Under the terms of the Falkland Islands Constitution, eight Assembly Members are elected every four years. The Legislative Assembly is chaired by a Speaker and includes two ex officio members: the Chief Executive and the Financial Secretary. The Attorney General and Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands (CBFSAI) are also entitled to attend Legislative Assembly meetings. The Speaker is a non-elected position, chosen from the community by Assembly Members.
The Legislative Assembly is empowered to pass legislation for the peace, order and good governance of the Falkland Islands, subject to the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, acting through her Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Legislative Assembly meetings are held in public, usually bi-monthly.
Elected Members have a substantial measure of responsibility for the conduct of affairs concerning the Falkland Islands, although the Governor retains responsibility for foreign affairs and defence. The Governor nevertheless consults regularly with Members on these issues.
No political parties are represented on the present Legislative Assembly, all Members being elected as independents. There is no formal opposition. Each Member takes responsibility for a particular portfolio and works closely with the relevant departments, but does not have the role of a Minister; instead, questions of policy are considered by Executive Council.
Each year the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) elect three of their number to the policy making body of the Government, Executive Council. Executive Council is chaired by His Excellency the Governor. Membership includes the same ex-officio members who sit on the Legislative Assembly. In addition, the Attorney General and CBFSAI may attend and speak on any matter. Only the three elected Members of the Legislative Assembly are able to vote on Executive Council.
Executive Council normally meets monthly, but more often if required. It is responsible for the formulation of strategy and policy, and for high level management decisions. Under the Falkland Islands Constitution the Governor retains responsibility for various issues, particularly external affairs and defence. The Governor nevertheless consults regularly with MLAs on these issues.
The Falkland Islands has a well established, independent judiciary. The Chief Justice of the Islands (non-resident) visits at least once a year to hear any serious or complex cases, appeals from the Magistrates Court, or those relating to the Constitutional rights of residents. The Senior Magistrate is based in the Islands and hears the majority of other cases, including criminal and civil matters, family and children cases and admiralty and commercial disputes. He also sits as Coroner to investigate any sudden or violent deaths that arise. The Falkland Islands enjoy almost crime free status with an annual police detection rate of over 95% on average.
The Falkland Islands also has its own Court of Appeal and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sits as the final appellate Court.