Great Britain - a survey

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2000

15 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)

Free online reading

General information:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Area: 244 108 km ² as big as the biggest isle of japan (hondo)

Continent: Europe in northwest Europe

Britain comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and across the Irish Sea, Northern Ireland. It is Europe's largest island and is 500km wide and nearly 1000km long.

Population: 59,2 Mio. as much as in Italy

Despite Britain's relatively small area, it has the 18th largest population in the world and a population density well over the European average. In mid-1998 Britain's population was estimated at 59.2 million. England accounted for 49.5 million, Scotland 5.1 million, Wales 2.9 million, and Northern Ireland 1.7 million. While English is the official language, 3 million people from around the world all bring their own languages and cultures with them. Britain's dynamic street culture, nightlife and heritage make it immensely popular with young visitors. Britain attracts 26 million tourists every year.

Capital: London

Religion: protestantic (85%)
Currency: Pfund Sterling ( £ )

Britain's democratic system is very much a product of British history. It has slowly developed over time and is rare among democracies because it does not have a written constitution. The British Parliament in London is made up of two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There is a constitutional monarchy and legislation is framed by the elected members of the House of Commons. Legislation then passes to the House of Lords where it is refined. Finally each bill receives Royal Assent from the Monarch. Unless legally barred, all British citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote in national, local and European elections.

During 1997 and 1998 referendums were held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on how those countries and regions should be governed. The people of Scotland and Wales were asked whether systems of government should be established in their respective countries. Both referendums decided in favour of devolution.

Voters in Northern Ireland also endorsed devolution as part of the Belfast Agreement (`The Good Friday Agreement') in May 1998, and the British government hopes to implement devolution in Northern Ireland as soon as agreement is reached among the Northern Ireland political parties.

Devolution represents the most significant change to the British constitution since the establishment of the Parliament of Great Britain in 1707. The regional assemblies have control over domestic policies such as agriculture, education, transport, housing and health care. However, devolution does not mean independence. The British Parliament at Westminster retains responsibility for Britain' s foreign affairs, defence, national economic policy, social security and broadcasting


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The Monarchy is the oldest institution of government, going back at least to the ninth century. The present Queen - Elizabeth II - has reigned for more than 40 years. Only four other British monarchs have ruled for longer. While Royal powers have been reduced, the Queen continues to take part in some important acts of Government. As Head of State, the Queen summons and dissolves the British Parliament at Westminster, appoints the Prime Minister and remains an important symbol of national unity. She must be consulted on major policy matters, but must always show complete impartiality. The Queen is also Head of the Church of England, head of state in a number of Commonwealth countries and Head of the Commonwealth.

The status of the monarchy remains unchanged since devolution. The Queen is Head of State of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is now responsible for appointing the First Minister for Scotland and First Secretary for Wales.

The Prime Minister

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

10 Downing Street, London

The Prime Minister is voted in by the British public and then appointed by the Queen following the success of his or her political party at the General Election. Britain's current Prime Minister is Tony Blair, who heads the nation's first Labour government since 1979. The PM leads their political party, and appoints the Ministers responsible for making the nation's policies. Other titles held by the PM are First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. The present Prime Minister is married, with three children of school age.

The House of Commons

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The House of Commons is the forum for the 659 Members of Parliament who are directly elected by voters to represent Britain's constituencies. Three main parties tend to dominate the chamber: Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats. It is here that bills are debated and make the first steps to becoming laws. The British Government and Opposition leaders sit at the front benches of the House's debating chamber with their supporters (the backbenchers) behind them. The chief officer of the House of Commons is the Speaker, elected by MPs to preside over the House. Although elected as an MP, the Speaker must remain totally impartial.

The House of Commons is responsible for domestic policy making in England and has control over issues which affect Britain as a whole such as foreign affairs, defence and economic policy. Since devolution, powers regarding domestic policy in Scotland and Wales have been transferred to regional assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The Scottish Parliament

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The Scotland Act 1998 established a Parliament in Edinburgh which has control over law-making in Scotland. The Parliament's responsibilities include health, education, housing and transport; as well as varying the rate of income tax in the region.

Responsibility for Scotland continues to rest with Britain in a number of key areas. These include the constitution (the Crown, succession to the Crown, the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the Union of Scotland and England) foreign affairs (including relations with the EU) civil service, defence and national security, as well as fiscal, economic and monetary policy.

The main political parties in Scotland are the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Parliament has 129 members in total. They are known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The first election to the Scottish Parliament was held on 6 May 1998.

The House of Lords

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The House of Lords is also known as the upper house of Parliament. The House of Lords is made up of Hereditary Peers, Life Peers and Bishops. The public does not elect Members of the Lords - Hereditary Peers inherit their titles and Life Peers are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve for their life. The most important part of its work is its role in revising existing legislation (or bills) and considering new bills sent from the House of Commons. The House of Lords is also the final court of appeal for civil court cases in Britain and for criminal court cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Discussions about the rights and powers of the Lords started in the 1850's and continue today. In its election manifesto, the Labour party made a commitment to removing Hereditary Peers from the House of Lords. The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the entitlement of most of the 750 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. Their withdrawal from the upper chamber now gives them the right to vote, and to stand as candidates, in parliamentary elections. The 92 remaining hereditary peers retain their titles and will continue to pass them on to their heirs.

In January 1999 the Government announced the setting up of a Royal Commission to be chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister, Lord Wakeham. The Commission report 'A House for the Future', recommends the setting up of a new, mainly nominated, partly elected chamber of around 550 members. These recommendations will be considered by a joint committee of both Houses. The Government has not committed itself to accepting any of the Commission's recommendations and at present there is no timetable for further reform.

The Main Political Parties

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Britain's ruling Labour Party swept to power under Tony Blair in 1997, taking 419 of a possible 659 seats in the House of Commons. Prior to their defeat, the Conservatives had enjoyed 18 years in power. They are now led by William Hague. Under their former leader Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrats, more than doubled their presence in the House of Commons. In 1999 Charles Kennedy took over as leader to the Liberal Democrats.

Local Government

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The origins of Local Government in Britain can be traced back to Saxon times. Through local elections the British public can choose local Councillors to represent the needs of the immediate community. Local government therefore deals directly with the provision of a wide range of community services including education, rubbish disposal, road maintenance and housing. The structure of local government in Britain has changed over the last five years. In some non-metropolitan areas in England the two-tier structure of counties and smaller districts has been replaced by single-tier or `unitary authorities', especially in larger cities. In Scotland in April 1996, 29 new single- tier councils replaced the previous nine regional and 53 district councils while three island councils have remained in being. In Wales, 22 single-tier authorities have replaced the previous eight county councils and 37 district councils.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legal systems, with differences in law, organisation and practice. All three have separate prosecution, police and prison services. Crime prevention policy and non-custodial treatment for offenders are similar throughout Britain. Every primary law in Britain must be approved by Parliament before it comes into operation, but the administration of justice in Britain is entirely independent of both Parliament and the Government. The Lord Chancellor is the head of the legal system in England and Wales. His responsibilities include court procedure, and through the Court Service, the administration of the higher courts and of the many tribunals in England and Wales. The Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for Scottish criminal law, crime prevention, the police, the penal system and legal aid.

The Police

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

There are 52 police forces in Britain, mainly organised on a local basis: 43 in England and Wales, eight in Scotland and the Royal Ulster Constabulary covering Northern Ireland. The capital is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London force, for which the Home Secretary is responsible. All of the nation's forces are funded by central and local government. The actions and performance of all police forces are reviewed by independent inspectors of constabulary, whose reports are made publicly available.

Religion and Communities

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Everyone in Britain has the right to religious freedom. One British citizen in 10 is a member of the Catholic Church. There are 1.7 million members of the Anglican church, which is legally recognised as the official church of the State.

Britain has one of the largest Muslim communities in Western Europe, estimated to be between 1 and 1.5 million people, with over 600 mosques and prayer centres. One of the most important Muslim institutions in the Western world is the Central Mosque in London and its associated Islamic Cultural Centre.

The Sikh community in Britain comprises between 400,000 and 500,000 people, with the largest groups of Sikhs concentrated in Greater London, Manchester and Birmingham. The oldest Sikh temple was established in London in 1908.

The Hindu community in Britain accounts for a further 320,000 people. The first Hindu temple was opened in London in 1962, and there are now over 150 throughout Britain. Other religious groups include about 285,000 members of the Jewish faith.

There has been a Chinese community in Britain since the early 19th century, with small, seafaring communities settling in London and Liverpool. The 1987 Census counted 154,000 Chinese living in Britain drawn from SE Asia as well as China.

There are around 60,000 Japanese living in Britain, the third largest community of overseas Japanese in the world. 18,000 Japanese live in London, mostly around Finchley, and the growth of the Japanese-financed high technology industries has led to clusters of Japanese communities across Britain.

There are around 43,000 Malaysians resident in Britain. Although there is an established settlement in Liverpool that began as a maritime community in the 1950s, the vast majority of Malaysians are in Britain to complete all or part of their further education before returning home.

The largest ethnic minorities in Britain are those of Caribbean or African descent (875,000 people). The next largest ethnic groups are Indians (840,255 people) and Bangladeshis (639,390 people). Overall, ethnic groups represent just under six per cent of the population of Britain.

Getting around by Car and Motorcycle

Road regulations

Driving Licences Speed limits

Seat Belts

Motorcycles Petrol Costs Leaded Petrol

Conditions of Hire Rental and Leasing

This reference sheet provides a selection of vehicle hire operators that have responded to a mailshot for inclusion in this listing. The listing, organised by country, is split into sections starting with self-drive car hire followed by self-drive minibus hire, sports car hire, motorcycle hire, limousine hire, chauffeur-drive cars and minibuses and finally motorhome and trailer caravan hire.

The self-drive car hire operators that have been included in this reference sheet are ones that offer a delivery or collection service to nearby ports and airports. Other types of hire operators may offer such services but should be contacted in advance.

Visitors to the Channel Island of Jersey are able to rent environmentally friendly electric cars. Contact Jersey Tourism (Tel: (01534) 500700; fax (01534) 500899) for more information.

What are the road regulations?

In Britain, you must drive on the left and overtake on the right. On motorways any vehicle towing a trailer may not travel in the right-hand (fast) lane. The majority of British traffic signs are to international standards.

There are severe penalties in Britain for driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. You are strongly recommended not to drink and drive. The maximum blood alcohol level permitted is 80 mg per 100 ml.

You can get a copy of Britain's Highway Code, which contains detailed road regulations from the Automobile Association (AA). It is available from most large newsagents and booksellers.

Do I need a special driving licence?

No, you can use your own driving licence to drive in Britain for up to 12 months from the date of your last entry into the country. But don't forget to bring it! Or a current International Driving Permit can be used.

What are the speed limits?

In built-up areas with street lighting there is a speed limit for all vehicles of 48 kph (30 mph) unless signs show otherwise. The limit for single carriageways is 96 kph (60 mph) for cars, 81 kph (50 mph) for cars towing caravans or trailers, buses, coaches and goods vehicles not exceeding 12 metres in overall length. On dual carriageways and motorways the limit is 112 kph (70 mph) for cars, 96 kph (60 mph) for cars towing caravans or trailers. Speed limits are lower in Jersey, maximum 65 kph (40 mph); and Guernsey, maximum 56 kph (35 mph).

Do I have to wear a seat-belt?

Yes. Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers travelling in the front and rear seats, if they have been fitted to the vehicle. In Jersey and Guernsey this rule applies only to front seat drivers and passengers. Children under three years old can wear appropriate child restraints if available, but a child under three must wear a child restraint if travelling in the front passenger seat. It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure that children under 14 years comply with the law.


The rider and pillion passenger on a motorcycle, scooter or moped must wear an appropriate safety helmet on all journeys.

How much does petrol (gas) cost?

The price of petrol varies, depending on where you are in the UK.

Leaded petrol

Since 1 January 2000 leaded petrol has not been available in the UK. This ban is part of a European strategy to reduce pollution from road traffic.

Conditions of hire

The minimum age for hiring a vehicle is generally between 21-25 years and the maximum is 70-75 years although some will hire to a driver up to 80 years of age, on production of a edical certificate. Certain companies may insist on a minimum of 30 years for the hire of sports cars or motorhomes and most require a clean driver's licence. Some operators may insist on international licences.

British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association

The BVRLA imposes a strict Code of Conduct on its members with regard to safety, service and insurance. Members of the BVRLA can be found on their website

National car rental groups

Britain has won over 70 Nobel Prizes for Science and since 1946 an estimated 20% of all inventions have been made in Britain.

Football, rugby, cricket, tennis, golf, snooker and horse racing originated in Britain and are now played all over the world.

Education is Britain's number one priority and Britain has one of the world's most respected and vibrant student communities.

Britain is the world's fifth largest trading nation and the City of London is the world's leading international financial centre.

Britain is the world's most commercially successful music nation and generates a greater number of album sales than any other country.

Britain is widely recognised as the design workshop of the world, starting a creative revolution in the visual arts, cinema, drama and dance scenes.

Britain has a reputation for setting trends in fashion, design and graphics.

15 of 15 pages


Great Britain - a survey
2 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
630 KB
Great, Britain
Quote paper
Baumgartner, Thomas (Author), 2000, Great Britain - a survey, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Great Britain - a survey

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free