prime Minister Politics of the United Kingdom Cabinet Office - UK Government GOV. UK - widest range of government information and services online A list of all public bodies granted Crown copyright
Courts of England and Wales
The Courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales. The United Kingdom does not have a single unified legal system—England and Wales has one system, Scotland another, Northern Ireland a third. There are exceptions to this rule. Additionally, the Military Court Service has jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom in relation to offences against military law; the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the County Court, the magistrates' courts are administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the highest appeal court in all cases in England and Wales. Before the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 this role was held by the House of Lords; the Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal for devolution matters, a role held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Supreme Court has a separate administration from the other courts of England and Wales, its administration is under a Chief Executive, appointed by the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The Senior Courts of England and Wales were created by the Judicature Acts as the "Supreme Court of Judicature", it was renamed the "Supreme Court of England and Wales" in 1981, again to the "Senior Courts of England and Wales" by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. It consists of the following courts: Court of Appeal High Court of Justice Crown CourtThe Senior Courts of England and Wales, along with the Tribunals and other courts, are administered and supported by HM Courts and Tribunals Service; the Court of Appeal deals only with appeals from other tribunals. The Court of Appeal consists of two divisions: the Civil Division hears appeals from the High Court and County Court and certain superior tribunals, while the Criminal Division may only hear appeals from the Crown Court connected with a trial on indictment.
Its decisions are binding on all courts, including itself, apart from the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justice functions both as a civil court of first instance and a criminal and civil appellate court for cases from the subordinate courts, it consists of three divisions: the Chancery and the Family divisions. The divisions of the High Court are not separate courts, but have somewhat separate procedures and practices adapted to their purposes. Although particular kinds of cases will be assigned to each division depending on their subject matter, each division may exercise the jurisdiction of the High Court. However, beginning proceedings in the wrong division may result in a costs penalty; the formation of The Business and Property Courts of England & Wales within the High Court was announced in March 2017, launched in London in July 2017. The courts would in future administer the specialist jurisdictions, administered in the Queen's Bench Division under the names of the Admiralty Court, the Commercial Court, the Technology & Construction Court, under the Chancery Division's lists for Business and Insolvency, Intellectual Property and Trusts and Probate.
The Crown Court is a criminal court of both original and appellate jurisdiction which in addition handles a limited amount of civil business both at first instance and on appeal. It was established by the Courts Act 1971, it replaced the assizes whereby High Court judges would periodically travel around the country hearing cases, quarter sessions which were periodic county courts. The Old Bailey is the unofficial name of London's most famous criminal court, now part of the Crown Court, its official name is the "Central Criminal Court". The Crown Court hears appeals from magistrates' courts; the Crown Court is the only court in England and Wales that has the jurisdiction to try cases on indictment and when exercising such a role it is a superior court in that its judgments cannot be reviewed by the Administrative Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. The Crown Court is an inferior court in respect of the other work it undertakes, viz. inter alia, appeals from the magistrates’ courts and other tribunals.
The most common subordinate courts in England and Wales are County Court Family Court Magistrates' courts Youth courts The County Court is a national court with a purely civil jurisdiction, sitting in 92 different towns and cities across England and Wales. As from 22 April 2014 there has been a single County Court for England and Wales where there was a series of courts; the County Court is so named after the ancient sheriff's court held in each county, but it has no connection with it nor indeed was the jurisdiction of the county courts based on counties. A County Court hearing is presided over by either a district or circuit judge and, except in a small minority of cases such as civil actions against the police, the judge sits alone as trier of fact and law without assistance from a jury; the old county courts' divorce and family jurisdiction was passed on 22 April 2014 to the single Family Court. Until unification in 2014, county courts were local courts in the sense that each one has an area over
Courts of Scotland
The courts of Scotland are responsible for administration of justice in Scotland, under statutory, common law and equitable provisions within Scots law. The courts are presided over by the judiciary of Scotland, who are the various judicial office holders responsible for issuing judgments, ensuring fair trials, deciding on sentencing; the Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, subject to appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court, only subject to the authority of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on devolution issues and human rights compatibility issues. The judiciary of Scotland, except the Lord Lyon King of Arms, are united under the leadership and authority of the Lord President and Lord Justice General, the president of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary; the Court of Session has the authority, under the Courts Reform Act 2014, to regulate civil procedure through passing subordinate legislation knows as Acts of Sederunt, the High Court of Justiciary has the authority to regulate criminal procedure through passing Acts of Adjournal.
Both Acts of Sederunt and Acts of Adjournal have the capacity to amend primary legislation where it deals with civil or criminal procedure respectively. The majority of criminal and civil justice in Scotland is handled by the local sheriff courts, which are arranged into six sheriffdoms led by a sheriff principal; the sheriff courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases with a monetary value up to £100,000, are able to try criminal cases both on complaint for summary offences, with a jury for indictable offences. Treason and rape are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary, whilst the High Court and sheriff courts have concurrent jurisdiction over armed robbery, drug trafficking, sexual offences involving children all these cases are heard by the High Court. Administration for the courts is provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government; the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is operationally independent of the Scottish Ministers, is governed by a corporate board chaired by the Lord President, with a majority of judicial members.
There are various specialist courts and tribunals with specialist jurisdictions, which are subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of either the Court of Session or High Court of Justiciary, including. Children under the age of 16 who face allegations of criminal conduct are dealt with through the Children's Hearings, which are quasi-judicial in nature. Disputes involving agricultural tenancies and crofting are dealt with by the Scottish Land Court, disputes about private rights in titles for land ownership and land valuation are dealt with by the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. Heraldry is regulated in Scotland both by the civil and criminal law, with prosecutions taken before the Court of the Lord Lyon. Defunct and historical courts include the Admiralty Court, Court of Exchequer, district courts, the High Court of Constabulary; the United Kingdom does not have a single judicial system — England and Wales have one system, Scotland another, Northern Ireland a third. The Military Courts of the United Kingdom have jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom and civilians subject to service discipline in relation to offences against military law.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom operates across all three separate jurisdictions, hearing some civil - but not criminal - appeals in Scottish cases, determining certain devolution and human rights issues. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was created on 1 October 2009 by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; the Supreme Court will hear civil appeals from the Court of Session, it hears appeals from all the civil and criminal courts of England and Wales and of Northern Ireland. The Supreme Court has no authority to hear appeals on criminal matters from the High Court of Justiciary; until the creation of the Supreme Court, ultimate appeal lay to the House of Lords, a chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court took over the judicial functions of the House of Lords, assumed the jurisdiction over devolution and human rights issues vested in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Cases involving "devolution issues" arising under the Scotland Act 1998, as amended by the Scotland Act 2016, which includes disputes regarding the validity of Acts of the Scottish Parliament or executive functions of the Scottish Government, are heard by the Supreme Court.
These cases may reach the Court as follows: The Court of Session may remit a case to the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justiciary can refer a point of law to the Supreme Court; the Law Officers of the Crown may refer a bill from the Scottish Parliament to the Supreme Court. Any court, if a Law Officer so desires, may refer a case to the Supreme Court. Law Officers may refer any issue not related to a case to the Supreme Court; the parties to a case may appeal a case from the Inner House of the Court of Session. The Court of Session is the supreme civil court, it is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal, sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh. The court of first instance is known as the court of appeal the Inner House; the Sheriff Appeal Court is a national court with a jurisdiction over civil appeals from the Sheriff Courts, replaces appeals made to the Sheriffs Principal. The Sheri
Jeremy Bernard Corbyn is a British politician serving as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition since 2015. Corbyn was first elected Member of Parliament for Islington North in 1983. Ideologically, he identifies himself as a democratic socialist. Born and raised in Wiltshire, Corbyn joined Labour as a teenager. Moving to London, he became a trade union representative. In 1974, he was elected to Haringey Council and became Secretary of Hornsey Constituency Labour Party, until elected as the MP for Islington North in 1983, his activism has included roles in Anti-Fascist Action, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, advocating for a united Ireland. As a backbench MP, he voted against the Labour whip, including "New Labour" governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he chaired the Stop the War Coalition from 2011 to 2015. Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015. Taking the party to the left, he advocated renationalisation of public utilities and the railways, a less interventionist military policy, reversals of austerity cuts to welfare and public services.
After Labour MPs sought to remove him in 2016, he won a second leadership contest. Although critical of the European Union, he supported continued membership in the 2016 referendum. In the 2017 general election, Labour again finished as the second-largest party in parliament, but increased their share of the vote to 40%, resulting in a net gain of 30 seats and a hung parliament. Corbyn has been criticised in relation to allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party and for alleged antisemitic associations prior to becoming leader. Corbyn has apologised and asserted his record of opposing antisemitism and his commitment to rooting it out in the party. Corbyn was brought up in nearby Kington St Michael in Wiltshire, he is the youngest of the four sons of Naomi Loveday, a maths teacher, David Benjamin Corbyn, an electrical engineer and expert in power rectifiers. His brother Piers Corbyn is a physicist and weather forecaster, his parents were Labour Party members and peace campaigners who met in the 1930s at a committee meeting in support of the Spanish Republic at Conway Hall during the Spanish Civil War.
When Corbyn was seven years old, the family moved to Pave Lane in Shropshire, where his father bought Yew Tree Manor, a 17th-century country house, once part of the Duke of Sutherland's Lilleshall estate. Corbyn was educated at Castle House School, an independent preparatory school near Newport, before attending Adams' Grammar School as a day student. While still at school, he became active in The Wrekin constituency Young Socialists, his local Labour Party, the League Against Cruel Sports, he joined the Labour Party at age 16 and achieved two E-grade A-Levels, the lowest-possible passing grade, before leaving school at 18. Corbyn joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1966 whilst at school and became one of its three vice-chairs and subsequently vice-president. After school, Corbyn worked as a reporter for a local newspaper, the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser. At around the age of 19 he spent two years doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica as a youth worker and geography teacher.
He subsequently travelled through Latin America in 1969 and 1970, visiting Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Whilst in Brazil he participated in a student demonstration in São Paulo against the Brazilian military government, he attended a May Day march in Santiago, where the atmosphere around Salvador Allende's Popular Unity alliance which swept to power in the Chilean elections of 1970 made an impression on him: " noticed something different from anything I had experienced... What Popular Unity and Allende had done was weld together the folk tradition, the song tradition, the artistic tradition and the intellectual tradition". Returning to the UK in 1971, he worked as an official for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers. Corbyn began a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but left after a year without a degree after a series of arguments with his tutors over the curriculum, he worked as a trade union organiser for the National Union of Public Employees and Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, where his union was approached by Tony Benn and "encouraged... to produce a blueprint for workers' control of British Leyland".
He was appointed a member of a district health authority and in early 1974, at the age of 24, he was elected to Haringey Council in South Hornsey ward. After boundary changes in 1978 he was re-elected in Harringay ward as councillor, remaining so until 1983; as a delegate from Hornsey to the Labour Party conference in 1978, Corbyn moved a motion calling for dentists to be employed by the NHS rather than private contractors. He spoke in another debate, describing a motion calling for greater support for law and order as "more appropriate to the National Front than to the Labour Party". Corbyn became the local Labour Party's agent and organiser, had responsibility for the 1979 general election campaign in Hornsey. Around this time, he became involved with the London Labour Briefing. Described by The Times in 1981 as "Briefing's founder", The Economist in a 1982 article named Corbyn as "Briefing's general secretary figure", as did a profile on Corbyn compiled by parliamentary biographer Andrew Roth in 2004, which alleges that he joined the editorial board as General Secretary in 1979.
Michael Crick in his 2016 edition of Militant says Corbyn was "a member of the editorial board", as does Lansley and Wolmar's 1989 work, The
Philip Anthony Hammond is a British Conservative politician serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer since 2016 and the Member of Parliament for Runnymede and Weybridge since 1997. Hammond was born in Epping and studied Philosophy and Economics at University College, Oxford, he worked from 1984 as a company director at Castlemead Ltd -- a nursing company. From 1995-97 he acted as an adviser to the government of Malawi before his election to Parliament, he was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet by David Cameron in 2005 as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, remaining in this position until a 2007 reshuffle when he became Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. After the formation of the Coalition Government in May 2010, he was appointed Secretary of State for Transport and was sworn of the Privy Council. Upon the resignation of Liam Fox over a scandal in October 2011, Hammond was promoted to replace him as Secretary of State for Defence, before being further promoted in July 2014 to become Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
In July 2016, after Theresa May succeeded Cameron as Prime Minister, Hammond was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Chancellor, Hammond has suggested that the government may begin a reduction in austerity measures. Hammond was born in Epping, the son of a civil engineer, he was educated at Shenfield School in Essex where he was a classmate of Richard Madeley. He read Philosophy and Economics at University College, where he was an Open Scholar, graduated with a first-class honours degree. Hammond joined the medical equipment manufacturers Speywood Laboratories Ltd in 1977, becoming a director of Speywood Medical Limited in 1981, he left in 1983 and, from 1984, served as a director in Castlemead Ltd. From 1993 to 1995, he was a partner in CMA Consultants and, from 1994, a director in Castlemead Homes, he had many business interests including house building and property, manufacturing and oil and gas. He undertook various consulting assignments in Latin America for the World Bank in Washington, D.
C. and was a consultant to the Government of Malawi from 1995 until his election to Parliament. Hammond was the Chairman of the Lewisham East Conservative Association for seven years from 1989 and contested the 1994 Newham North East by-election following the death of sitting Labour MP Ron Leighton, losing to Labour's Stephen Timms by 11,818 votes, he was elected to the House of Commons at the 1997 general election for the newly created Surrey seat of Runnymede and Weybridge. He has remained its MP since, he made his maiden speech on 17 June 1997. In Parliament he served on the Environment and the Regions Select Committee from 1997 until he was promoted by William Hague as front bench spokesman for Health, he was moved to become spokesman for Trade and Industry by Iain Duncan Smith in 2001, transferred to Shadow Minister for Local Government and Regions in 2002. Howard promoted Hammond to his Shadow Cabinet following the 2005 general election as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Following the election of David Cameron as Conservative leader in 2005, Hammond became the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
He was moved back to the role of Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in David Cameron's reshuffle following Gordon Brown's accession to the premiership. Hammond was appointed Secretary of State for Transport following the formation of the coalition government on 12 May 2010, a position he held until 14 October 2011. On 28 September 2011, he announced that the government was to initiate a consultation on plans to raise the speed limit on motorways from 70 mph to 80 mph, with a view to introducing the new limit in 2013. However, following criticism, including that modelling predicted a 20+% increase in motorway deaths and would alienate women voters, the plans were dropped by his successor. Hammond became Secretary of State for Defence on 14 October 2011; as Secretary of State for Defence, Hammond became a member of the National Security Council. In December 2011, he announced; the first women officers began serving on Vanguard class submarines in late 2013. They were due to be followed by female ratings in 2015, when women should begin serving on the new Astute class submarine.
It was confirmed that the cost of the Libyan operations was £212 million – less than was estimated – including £67 million for replacing spent munitions, is all expected to be met from HM Treasury's reserve. In January 2012, the Ministry of Defence announced 4,200 job cuts in a second round of armed forces redundancies; the Army would see up to 2,900 job cuts, including 400 Gurkhas, while the RAF would lose up to 1,000 members and the Royal Navy up to 300. The job losses would account for some of the cuts announced under the defence review – intended to help plug the £38 billion hole in the defence budget. Hammond said the Government had "no choice but to reduce the size of the armed forces – while reconfiguring them to ensure they remain agile and effective"; the £38 billion "black hole" in MoD finances had been "dealt with" and the department's "hand to mouth existence would come to an end", Hammond stated in February 2012. Ministers had found £2.1 billion to be allocated to several major spending projects to be announced in the coming weeks.
The money was to come from a combination of cuts over the previous two years, bargaining with industry suppliers and a one per cent increase in the equipment budget. In February 2012, Hammond said that the Falkland Islands did not face a "current credible military threat" from Argentina, he ad
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor and Under-Treasurer of Her Majesty's Exchequer known as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Chancellor, is a senior official within the Government of the United Kingdom and head of Her Majesty's Treasury. The office is a British Cabinet-level position; the chancellor is responsible for all economic and financial matters, equivalent to the role of finance minister in other nations. The position is considered one of the four Great Offices of State, in recent times has come to be the most powerful office in British politics after the prime minister; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now always Second Lord of the Treasury as one of the Lords Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Treasurer. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was common for the prime minister to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer if he sat in the Commons. In cases when the chancellorship was vacant, the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench would act as Chancellor pro tempore; the last Lord Chief Justice to serve in this way was Lord Denman in 1834.
The chancellor is the third-oldest major state office in British history. The earliest surviving records which are the results of the exchequer's audit, date from 1129–30 under King Henry I and show continuity from previous years; the chancellor controlled monetary policy as well as fiscal policy until 1997, when the Bank of England was granted independent control of its interest rates. The chancellor has oversight of public spending across Government departments; the holder of the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer is ex officio Second Lord of the Treasury as a member of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer. As the Second Lord, his official residence is 11 Downing Street in London, next door to the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, who resides in 10 Downing Street. While in the past both houses were private residences, today they serve as interlinked offices, with the occupant living in an apartment made from attic rooms resided in by servants. Since 1827, the chancellor has always held the office of Second Lord of the Treasury when that person has not been the prime minister.
A previous chancellor, Robert Lowe, described the office in the following terms in the House of Commons, on 11 April 1870: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a man whose duties make him more or less of a taxing machine. He is entrusted with a certain amount of misery which it is his duty to distribute as as he can." The chancellor has considerable control over other departments as it is the Treasury which sets Departmental Expenditure Limits. The amount of power this gives to an individual chancellor depends on his personal forcefulness, his status within his party and his relationship with the prime minister. Gordon Brown, who became chancellor when Labour came into Government in 1997, had a large personal power base in the party; as a result, Tony Blair chose to keep him in the same position throughout his ten years as prime minister. This has strengthened a pre-existing trend towards the Chancellor occupying a clear second position among government ministers, elevated above his traditional peers, the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary.
One part of the Chancellor's key roles involves the framing of the annual year budget. As of 2017, the first is the Autumn Budget known as Budget Day which forecasts government spending in the next financial year and announces new financial measures; the second is a Spring Statement known as a "mini-Budget". Britain's tax year has retained the old Julian end of year: 24 March / 5 April. From 1993, the Budget was in spring, preceded by an annual autumn statement; this was called Pre-Budget Report. The Autumn Statement took place in November or December; the 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2016 budgets were all delivered on a Wednesday, summarised in a speech to the House of Commons. The budget is a state secret. Hugh Dalton, on his way to giving the budget speech in 1947, inadvertently blurted out key details to a newspaper reporter, they appeared in print before he made his speech. Dalton was forced to resign. Although the Bank of England is responsible for setting interest rates, the chancellor plays an important part in the monetary policy structure.
He sets the inflation target. Under the Bank of England Act 1998 the chancellor has the power of appointment of four out of nine members of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee – the so-called'external' members, he has a high level of influence over the appointment of the Bank's Governor and Deputy Governors, has the right of consultation over the appointment of the two remaining MPC members from within the Bank. The Act provides that the Government has the power to give instructions to the Bank on interest rates for a limited period in extreme circumstances; this power has never been used. At HM Treasury the chancellor is supported by a political team of four junior ministers and by permanent civil servants; the most important junior minister is the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a member of the Cabinet
The United Kingdom the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world; the Irish Sea lies between Great Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres, the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world, it is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017. The UK is constitutional monarchy; the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state.
The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area; the United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution; the nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language and political systems of many of its former colonies; the United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world, it was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, military and political influence internationally, it is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
It has been a leading member state of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1973. The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization; the 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". The term "United Kingdom" has been used as a description for the former kingdom of Great Britain, although its official name from 1707 to 1800 was "Great Britain"; the Acts of Union 1800 united the kingdom of Great Britain and the kingdom of Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the United Kingdom, the name was changed to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, Scotland and Northern Ireland are widely referred to as countries. The UK Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom; some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice revealing one's political preferences"; the term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole; the term "Britain" is used both as a synonym for Great Britain, as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Usage is mixed, with the BBC preferring to use Britain as shorthand only for Great Britain and the UK Government, while accepting that both terms refer to the United K