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United Kingdom Government Resources

Resources for locating information pertaining to the UK Parliament, its devolved governments, and other applicable resources including parliamentary papers and command papers

Subject Guide

Catherine Morse's picture
Catherine Morse
Government Information, Law and Political Science Librarian

Clark Library

Hatcher Graduate Library 2 South 734-936-2333

Introduction to the British Government

The UK Government

The United Kingdom is governed by a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The head of state is the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) while the head of government is the Prime Minister (currently David Cameron, head of the Conservative Party).

Unlike the United States, the UK has an unwritten constitution. Rather than being based on a singular document, the constitution is based on legislation and precedent, as well as European Union laws. The three branches of government are the legislative, executive, and judicial, though they are not always clearly separated, as there is no formal separation of powers or checks in balances, such as is the case in the U.S. government.

Legislation is passed in the UK Parliament at Westminster, in London. The legislature is divided into two separate houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. While the House of Lords is appointed, and maintains very little actual legislative power, the House of Commons is elected, and is where actual sovereign power resides. The most powerful office in the government is that of the Prime Minister, who is created the head of government by being the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister creates a cabinet from Members of Parliament, and generally must maintain their support in order to fully exercise power. The majority party in Parliament supports the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The highest judicial court in the UK is the Supreme Court, which was created in 2009 and replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

Devolved Governments

Though Parliament rules England directly, and retains ultimate authority over the whole of the UK; Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have separate devolved governments, which were established in 1999. Scotland has the most powerful regional government with the power to legislate over most areas of Scottish life, as well as collect taxes, while Wales is the least powerful, lacking strong legislative powers.Northern Ireland's government was dissolved in 2002 after a breakdown in the peace process, but was reestablished under a power-sharing government in 2007.

This Guide

The purpose of this research guide is to give users guidance on finding resources pertaining to government in the United Kingdom, including

  • Parliamentary Papers
  • Historical Parliamentary proceedings
  • Supreme Court cases
  • Government websites
  • Information on devolved governments


For more information on the UK government, see:

"United Kingdom." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010. <>.

Access to Encyclopaedia Britannica is available through U-M Library.