In Great Britain, appointment of Prime Minister is not explained under constitution or law. Concept of Prime Minister has been evolved in Great Britain during those constitution changes, which spread over centuries. In fact, appointment of Prime Minister is due to convention. Now it is an admitted convention that British King/Queen invites a person, who commands majority in House of Commons , to form government. Thus, British King/Queen appoints Prime Minister from House of Common.
Choice of Prime Minister
(i) The Sovereign chooses the Prime Minister. Conventions ensure that in most cases the “choice” is forma, for the Sovereign is expected to send for the leader of the party or group of parties that has, or can control, a majority in the House of Commons. The choice became formal owing to the development of the party system.
(ii) If the Prime Minister dies in office or retires on personal grounds, such as ill health or old age, the sovereign has really no discretion in the common case where the government has an absolute majority and one other Cabinet Minister in the Commons is obviously regarded as ranking next to the Prime Minister. In this way Neville Chamberlian succeeded Baldwin in 1937.
(iii) A retiring Prime Minister is probably not entitled to proffer advice as to his successor, but he can make his views known before-hand, and anyway the sovereign is free to consult him and other members of the government party.
(iv) There are exceptional circumstances when the sovereign really has exercise a personal discretion within limits; and this is perhaps the most important function of the sovereign at the present day.
(v) The Prime Minister is normally the leader of his party, having either been chosen as Prime Minster because he is Prime Minister. He is primarily responsible for the organization of the business of the House, even if 9as is now usual) this work is delegated to the Leader of the House. In the House he is expected to speak in debates, and to answer questions on general government policy, the future business of the House and any residual matters.
Position in the Government
The Prime Minister, dominating position in the Cabinet. This can be well explained under the following headings:-
a. As Cabinet Chief
As head of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister supervises and coordinates the work of different Ministers. He performs a pivotal role in the formation and working of the Cabinet. His opinion carries weight in the Cabinet meetings and as such he can resolve the differences among the ministers.
b. Cabinet decisions
The Prime Minister sees that Cabinet decisions are carried out by the departments, although, as we have said, the extent to which he supervises the administration varies with different holders of the office. His contact with the affairs of the Foreign Office is often especially close. The Cabinet secretariat is under this control, and consults him in preparing the agenda. He communicates directly with the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and presides when they meet in this country.
c. Formation of Govt
The primary functions of the Prime Minister are to form a government, and to choose and preside over the Cabinet. He gives advice to his ministerial colleagues on matters before they come to the Cabinet, and he is the main channel of communication between the Cabinet and the Sovereign, with whom he has a weekly audience. He advises the Sovereign on a dissolution.
Many Crown appointments in addition to ministerial offices, are made on his advice. These include the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, the Lords justices of Appeal, bishops and deans of the Church of England, peerages Privy councilors and most honours. As First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service, the Prime Minister approves the senior appointments in the Civil Service.
As Leader of the House
Being the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister assumes the roe of leader of the House. As leader of the House, the Prime Minister enjoys privileges on the floor of the House.
As a National Leader
His opinion on important national issues is paid due head. His statements and speeches are regarded as the most effective channels for molding public opinion.
Link between the Queen and Cabinet
British Prime Minister acts as a link between the Cabinet and the Queen. He keeps her informed about all important decisions of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister now invariable takes the office of First Lord of the Treasury, and occasionally some other office as well, such as that of Chancellor of the Exchequer (Gladstone), War office.
Conduct of Foreign Affairs
The opinion of the Prime Minister carries special weight in foreign affairs. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, remains in constant touch with the Prime Minister.
Powers of British Prime Minister
Undoubtedly, British Monarch is constitutional head of Great Britain, but British Prime Minister is considered actual head of British government. The reason is that all royal powers are practically exercised either by British Prime Minister or by his/her cabinet-ministers in the name of British Crown.
British Prime Minister holds an influential place in the government. With the passage of time, a number of powers of British Prime Minister have evolved. Therefore, British Prime Minister possesses many powers. He is head of administration and possesses following administrative powers.
(i) British Cabinet
British Prime Minister can appoint minister of his/her cabinet. Prime Minister possesses power to allocate functions and departments among minister. Prime Minister chairs meetings of British Cabinet. British Prime Minister coordinates not only the activities and policies of the cabinet, but also those of governmental departments.
(ii) Various Appointments
NO-doubt, actual appointment are made in most cases by British King/Queen, but selections are recommendations are made by the Prime Minister. British Prime Minister possesses power to advice British King/Queen for following Appointment
- Ø Finance Minister
- Ø Ministers of Cabinet
- Ø Senior Civil and Military officers
- Ø Ambassadors and diplomatic representatives
- Ø Governor-Generals of dominions and Governors of Colonies
- Ø Peerages, knighthoods and other honors
(iii) National Policy
British Prime Minister possesses power to make national policy regarding national as well as foreign affairs. Therefore, he/she has control over national and foreign affairs.
(iv) Government Departments
British Prime Minister has also control over government departments. Especially he/she plays an important role to settle disputes among different governemtn-departments.
(v) Advisor to British King/Queen
Another important power of British Prime Minister is that he/she is chief advisor to British Monarch. He/she can advice British King/Queen on critical matters like dissolution of Parliament.
To conclude, it can be stated that one of recent observation about constitutional role and powers of British Prime Minister is that growing role and powers of British Prime Minister are transforming present British political system into presidential system.