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Jam es O ' Driscoll BRITAIN FOR LEARNERS OF ENGLISH James O 'Driscoll BRITAIN FOR LEA R N ER S OF ENGLISH OXFORD OXTORD U N IV E R S IT Y . 'Britain bans EC Medals' from News Digest, The Sunday Times, (Gamma, T Bitchburn), 65 (K Bernstein/ESP) Britain. James O'Driscoll. Oxford University Press. Britain - The Country and its People by James O'ppti.info - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online.

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This book is for learners of English as a foreign language, n any level of proficiency from intermediate upwards, who need to know more about Britain. It will be. aspects of great britain summary chapter and country and people identity the origin of the adjective 'great' in the name great britain was not piece of. Britain consists of four separate nations that were slowly unified over a period of For more detail see Britain for Learners of English by James O'Driscoll.

These differences can tell us a lot about what is distinctive about the British Parliament. First, there are just two rows of benches facing each other. On the left are the government benches, where the MPs of the governing party sit.

On the right are the opposition benches. The arrangement of the benches encourages confrontation between government and opposition. MPs simply stand up and speak from wherever they happen to be sitting. Third, there are no desks for the MPs. Fourth, the House is very small. No names are marked on the benches. MPs just sit down wherever they can find room. All these features result in a fairly informal atmosphere. In medieval times, the Commons met in a church and churches of that time often had rows of benches facing each other.

But after the House was badly damaged by bombing in , it was deliberately rebuilt to the old pattern.

A female MP was physically dragged, apparently against her will, out of her seat on the back benches by fellow MPs and was forced to sit in the large chair in the middle of the House of Commons. What the House of Commons was actually doing was appointing a new Speaker. The Speaker is the person who chairs and controls discussion in the House, decides which MP is going to speak next and makes sure that the rules of procedure are followed.

The occasion in was the first time that a woman had been appointed Speaker. Betty Boothroyd, the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons. They were supposed to be ordinary people giving some of their time to representing the people.

This is why MPs were not even paid until the early twentieth century.

Traditionally, they were supposed to be doing a public service, not making a career for themselves. Of course, this tradition meant that only rich people could afford to be MPs. Even now, British MPs do not get paid very much in comparison with many of their European counterparts. They have incredibly poor facilities.

The ideal of the talented amateur does not reflect modern reality. Politics in Britain has become professional. Most MPs are full-time politicians.

But the amateur tradition is still reflected in the hours of business of the Commons. The House gives itself long holidays, but this apparently easy life is misleading. In fact, the average modern MP spends more time at work than any other professional in the country.

Weekends are not free for MPs either. It is an extremely busy life that leaves little time for their families. Politicians have a higher rate of divorce than the national average. This is the name given to the daily verbatim reports of everything that has been said in the Commons. Not many of these become law, because there is not enough interest among other MPs and not enough time for proper discussion of them.

That is, MPs have to vote for or against a particular proposal. There are also the committees. Some committees are appointed to examine particular proposals for laws, but there are also permanent committees whose job is to investigate the activities of government in a particular field.

They are becoming a more and more important part of the business of the Commons. The people who make sure that MPs do this are called the Whips. The Whips act as intermediaries between the backbenchers and the frontbench of a party.

They keep the party leadership informed about backbench opinion. After this, lawyears draft the proposal into a bill. Most bills begin life in the House of Commons, where they go through a number of stages. First reading.

This is a formal announcement only. Second reading. The House debates the general principles of the bill and, in most cases, takes a vote. Committee stage. A committee of MPs examines the details of the bill and votes on amendments to parts of it. Report stage. The House considers the amendments. Third reading. The amended bill is debated as a whole. The bill is send to the House of Lords , where it goes through the same stages. After both Houses have reached agreement, the bill receives the royal assent and becomes an Act of Parliament which can be applied as a part of the law.

Question time. For about an hour there is no subject for debate. Instead, MPs are allowed to ask questions of government ministers. Opposition MPs have an opportunity to make government ministers look incompetent or perhaps dishonest. The questions and answers are not spontaneous. Unlike MPs, members of the House of Lords are not alected. They are members as of right. It has been allowed to survive but it has had to change, losing most of its power and altering its composition in the process.

The House of Lords has little real power any more. All proposals must have the agreement of the Lords before they can become law.

But the power of the Lords to refuse a proposal for a law is now limited. After a period the proposal becomes law anyway, whether or not the Lords agree. Entitlement to sit in the Lords does not pass to the children of life peers. As a result of the life peerage system there are more than people in the House of Lords who are not aristocrats and who have expertise in political life.

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The modern House of Lords is a forum for public discussion. Because its members do not depend on party politics for their position. More importantly, it is the place where proposals for new laws are discussed in great detail and in this way irregularities or inconsistencies in these proposals can be removed before they become law. More important still the Lords is a check on a government that could possibly become too dictatorial. Most people agree that having two Houses of Parliamentis a good idea.

Lords legal and spiritual. There are two other kinds of peer in the House of Lords who do not have seats there by hereditary right, but because of their position. First, there are the twenty-six bishops of the Church of England. Second, there are the Lords of Appeal, the twenty or so most senior judges in the land.

Reforming the House of Lords. In the Liberal government proposed heavy taxes on the rich. The House of Lords rejected the proposal. The government then asked the king for an election and won it. Again, it passed its tax proposals through the Commons, and also a bill limiting the power of the Lords. Again, the Lords rejected both bills, and again the government won another election. It was a constitutional crisis.

The king let it be known that if the Lords rejected the same bills again, he would appoint hundreds of new peers who would vote for the bills — enough for the government to have a majority in the Lords.

So, in , rather than have the prestige of their House destroyed in this way, the Lords agreed to both bills, including the one that limited their own powers. From that time, a bill which had been agreed in the Commons for three years in a row could become law without the agreement of the Lords. This period of time was further reduced in The state opening of Parliament. The Commons always refuse entry of the Queen.

This is because Charles I once burst in to the chamber and tried to arrest some MPs. Even since then, the monarch has not been allowed to enter the Commons. Instead, the MPs agree to come through to the House of Lords and listen to the monarch in there. In the election, the Labour party received less than half of the votes but won nearly two-thirds of the seats in the House of Commons. It won two-and-a-half times as many seats as the Conservative party, even though it received less then one-and-a-half times as many votes.

The Liberal Democrat party did very badly out of the system. One in every six people voted for it, but it won only one in fourteen of the seats in the Commons. It also evolved before national issues became more important to people than local ones. In theory, the House of Commons is simply a gathering of people who each represent a particular place in the kingdom. It was not the concern of anybody in government as to how each representative was chosen.

Not until the nineteenth century were laws passed about how elections were to be conducted. These days nearly everybody votes for a candidate because he or she belongs to a particular party. The tradition remains that an MP is first and foremost a representative of a particular locality.

The country is divided into a number of areas of roughly equal population, known as constituencies. Anybody who wants to be an MP must declare himself or herself as a candidate in one of this constituencies.

On polling day, voters go to polling stations and are each given a single piece of paper with the names of the candidates for that constituency on it. Each voter then puts a cross next to the name of one candidate. After the polls have closed, the ballot papers are counted. The candidate with the largest number of crosses next to his or her name is the winner and becomes the MP for the constituency. There is no preferential voting; there is no counting of the proportion of votes for each party; there is no extra allocation of seats in Parliament according to party strengths.

Very small boroughs, where electors can easily be persuaded who to vote for, are abolished.

The franchise the right to vote is made uniform throughout the country. All adults over twenty-one now have the right to vote. The law says that an election has to take place at least every five years.

Britain: For Learners Of English

However, the interval between elections is usually a bit shorter than this. A party in power does not normally wait until the last possible moment. When a party has a very small majority in the House of Commons, or no majority at all, the interval can be much shorter. It is not necessary to belong to a party to be a candidate.

To be eligible to vote, a person must be at eighteen years old and be on the electoral register. This is compiled every year for each constituency separately. Nobody is obliged to vote. Crazy candidates. There are always some people who are willing to be candidates even when they know they have no chance of winning. Sometimes they are people fighting for a single cause that they feel very strongly about. Sometimes they are people who just like to be candidates for a joke.

The campaign reflects the contrast between the formal arrangements and the political reality. Local newspapers give coverage to the candidates; the candidates themselves hold meetings; party supporters stick up posters in their windows; local party workers spend their time canvassing. The amount of money that candidates are allowed to spend on their campaigns is strictly limited. Any attempt to influence voters improperly is outlawed.

But the reality is that all these activities and regulations do not usually make much difference. Nearly everybody votes for a candidate on the basis of the party which he or she represents. They do not buy time on television as they do in the USA. Each party holds a daily televised news conference.

This is the activity that occupies most of the time of local party workers during an election campaign. Canvassers go from door to door, calling on as many houses as possible and asking people how they intend to vote. The main purpose of canvassing seems to be so that transport can be offered to those who claim to be supporters.

Canvassers stand outside polling stations and record whether their supporters have voted. Canvassing is an awful lot of work for very little benefit. It is a kind of election ritual. People have to work in the normal way, so polling stations are open from seven in the morning till ten at night to give everybody the opportunity to vote. The only people who get a holiday are schoolchildren whose schools are being used as polling stations.

Each voter has to vote at a particular polling station. After being ticked off on the electoral register, the voter is given a ballot paper. Northern Ireland is a rather different story. There, the political tensions of so many years have had a negative effect on democratic procedures. After the polls close, the marked ballot papers are taken to a central place in the constituency and counted.

The Returning Officer then makes a public announcement of the votes cast for each candidate and declares the winner to be the MP for the constituency. Party money. There is no legal limit to the amount of money that national parties can spend on election campaigns. Nor is any money given to the parties by the state for their campaigns. There is no law which obliges parties to say where they get their money from. The Conservatives get a lot of their money from large single donations by individuals, sometimes from people outside Britain.


The other parties would like to pass a law which forced parties to reveal the sources of large donations and which forbade donations from foreigners. The first excitement of the night is the race to declare. Doing so will guarantee that the cameras will be there to witness the event. By midnight, after only a handful of results have been declared, experts will be making predictions about the composition of the newly elected House of Commons.

By two in the morning at least half of the constituencies will have declared their results and the experts on the television will now be able to predict with confidence which party will have a majorityin the House of Commons, and therefore which party leader is going to be the Prime Minister. Some constituencies, however, are not able to declare their results until well into Friday afternoon.

The great television election show! British people are generally not very enthusiastic about politics. But that does not stop them enjoying a good, political fight. The swingometer.

This is a device used by television presenters on election night. Which of these two parties forms the government depends on which one does better in the suburbs and large towns of England.

Scotland used to be good territory for the Conservatives. This changed, however, during the s and the vast majority of MPs from there now represent Labour.

Wales has always returned mostly Labour MPs. Since the s, the respective nationalist parties in both countries have regularly won a few seats in Parliament. Traditionally, the Liberal party was also relatively strong in Scotland and Wales. In the thirteen elections from to , the Conservatives were generally more successful than Labour.

Then, in the election, the Conservatives won for the fourth time in a row. Moreover, they achieved it in the middle of an economic recession. Many sociologists believed this trend to be inevitable because Britain had developed a middle-class majority. There was much talk about a possible reorganization of British politics , for example a change to a European-style system of proportional representation, or a formal union between Labour and the Liberal Democratics.

However, in the picture changed dramatically, Labour won the largest majority in the House of Commons. What happened? The answer seems to be that voting habits in Britain, reflecting the weakening of the class system, are no longer tribal. There was a time when the Labour party represented the working class of the country.

Most working-class people voted Labour all their lives and nearly all middle-class people voted Conservative all their lives. Whenever a sitting MP can no longer fulfil his or her duties, there has to be a special new election in the constituency which he or she represents. These are called by-election and can take place at any time. A by-election provides the parties with an opportunity to find a seat in Parliament for one of their important people.

But at the international conference at which Britain acquired new possessions under the Treaty of Versailles, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa were all represented separately from Britain. The real dismantling of the empire took place in the twenty-five years following the Second World War. Two events illustrate this. First, Suez. In , Egypt took over the Suez canal from the international company owned by Britain and France.

British and French military action to stop this was a diplomatic disaster. The USA did not support them and their troops were forced to withdraw. Second, Cyprus. When this country left the British empire, Britain became one of the guarantors of its independence from any other country. Some small remnants of the empire remain.

For British governments, on the one hand this is a source of pride because it suggests how beneficial the British imperial administration must have been, but on the other hand it causes embarrassment because the possession of colonial territories does not fit with the image of a modern democratic state and irritation because it costs the British taxpayer money.

The Commonwealth. The dismantling of the British empire took place peacefully, so that good relations between Britain and the newly independent countries were established. As a result, and with the encouragement of Queen Elizabeth II, an international organization called the Commonwealth, composed of the countries that used to be part of the empire, has continued to hold annual meetings. Some countries in the Commonwealth have even kept the British monarch as head of state. Until quite recently it did have economic importance but since Britain became a full member of the EEC, all but a few of these agreements have gradually been discontinued.

It had never been very popular.

Britain: Student's Book: for Learners of English

The end of empire, together with the increasing mechanization of the military, meant that it was more important to have small, professional forces staffed by specialists. At certain periods the CND has had a lot of popular support.

However, this support has not been consistent. Britain still has a nuclear force. There is still a feeling in Britain that the country should be able to make significant contributions to international peacekeeping efforts. A career in the armed forces is still highly respectable.

The senior service. This is a phrase sometimes used to describe the Royal Navy. It was the first of the three armed forces to be established. Greenham Common. This is the Royal Air Force base in Berkshire which became the focus for anti-nuclear campaigners in the s. Public feeling about the relationship is ambiguous. On the one hand, it is reassuring to be so diplomatically close to the most powerful nation in the world, and the shared language gives people some sense of brotherhood with Americans.

On the other hand, there is mild bitterness about the power of the USA. In any case, the special relationship has inevitably declined in significance since Britain joined the European Community.

Is Britain really part of Europe? The government says it is, but look at this report from The Sunday Times of 18 April Britain bans EC medals. British members of the European Community monitoring mission in former Yugoslavia have been banned from a formal presentation of medals struck by the EC to honour their bravery.

The British monitors have been told that they may only receive the medals privately and keep them as momentoes. From the very start, the British attitude to membership has been ambiguous.

On the one hand, it is seen as an economic necessity and a political advantage. On the other hand, acceptance does not mean enthusiasm. The underlying attitude — that Britain is somehow special — has not really changed and there are fears that Britain is gradually giving up its autonomy. Changes in European domestic policy, social policy or sovereignty arrangements tend to be seen in Britain as a threat.

Throughout the s and s it has been Britain more than any other member of the European Union which has slowed down progress towards further European unity. The British sausage. It is fiction but it does capture part of the British attitude to Europe.

Notice how sovereignty is not connected with matters of conventional political power, but rather with matters of everyday life and habits.

Up yours, Delors. This is the front page headline of the Sun. It gives voice to British dislike of the Brussels bureaucracy. Jacques Delors was president of the European Commission at the time.

The European history book. Sir Francis Drake is a well-known English historical character. In he helped to defeat the Spanish Armada which was trying to invade England.

The first version of the book decided that it it was the weather which caused the failure of the Spanish invasion, the second that it was Drake. But no publisher for either a British or a Spanish edition could be found. It may be a matter of giving extra powers to the regions of Britain, especially its different nations.

Until recently most Scottish people were happy to be part of the UK.

But there has always been some resentment in Scotland about the way that it is treated by the central government in London. In the s and early s this resentment increased because of the continuation in power of the Conservative party, for which only around a quarter of the Scottish electorate had voted. The Scottish have become the most enthusiastic Europeans in the UK.

Scotland now has its own parliament which controls its internal affairs and even has the power to vary slightly the levels of income tax imposed by the UK government. In Wales, the situation is different.

Britain: For Learners Of English

The southern part of this nation is thoroughly Anglicized and the country as a whole has been fully incorporated into the English governmental structure. Nationalism in Wales is expressed culturally. Wales has its own assembly with responsibility for many internal affairs. The design shows the cross of St Andrew, the national flag of Scotland. This is the name often used to describe the part of Ireland which is in the UK.

It is the name of one of the four ancient kingdom of Ireland. Extremist groups. Seventy years ago this name meant exactly what it says. The IRA was composed of many thousands of people who fought for Irish independence. They have used a name that once had great appeal to Irish patriotic sentiments.

In fact, the IRA has little support in the modern Irish Republic and no connection at all with its government. By the beginning of the twentieth century, when Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom, the vast majority of people in Ireland wanted either home rule or complete independence from Britain.

Liberal governments in Britain had accepted this and had attempted at various times to make it a reality. However, the one million Protestants in Ulster were violently opposed to this idea. They did not want to belong to a country dominated by Catholics.

After the First World War the British government partitioned the country between the mainly Catholic south and the mainly Protestant north, giving each part some control of its internal affairs.

But this was no longer enough for the south. War followed. The eventual result was that the south became independent of Britain. The Protestants had always had the economic power in the six counties. Internal self-government allowed them to take all the political power as well.

In the late s a Catholic civil rights movement began. There was violent Protestant reaction and frequent fighting broke out. In British troops were sent in to keep order. At first they were welcomed, particularly among the Catholics.

But troops often act without regard to democratic rights. The welcome disappeared. Extremist organizations from both communities began committing acts of terrorism, such as shootings and bombings. In response, the British government reluctantly imposed certain measures not normally acceptable in a modern democracy, such as imprisonment without trial and the outlawing of organizations such as the IRA.

The application of these measures caused resentment to grow. In the British government decided to rule directly from London. Over the next two decades most of the previous poilitical abuses disappeared, and Catholics now have almost the same political rights as Protestants.

The troubles may soon be over. However, despite reforms, inequalities remain. The Catholics identify with the south. Most of them would like the Irish government in Dublin to have at least a share in the government of Ulster. The Ulster Protestants are distinct from any other section of British society. While it is important to them that they belong to the United Kingdom. From their point of view, and also from the point of view of some Catholics, a place for Ulster in a federated Europe is a possible solution.

It is significant that the most well-loved English translation of the Bible, known as the King James Bible, was written in the early seventeenth century and that no later translation has achieved similar status. Most people in Britain cannot strictly be described as religious.

However, this does not mean that they have no religious or spiritual beliefs or inclinations. Surveys have suggested that three- quarters of the population believe in God and between a third and a half believe in concepts such as life after death, heaven and hell.

A majority approve of the fact that religious instruction at state schools is compulsory. Religious participation in Britain. The road to tolerance.

Until nonconformists were not allowed to hold any kind of government post or public office or even to go to university. Excluded from public life, many developed interests in trade and commerce and were the leading commercial figures in the industrial revolution. Catholics were even worse-off, having to worship in secret or with discretion.

Catholics were given the right to hold public office in There is still a law today which forbids Catholic priests to sit in Parliament. Except perhaps for Muslims, there is no recognizable political pressure group in the country which is based on a particular religious ideology. The religious conflicts of the past and their close relationship with politics have left only a few traces in modern times, and the most important of these are institutional rather than political; the fact that the monarch cannot, by law, be a Catholic; the fact that the twenty-six senior bishops in one particular church the Church of England are members of the House of Lords; the fact that the government has the right of veto on the choice of these bishops; the fact that the ultimate authority for this same church is the British Parliament.

These cases are the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. In any case, the Anglican Church has shown itself to be effectively independent of government and there is general approval of this independence. In fact, there is a modern politics-and- religion debate.

That is, while it is accepted that politics should stay out of religion, it is a point of debate as to whether religion should stay out of politics.

This reputation was partly the result of history and partly the result of the fact that most of its clergy and regular followers were from the higher ranks of society. However, during the s and early s it was common for the Church to publicly condemn the widening gap between rich and poor in British society. I the Catholic Church in Britain published a report which criticized the Conservative government.

The Christian churches in Britain. The organization of the Anglican and Catholic churches is broadly similar. At the highest level is an archbishop, who presides over a province. There are only two of these in the Church of England, Canterbury and York.

The senior Catholic archbishop is Westminster and its archbishop is the only cardinal from Britain. At the next level is the diocese, presided over by a bishop. In the Anglican Church there are other high-ranking positions at the level of the diocese, whose holders can have the title dean, canon or archdeacon. Other Christian churches do not have such a hierarchical organization.

The terms verger, warden and sexton are variously used for lay members of churches who assist in various ways during services or with the upkeep of the church. A priest who caters for the spiritual needs of those in some, sort of institution is called a chaplain.

Many others are christened, married and buried in Anglican ceremonies but otherwise hardly ever go to church. The doctrine of the Church of England was set out in the sixteenth century, in a document called the Thirty-Nine Articles. However, the main motivation for the birth of Anglicanism was more patriotic and political than doctrinal. Three main strands of belief can be identified. This places great emphasis on the contents of the Bible and is the most consciously opposed to Catholicism.

It therefore adheres closely to those elements of the Thirty-Nine Articles that reject Papal doctrines and is suspicious of the hierarchical structure of the Church. High church services are more colourful and include organ music and elaborate priestly clothing.

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Feb 23, Dana rated it liked it Shelves: Very informative - however it does pose Britain as one of the best countries in the world at times.

I found this a bit annoying at times.

Nov 24, Demi Spelbos rated it liked it Shelves: Useful for studying. Passed the exam. All I can really say about a study book. A lot of information about Britain which is very useful. I gained a lot of knowledge on the UK; how it all started up until now.

There were a lot of interesting subjects. Many thoughts I had about the UK has changed ever since I've read it. Everything makes more sense now and there are a few traditions that are very rare which made reading this book more fun.

However, I give this book 3 stars because I don't think it is well structured and structure is very important in my opinion. It was a bit c A lot of information about Britain which is very useful. It was a bit chaotic for me to read. First it starts with a lot of history and then all of the sudden it's about geography, and then again about something different.

Aug 02, Irene van der Spoel rated it really liked it. Well written, provides a very clear image of both the British history and culture.

Very entertaining! Jun 19, Nadja rated it really liked it Shelves: Read for university. Dec 30, Maud rated it really liked it Shelves: A great and fun read for anyone who wants to know more about Britain and its culture and people! Luise Buch rated it liked it Jan 24, Nhan Pham rated it liked it May 12, Ania rated it liked it Apr 10, Amanda rated it liked it Oct 26, Ali rated it really liked it Nov 29, Chelsea rated it really liked it Nov 08, Luis Andres rated it it was amazing Mar 25, May rated it it was amazing Sep 19, Uyen rated it it was amazing Jul 13, Stockfish rated it it was amazing Mar 17, The am ount of rain that falls on a lawn in Britain depe nd s o n w he re it is..

The national health sen-icc. These are the most ancient divisions of Eng land. Knowledge of these is very important because they arc what 'colour' the language used by British people. Identity in No n he rn Ireland. The only people who get a holiday are schoolchildren whose schools are being used as polling stations. However, this does not mean that they have no religious or spiritual beliefs or inclinations.

The so uth-west pe ninsu la, wit h its roc ky coast, numerous sma ll bays once noted for sm ugglin g activities and w ild m oorlands such as Exmoor and Dartmoor, is the most popular holida y area in Britain. On I 4 October living on it.

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