Министерство образования Российской Федерации
ГОСУДАРСТВЕННОЕ ОБРАЗОВАТЕЛЬНОЕ УЧРЕЖДЕНИЕ
ВЫСШЕГО ПРОФЕССИОНАЛЬНОГО ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ
НИЖЕГОРОДСКИЙ ГОСУДАРСТВЕННЫЙ ЛИНГВИСТИЧЕСКИЙ
УНИВЕРСИТЕТ ИМ. Н.А.ДОБРОЛЮБОВА
Учебно-методические материалы для студентов IV курса ПФ и РФУ
Н. Новгород 2003
Печатается по решению редакционно-издательского совета НГЛУ им.Н.А.Добролюбова
УДК 802.0 (075.83)
British Political Institutions: An Introduction. Учебнo-методические материалы для студентов IV курса ПФ и РФУ (английский как второй иностранный). – Нижний Новгород: НГЛУ им.Н.А.Добролюбова, 2003 – 44с.
Предлагаемые материалы предназначены для аудиторной и самостоятельной работы студентов, изучающих английский язык как второй иностранный и направлены на совершенствование лексических навыков в рамках тем “Политическая система Великобритании”, “Английский парламент”, “Роль Великобритании на мировой арене”
Составитель: П.Ю.Степанянц, ст.преподаватель кафедры английского языка переводческого факультета.
Т.В.Градская, к.ф.н., зав.кафедрой английского языка переводческого факультета;
М.Б.Феклин, к.ф.н., доц. кафедры английского языка и перевода переводческого факультета.
© Издательство НГЛУ им.Н.А.Добролюбова, 2003
Part 1. The Political System of the United Kingdom
Part 2. The British Parliament (film)
Part 3. A View of Europe and the World
Great Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the European Monetary Union for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999.
Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France.
Geographic coordinates: 54 00 N, 2 00 W
total: 244,820 sq km
water: 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands
land: 241,590 sq km
Area - comparative: approx.3 times that of Nizhny Novgorod region
Climate: temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast.
Terrain: mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast
lowest point: Fenland -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m
Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land
arable land: 26.41%
permanent crops: 0.18%
other: 73.41% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: winter windstorms; floods
Geography - note: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel
Population: 59,778,002 (July 2002 est.)
0-14 years: 18.7% (male 5,732,385; female 5,443,900)
15-64 years: 65.5% (male 19,803,478; female 19,381,734)
65 years and over: 15.8% (male 3,931,463; female 5,485,042) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.21% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 11.34 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 10.3 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.06 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.99 years
female: 80.84 years (2002 est.)
male: 75.29 years
noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
Ethnic groups: English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%
Religions: Anglican and Roman Catholic 40 million, Muslim 1.5 million, Presbyterian 800,000, Methodist 760,000, Sikh 500,000, Hindu 500,000, Jewish 350,000
Languages: English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)
conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
conventional short form: United Kingdom
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
England has existed as a unified entity since the 10th century; the union between England and Wales was enacted under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284; in the Act of Union of 1707, England and Scotland agreed to permanent union as Great Britain; the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was implemented in 1801, with the adoption of the name the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927.
National holiday: Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, celebrated on the second Saturday in June (1926)
Constitution: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES (son of the queen, born 14 November 1948)
head of government: Prime Minister Anthony (Tony) BLAIR (since 2 May 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
bicameral Parliament comprised of House of Lords (consists of approximately 500 life peers, 92 hereditary peers and 26 clergy) and House of Commons (659 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)
elections: House of Lords - no elections (some proposals for further reform include elections); House of Commons - last held 7 June 2001 (next to be held by NA May 2006)
election results: House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Labor 42.1%, Conservative and Unionist 32.7%, Liberal Democrats 18.8%, other 6.4%; seats by party - Labor 412, Conservative and Unionist 166, Liberal Democrat 52, other 29; note - seating as of 15 February 2002: Labor 410, Conservative 164, Liberal Democrats 53, other 32
note: in 1998 elections were held for a Northern Ireland Parliament (because of unresolved disputes among existing parties, the transfer of power from London to Northern Ireland came only at the end of 1999 and was twice rescinded before reinstatement in November 2001); in 1999 there were elections for a new Scottish Parliament and a new Welsh Assembly.
Judicial branch: House of Lords (highest court of appeal; several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life); Supreme Courts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (comprising the Courts of Appeal, the High Courts of Justice, and the Crown Courts); Scotland's Court of Session and Court of the Justiciary.
Political parties: Conservative and Unionist Party; Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland); Labor Party; Liberal Democrats; Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru); Scottish National Party or SNP; Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland); Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland); Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland).
Flag description: blue with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) and which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories.
Economy - overview:
The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quartet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance. GDP growth slipped in 2001-02 as the global downturn, the high value of the pound, and the bursting of the "new economy" bubble hurt manufacturing and exports. Still, the economy is one of the strongest in Europe; inflation, interest rates, and unemployment remain low. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the BLAIR government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The Prime Minister has pledged to hold a public referendum if membership meets Chancellor of the Exchequer BROWN's five economic "tests." Scheduled for assessment by mid-2003, the tests will determine whether joining EMU would have a positive effect on British investment, employment, and growth. Critics point out, however, that the economy is thriving outside of EMU, and they point to public opinion polls that continue to show a majority of Britons opposed to the single currency. Meantime, the government has been speeding up the improvement of education, transport, and health services, at a cost in higher taxes.
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 74% (2000)
Population below poverty line: 17%
Unemployment rate: 5.2% (2002 est.)
Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods.
Exports - commodities: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco
Imports - commodities: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs
Currency: British pound (GBP)
Currency code: GBP
Exchange rates: British pounds per US dollar - 0.6981 (January 2002), 0.6944 (2001), 0.6596 (2000), 0.6180 (1999), 0.6037 (1998), 0.6106 (1997)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March
Illicit drugs: gateway country for Latin American cocaine entering the European market; major consumer of synthetic drugs, producer of limited amounts of synthetic drugs and synthetic precursor chemicals; major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin; money-laundering center
Exercise 1. Supply information about the following:
The UN; the UN Security Council; the NATO; the Commonwealth; the EU; the EMU; the National Assembly for Wales; the English Channel; Presbyterian Church; the Statute of Rhuddlan; the Anglo-Irish treaty; the partition; Elizabeth II; Prince Charles; Tony Blair; Saint George; the Union Jack; the GDP; the GBP
Exercise 2. Answer the following questions:
How large was the British Empire at its zenith?
What changes in the world brought about the dismantling of the British Empire?
What organizations, according to the text, is Britain member of?
What is meant by “the degree of integration with continental Europe” that Britain is currently considering?
What is the geographical location of the UK?
How does Britain compare to France and Germany in size?
What are the elevation extremes of the British terrain?
What are the British Isles rich in?
What can you say about the land use in Britain judging by the given figures?
What natural hazards are there in Britain? Compare with France, Germany, Russia.
Is Britain a young or old country?
What dependency does the sex ratio table show?
How does it correlate with the average life expectancy?
What ethnic groups can one single out in Britain?
What is the fifth biggest religion in Britain? Why?
When was England formed as a unified entity?
What was the essence of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921?
How was the country known before the treaty?
Who is the chief of state and the head of government in Britain?
How many separate constituencies are there in Britain?
Who is the patron saint of Scotland?
What change has taken place in the structure of British economy?
Why does the British public oppose the single currency?
What heavy industries are developed in the UK?
What goods does Britain export/import?
Exercise 3. Match the following events to the correct dates:
Act of Union with Scotland
Statute of Rhuddlan
Adoption of the current name
Act of Union with Ireland
Exercise 4. Locate the following on the map:
The British Isles; the English Channel; the Bermuda; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; the Isle of Man; Saint Helena
Exercise 1. Give English equivalents:
Морская держава; на пике своего расцвета; распадаться (об империи); умеренный климат; неровный рельеф; нефть; коэффициент рождаемости; продолжительность жизни; вводить закон; осуществлять; оформить раздел страны; избирательное право; аннулировать; составлять значительную часть; процветать; уровень безработицы; отмывание денег.
Exercise 2. Give Russian equivalents:
To deplete one’s strength; to be moderated by; tin; iron ore; lead; limestone; clay; silica; arable land; common law; hereditary; bicameral; superimpose; public opinion polls; single currency; as of.
Exercise 3. Find the following phrases in the text, supply their contexts, explain their meaning:
- to pursue a global approach to foreign policy
- prevailing southwest winds
- a unified entity
- to serve 5-year terms
- to be elected by popular vote
- the highest court of appeal
- a leading trading power
- to reduce public ownership
- social welfare programs
- to decline in importance
Great Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch without a written constitution. What paradoxes do you see in the government type of the country? How do you explain them?
Why did the process of the dismantling of the British Empire begin after World War II?
What do you think it means that “UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy”?
Does the British electoral system provide an accurate reflection of political preferences? Why?
Which government – Conservative or Labour – do you think it was that greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs? Why?
The Political System of the United Kingdom
Britain is a democracy, yet its people are not, as one might expect in a democracy, constitutionally in control of the state. The constitutional situation is an apparently contradictory one. As a result of an historical process, the people of Britain are subjects of the Crown, accepting the Queen as the head of the state. Yet even the Queen is not sovereign in any substantial sense since she receives her authority from Parliament, and is subject to its direction in almost all matters. In short, she “reigns” but does not rule. Technically, if confusingly, British sovereignty collectively resides in the three elements of Parliament: the Crown, and Parliament's two chambers, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
This curious situation came about as a result of a long struggle for power between the Crown and Parliament during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 1689 Parliament won that struggle, because it controlled most of the national wealth. It agreed to allow the Crown to continue to function within certain limits, and subject to Parliament's control. No constitution was written down either then or since.
The state - itself sometimes called the Crown – operates on precedent, custom and conventions, and on unwritten rules and assumptions. Operating on precedent, custom and common sense is a very British arrangement, and the British have traditionally felt uncomfortable with a constitution based either on logic or theory.
The reigning monarch is not only the head of state but also a symbol of the unity of the nation. The monarchy is Britain's oldest secular institution, its continuity for over 1000 years broken only once by a republic that lasted a mere 11 years (1649-60). The monarchy is hereditary, the succession passing automatically to the oldest male child, or in the absence of males, to the oldest female offspring of the monarch. By Act (or law) of Parliament the monarch must be a Protestant. Succession is automatic on the death of the monarch, confirmed later by a formal coronation ceremony. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, for example, took place over a year after she became queen.
In law the monarch is head of the executive and of the judiciary, head of the Church of England, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. However, since 1689, the monarch's sovereign powers have been formally limited by the idea that national sovereignty resides in 'the Crown in Parliament' -the idea that the Crown is only sovereign by the will of Parliament.
The remaining powers of the monarch are basically to summon, suspend until the next session and dissolve Parliament; to give royal assent to legislation passed by Parliament; to appoint government ministers, judges, officers of the armed forces, governors, diplomats and bishops of the Church; to confer honours, such as peerages and knighthoods; to remit sentences passed on convicted criminals; and finally to declare war on or make peace with an enemy power. In practice, of course, with the exception of a few honours she is free to decide herself, the monarch discharges all these functions on the direction of the government. In most matters of state, the refusal of the Queen to exercise her power according to the direction of her Prime Minister would risk a serious constitutional crisis.
Nevertheless, the function of the monarch is politically important. The Queen is visited regularly by her Prime Minister to receive an account of Cabinet decisions and to be consulted on matters of national life. Since 1952 the Queen has given weekly audience, as it is called, to 11 Prime Ministers, some of whom have highly valued these meetings.
Whitehall - the Seat of Government
'Her Majesty's Government' governs in the name of the Queen, and its hub, Downing Street, lies in Whitehall, a short walk from Parliament. Following a general election, the Queen invites the leader of the majority (or largest, in the absence of an overall majority) party represented in the Commons, to form a government on her behalf. Government ministers are almost invariably members of the House of Commons, but infrequently members of the House of Lords are appointed. These are at a disadvantage since it is in the Commons that the government is expected to explain its conduct of affairs. All government ministers, even the Prime Minister, who are members of the Commons, continue to represent the parliamentary 'constituencies' which elected them. Unless the government is a coalition - the last of these was formed during the war years 1939-45 - governments today are drawn solely from one political party. But this has not always been so. During the nineteenth century leading politicians were far freer to follow their own convictions or ambitions rather than party discipline.
Most governments consist of about 100 ministers, but the essential core is the Cabinet, the 20 or so most senior ministers invited by the Prime Minister to belong to it. Cabinet government demands collective responsibility and confidentiality. Within the Cabinet the Prime Minister is meant to be first among equals. In theory this encourages balance and prudence in both policy and action. In practice the Cabinet principle can give rise to tension. While a Prime Minister must give strong leadership, he or she must allow for each minister to exercise responsibility within their field and should encourage collective decision-making on controversial issues, particularly ones beyond the responsibility of one ministry.
In fact Prime Ministers have much more power than first among equals. They enjoy undisputed political leadership. Ministers must obey their will, or persuade the Prime Minister of their own point of view. If a clash of wills cannot be resolved, the minister must resign.
Because of the enormous increase in government business, all senior government ministers - most of whom have the title of Secretary of State - have junior ministers (Ministers of State or Parliamentary undersecretaries) to help with the workload. They are all subject to the rules of collective responsibility and must not disagree publicly with government policy.
Although government is essentially political, it depends upon a permanent body of officials, the Civil Service, to administer the decisions of ministers, and to keep the wheels of government - in its broadest sense - turning. The Civil Service, employing almost 500,000 people, is expected to discharge its responsibilities in a politically impartial way. Civil servants must be as loyal to an incoming government as to the outgoing one, however much as private individuals they may be pleased or dismayed at the change of government. Those civil servants wishing to stand for Parliament must first resign from the Civil Service.
Westminster - the Seat of Parliament
Her Majesty's Government, in spite of its name, derives its authority and power from its party representation in Parliament. While the government machinery is frequently referred to as “Whitehall”, Parliament is known as “Westminster”, since it is housed in the Palace of Westminster, once a home of the monarchy. Like the monarchy, Parliament is an ancient institution, dating from the middle of the thirteenth century.
Parliament is the seat of British democracy, but it is perhaps valuable to remember that while the House of Lords was created in order to provide a council of the nobility for the king, the Commons were summoned originally in order to provide the king with money. The more money a king demanded, the more the Commons questioned its use. Because of its growing financial power, its ability to raise or withhold money, the House of Commons eventually - from the seventeenth century onwards - gained power not only in matters of finance but also of legislation over both the monarch and also the Lords. Parliament is the supreme legislative body of the state. Free from the constraints of a written constitution it may make any laws it pleases. It could even prolong its own life without consulting the electorate, if it chose to do so. Thus Parliament, rather than the will of the people, is clearly the real sovereign power in the state. The only guarantee against parliamentary tyranny is the sense of tradition and reasonableness of its members.
Parliament's functions today are to pass laws, to raise enough money through taxation to enable the government to function, to examine government policy and administration, particularly its financial programme, and to debate or discuss important political issues.
The life of a Parliament is not fixed, and the government of the day may call for a general election at any time during its five-year term. Each Parliament is divided into annual sessions, running normally from October to October with breaks for public holidays and for a long summer 'recess' (usually late July until October).
The Electoral System
For electoral purposes the United Kingdom is divided into constituencies, each one of which elects a Member of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons. Today there are 659 seats in the Commons, one seat on average for every 65,000 electors.
All British citizens (and also citizens of the Irish Republic resident in the UK) may vote, provided they are aged 18 or over, are registered, and are not disqualified by insanity, membership of the House of Lords or by being sentenced prisoners. Voting is not compulsory, and a general election normally attracts about 75 per cent of the electorate,
The candidate in a constituency who gains most votes is returned as Member to the Commons. In this “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) system, other candidates, even if they come close to the winner, will not get a seat in Parliament. If a Member of Parliament resigns, dies or is made a peer during the lifetime of a Parliament, a by-election must be held in his or her old constituency to elect a new member.
The Party System
The political party system has evolved since the eighteenth century, and since the first half of the nineteenth century has been essentially a two-party system. Today, this two-party contest is between the Conservative Party (still known by their previous nickname, the “Tories”) and the Labour Party, which emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as a result of the introduction of universal male suffrage and the decline of the Liberal Party.
The Conservative Party is the party of the Right, identified with the idea of economic freedom and until 1979 with the idea of resistance to change. It has successfully portrayed itself as the party of patriotism. It gives emphasis to the importance of law and order, and the maintenance of strong armed forces to protect British interests.
Labour is preeminently the party of social justice, though its emphasis is less on equality than on the achievement of well-being and opportunity for all members of society. It tends to give the collective well-being of society slightly more importance than individual freedom. It was once committed to public ownership of major industries, and to economic planning. It now favours an entrepreneurial but socially aware economy.
The House of Commons
The shape of the Commons debating chamber makes an important comment on the political process in Britain. Unlike many European chambers which are semicircular, thus reflecting the spectrum of political opinion in their seating plan, the Commons is rectangular, with the Speaker's (the presiding MP) chair at one end, and either side of it five rows of benches running the length of the chamber. On one side, to the Speaker's right, sits Her Majesty's Government and its supporters, and on the other Her Majesty's Opposition, composed of all Members who oppose the government. The front benches on either side are reserved for members of the Cabinet and other Ministers, and Opposition spokesmen, known as the “Shadow Cabinet”, respectively.
Behind them and further down the chamber sit MPs from their own party, known as “back-benchers”. The layout hints at two features of British political life: that it has traditionally been a two-party system and that the process is essentially adversarial (indeed, a red line on the floor in front of each front bench still marks the limit - a little more than two swords' lengths - beyond which a Member may not approach the opposite benches). The Speaker is chosen by a vote of the entire House, although in practice the party leaders consult their supporters in order to achieve informal agreement beforehand. The Speaker is responsible for the orderly conduct of business, and is required to act with scrupulous impartiality between Members in the House.
The House of Lords
The upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, is not democratic in any sense at all. It consists of four categories of peer, totalling 1,197 members in 1996. The majority are hereditary peers, currently about 750, of whom only about half take an active interest in the affairs of state. A smaller number, about 400, are 'life' peers - an idea introduced in 1958 to elevate to the peerage certain people who have rendered political or public service to the nation. The purpose was not merely to honour but also to enhance the quality of business done in the Lords. Only one-quarter of these life peers are women. All life peers are created on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day, with nominations also sought from opposition parties. Nine of the most senior judges, the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (commonly known as the 'Law Lords'), are also entitled to sit in the Lords. Finally, alongside these secular peers, the Lords Temporal, are the 26 most senior bishops and archbishops of the Church of England, the Lords Spiritual. The Law Lords and the Lords Spiritual are the ancient non-hereditary component of the Lords.
Although there are over 1,000 peers entitled to sit in the House of Lords, average daily attendance is only about 300 and most of these are life peers who retain a strong interest in the affairs of state. The Lords conduct their business in a far more orderly fashion than the Commons. The House is presided over by Lord Chancellor, the senior law officer of the state. The position is not like that of the Speaker, for the Lord Chancellor is not impartial, but a government officer. He or she is responsible for the administration of justice and is also an automatic member of the Cabinet. '
In 1997 Labour took power on a manifesto that promised swift action to end the right of hereditary peers to sit in the upper house. This led to the expulsion of most hereditary peers but allowed 92 to stay on. Labour said at the time that reform would not stop there. But now, as the party seeks a second term in office, it has yet to put forward clear proposals on what might happen next. The question facing the government has been - how to make the Lords more effective, without making it too powerful?
The Opening of Parliament
Each parliamentary session begins with the “State Opening of Parliament”, a ceremonial occasion in which the Queen proceeds from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster where she delivers the Queen's Speech from her throne in the House of Lords. Her speech is drafted by her government, and describes what the government intends to implement during the forthcoming session.
Exercise 1. Supply information about the following:
The Crown; Elizabeth II; CoE; “the Crown in Parliament”; “Her Majesty’s Government”; Downing Street, the Commons, the Cabinet, the Secretary of State, the Civil Service, “Whitehall”; “Westminster”, FPTP, MP, the “Tories”; the Speaker; the “Shadow Cabinet”; the Lords Temporal; the Lords Spiritual, the Law Lords.
Exercise 2. Find evidence in the text to support or contradict these statements:
Britain is a completely democratic country.
There is a balance in government between partisan politicians and an impartial civil service.
The House of Lords is of little constitutional or political value
The first-past-the-post electoral system does not necessarily serve the electorate well.
Exercise 3. Answer the following questions:
Where does British sovereignty reside?
What are the powers of the monarch?
Why is the monarch a politically important figure?
What does “Cabinet government” mean? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
What does “collective responsibility” mean?
What made the Commons strong enough to defeat the Crown and to become more important than the Lords during the seventeenth century?
Why Parliament, rather than the will of the people, is the real sovereign power in the state?
What are the functions of Parliament?
When are general elections in Britain held?
To which groups of population in Britain is suffrage not extended?
Which party suffers most from the first-past-the-post system?
Explain the main differences between the Conservative and Labour Parties.
Who rules Britain: the Crown, the Commons, the Lords, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet or the Civil Service?
Exercise 1. Give English equivalents:
действовать на основании прецедентов и обычаев, традиций; главнокомандующий; абсолютное большинство голосов; формировать правительство; вновь созданное правительство; правительство, уходящее в отставку в связи с истечением срока полномочий; баллотироваться в парламент; высший законодательный орган; существующее правительство; заседать в палате общин; всеобщее избирательное право для мужчин; затраты на содержание вооруженных сил.
Exercise 2. Give Russian equivalents:
Secular; succession; constituency; by-election; preeminently; semicircular; rectangular; backbenchers; layout; adversarial; non-hereditary; session.
Exercise 3. From the list below match the verbs to the right definitions and supply their context:
‘to work in a particular way or for a particular purpose’
‘to officially order someone to come to a meeting’
‘o officially stop something from continuing, especially for a short time’
‘o formally end a parliament before an election’
‘o officially give someone a title etc., especially as a reward for something they have achieved’
‘to free someone from a debt or punishment’
‘to do properly everything that is part of a particular duty’
‘to officially and permanently leave your job or position because you want to’
‘to manage and organize the affairs of a company, government etc’
‘to collect money so that you can use it to help people’
‘to refuse to let someone have something especially until something else is done’
‘to do someone a service (formal)’
‘to improve something’
to administer, to confer, to discharge, to dissolve, to enhance, to operate, to raise, to remit, to render, to resign, to summon, to suspend, to withhold.
Exercise 4. Insert prepositions:
Britain is a democracy, yet its people are not constitutionally _____ control of the state.
As a result of an historical process the people of Britain are subjects ______ the Crown.
The Queen receives her authority from Parliament and is subject ______ its direction in almost all matters.
This curious situation came ___ as a result of a long struggle ______ power between the Crown and Parliament during the XYI and XYII cc.
Parliament agreed to allow the Crown to continue to function _____ certain limits, and subject _____ Parliament’s control.
The state _____ itself sometimes called the Crown ______ operates ______ precedent, custom and conventions, and ______ unwritten rules and assumptions.
Succession is automatic ______ the death of the monarch, confirmed later _____ a formal coronation ceremony.
The Crown is only sovereign ______ the will of Parliament.
One of the prerogatives of the monarch is to declare war ______ or make peace ____ an enemy power.
Following a general election, the Queen invites the leader of the majority party to form a government _____ her behalf.
A Prime Minister must allow for each cabinet minister to exercise responsibility _____ their field and should encourage collective decision-making ______ controversial issues.
Ministers must obey prime Minister’s will or persuade the Prime Minister _____ their own point of view.
Parliament could prolong its own life ____ consulting the electorate, if it chose to do so.
The only guarantee _____ parliamentary tyranny is the sense of tradition and reasonableness of its members.
The government ____ the day may call ____- a general election at any time during its five-year term.
In this “first- ____ -the-post” system other candidates, even if they come close to the winner, will not get a seat in Parliament.
Since 1958 about 400 people have been elevated ___ peerage for political or public service rendered to the nation.
All life peers are created ___ the recommendation of the Prime Minister ___ the day.
The House of Lords is presided ____ ____ the Lord Chancellor, the senior law officer of the state.
The Lord Chancellor is responsible ___ the administration of Justice and is also an automatic member of the Cabinet.
Why do you think the British feel uncomfortable about a constitution based either on logic or theory?
How do you understand it that “the reigning monarch is not only the head of state but also a symbol of the unity of the nation”?
Why does the Queen “reign but not rule”?
What personal and professional qualities do you think an aspirant minister needs?
Draw a simple diagram showing the shape and layout of the House of Commons debating chamber. Give reasons why you think this arrangement is better or worse than the more common semi-circular debating chamber?
What value does the House of Lords have, if any, in a democracy? Give reasons for your opinion.
If you were British, which political party would you support, and why?
The British Parliament
I. Pre-watching questions:
What does Democracy mean?
Why is Parliament important?
Why is the British parliamentary system copied all over the world?
II. Post-watching tasks
Exercise 1. Answer the following questions:
What is the difference between the main political parties in Britain?
What is the maximum length of term for Parliament?
Which party becomes the government of the day?
What tasks do the MPs perform?
What is the procedure of lawmaking?
Why is it right that the House of Lords is no longer a dominant chamber of Parliament?
What is the primary function of the HoL?
What are the duties of the Queen in Parliament?
What does it mean that the Queen has a constitutional role in the country’s politics?
Why is the chairman of the Commons called the speaker? Why is the role of the speaker so important?
What party does the speaker belong to?
What are the MPs compared to? Why?
Why are parliamentary select committees valuable?
Exercise 2. Match the following verbs in the left column to the correct phrase in the right column:
a. the country
b. the most number of seats in the country
c. the concerns of their constituents
d. the major issues of the day
e. to work of the government
f. in making laws
g. what policy to pursue
h. a bill
i. a variety of stage
j. royal assent
k. an Act of Parliament
m. life peers on the Prime Minister advice
n. their constituents’ concerns in parliament
o. their constituents’ concerns. effectively
p. at the process of lawmaking
q. at the issues relating to the implementation of government policies
r. party loyalty
s. in Westminster
t. government departments
u. people’s awareness of the important issues of the day
Exercise 3. Guess the word by its definition:
A place where Parliament is based
The shape made by buildings against the sky
Something that you must see
The one after the largest
Someone who votes and lives in a particular area represented by one politician
A problem or subject that people discuss
Work that is done as a normal part of your life, your job etc
To have the opportunity to give your opinion about something
A feeling of worry, especially about something such as a social problem , someone’s health etc
To examine something very thoroughly and carefully
A View of Europe and the World
Foreign Policy Dilemmas
All countries foster myths about themselves, for they are essential to a national self-image. One of Britain's myths is to do with its world position, based on the lingering afterglow of a bygone glory. For 200 years, until the 1950s, Britain's view of the world was dominated by its overseas territorial possessions and trade. Britain was reluctantly involved in continental Europe, usually only when its own security was directly threatened. Since the disappearance of its empire and the comparative decline in its power, Britain has adjusted its world view with difficulty. In 1959 the Prime Minister asked his intelligence services to review the likely world position of Britain by 1970. This review challenged the maintenance of a nuclear weapons programme, foresaw that the Commonwealth would become increasingly useless as an economic unit, and forecast that Britain would be dwarfed politically and economically by the new European Common Market. But the conclusions were watered down by senior civil servants before they reached the Prime Minister. They contradicted too many assumptions of Britain's world position. There are still occasions when Britain acts as if it were of greater importance than it is. In the words of one retired diplomat, once ambassador to Paris and then to Washington, 'We don't brag as some countries do, but we do tend to assume we'll be treated as a great power.'
As a result, Britain's foreign policy has tended to lag behind the reality of its world position and to conflict with its true economic interests. It has repeatedly adjusted its overseas political and military commitments since 1945, by troop reduction or political withdrawals, but after, rather than before these had become a burden. The legacy of empire has distracted Britain from concentrating on its economic and political future. During the 1970s Britain was dogged by a sense of economic and political weakness, and by the apparent inevitability of post-imperial decline. During the 1980s Prime Minister Thatcher sought to reverse the process, and claimed, 'Once more Britain is confident, strong, trusted ... Strong, because our economy is enterprising, competitive and expanding. And trusted, because we are known to be a powerful ally and a faithful friend.' Not everyone agreed with such an assessment, Britain's military strength (discussed below) was achieved at the expense of the civil economy. Furthermore, even with economic prosperity, Britain's comparative world position remained bound to decline on account of the rise of the Pacific and Latin American economies.
Britain found it difficult to adjust following the loss of its colonial territories in the 1960s. For approximately 25 years Britain seemed uncertain where its primary interests lay, whether it was with the United States, its most important military ally, or with the European Community, its most important economic arena. It found it difficult to decide which was the more important politically. Because of this uncertainty it was slower than its European allies to invest economic and political effort in the newly free countries of Eastern Europe, and more anxious than others that America's involvement in Europe should not decline. It remained a keen advocate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), in which it plays a leading role. Behind its strategic concerns lay another fear, that without the role it plays in NATO, it might return to what it was until the seventeenth century, an offshore island on the edge of European affairs.
In 1945 Britain had been a founder member of the United Nations. By dint of its international importance it became one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and found itself playing two implicitly contradictory games. On the one hand, as a NATO member it was an ardent participant in the Cold War contest. On the other, it paid lip service to the peaceful and conciliatory criteria, declarations and treaties of the UN. With the end of the Cold War, but also with its comparative decline, Britain faces another dilemma. Should it hang onto its permanent seat in order to maximise its influence at the UN, or should it resign it in favour of a Security Council more representative of UN global membership? And if it chose to resign its seat, should it be as willing as it has been in the past to provide troops for UN peace-keeping missions? During the 1990s Britain seemed increasingly to act as the junior partner of the United States in ensuring that US policy prevailed in the Security Council, particularly with regard to the Middle East.
Ever since the Second World War, Britain has believed in a 'special relationship' with the United States. This relationship is based upon a shared language and Anglo-Saxon culture, and particularly strong relationships between Churchill and Roosevelt during the war, and between Thatcher and Reagan during the 1980s and between Blair and Clinton at the end of the century. For Britain the relationship was vital to its own world standing after 1945. For the United States it was useful for strengthening the European commitment to NATO. But the United States has seldom valued the special relationship as highly as Britain has done, and it can only last if both have something to gain from it. In spite of Britain' s difficult relations with other members of the European union, there were signs in the 1990s that its relationship with the United States was weakening, as the implications of growing political and economic unity in Europe became harder to ignore.
In 1997 Labour dramatically announced that human rights considerations would become central to British foreign policy. All governments pay lip service to human rights requirements but few honour them. In stating its position so firmly, Labour's record was bound to be judged by this difficult standard it had set itself. Sceptics believed it would only occasion embarrassment as Labour discovered the irreconcilable clash of interests, particularly with regard to arms sales.
Britain has encouraged the development of a strong arms industry to supply the armed forces and also to make profitable sales internationally. During the 1980s it became the second largest arms trader internationally. In 1996 it took 25 per cent of the otal world market in weaponry. No other export sector achieves anything like the same proportional value. Critics claim that well over half British arms sales go to states with bad human rights records. In the mid-1990s the Conservative government was gravely embarrassed by the Scott Inquiry when it emerged that it had secretly condoned the sale of arms to Iraq during the late 1980s, in contradiction of its own public prohibition of such sales to Iraq. The export of arms is an area in which the sincerity of Labour's foreign policy will be severely tested.
Britain in Europe
In the long term Britain is bound primarily to Europe, despite its sometimes unenthusiastic view of the European Union (EU), as the Community became in 1992. Britain did not share the same passion to create an economic and political network as the founder members of the Community. It had not experienced foreign European armies on its soil, and relied economically on trade with Commonwealth members and colonies.
Britain joined the Community in 1973, but it remained diffident, with several MPs of both main parties believing membership to be a mistake, and demands for conformity irksome. In 1980 it was still possible that Britain could leave the European Community. British resentment at interference from Brussels was well expressed by one Conservative MP: 'Almost overnight and largely unnoticed by our fellow citizens, Britain's right to decide many practical matters, even her own destiny, is being surrendered to the majority vote and the interests of other nations, not all of whom share our parliamentary traditions.' Against such an attitude a British Commissioner to the European Community argued the harsh pragmatic case that, 'Only on a European rather than a national basis can we hold our own in the world.' By 1990 few could disagree with this assessment, and although it remained the most argumentative member of the Community, there was no longer any question of it leaving. But it continued to show it was less enthusiastic than other major members about accepting the implications of membership.
Britain's economy is closely interrelated with the other members of the Community. By 1995 57 per cent of UK exports and 15 per cent of CDP were accounted for by the EU market. Moreover, most large companies now operate across frontiers. With progressive economic integration, national political sovereignty has reduced meaning.
Yet the question of Europe and national sovereignty produced the crisis within government which led to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990, and to the split in Conservative ranks which made defeat for the subsequent Major administration inevitable. Britain's relations with Europe deteriorated further under Major. In 1992 he agreed to the Treaty of Maastricht with two important provisos. He declined to sign the Social Chapter safeguarding minimal employment conditions throughout the Union, on account of the strong Conservative belief in a free market economy with an unregulated labour force. He also insisted on Britain's right to opt out of the planned single currency for the Union. Later the same year apprehensions concerning the dangers of a single currency were confirmed in many British minds when Britain was forced out of European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) by intense speculation on the pound sterling. Yet it was the crisis over contaminated British beef, so-called 'mad cow disease', in 1995-96 which brought British relations with the rest of the Union to an unprecedented low point. Britain did everything it could to avoid the Union's safety requirements, with its behaviour, according to one British journalist, 'a mixture of lofty abuse and abject whining'.
Labour adopted the few more positive European policies of its predecessor, urging rapid completion of the single market for every sector of economic activity, and also advocating the progressive enlargement of the Union to include Central and Eastern European states. It also immediately signed the Social Chapter, and indicated that it would make membership of the single currency contingent on a referendum. It recognised more readily than the Conservatives that the question was not whether to join the single currency but when.
Europe occupies two extreme positions on the spectrum of popular esteem. For a long time there has been strong middle-class support for membership of the European Union, based not only upon Britain's pragmatic interests, but also upon interest in European culture. Many middle-class Britons take their holidays exploring different parts of Europe. They are largely pan-European in outlook. However, there is also another, smaller, category of British visitor to the Continent. These are the young holidaymakers who drink heavily and sometimes become violent, for example, on Spain's Mediterranean coast, or following English football teams. Their behaviour is not solely to do with social problems in Britain. It also reflects a contemptuous attitude for those who are not British. Many other British people, while not behaving in such anti-social ways, do not yet feel culturally European.
Beyond its immediate foreign policy priorities, its ties with Europe and the United States, Britain has important relations across the rest of the world, primarily through the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of members of the former British Empire and Colonies, which allows for a new relationship between Britain and its former possessions. Its purpose is the promotion of international understanding and cooperation by working in partnership with each other. It is as much an association of peoples as of states, with a plethora of informal non-governmental links. There were only ll members in 1960, which grew to 21 by 1965, when Britain resigned the permanent chairmanship in favour of an international secretariat, and then 53 in 1998. Some have resigned, for example Ireland, others have been suspended, like Fiji and Nigeria, while others which withdrew to avoid expulsion have returned to the fold, like Pakistan and South Africa. Recent admissions have included countries with no previous connection with Britain, for example in 1995 the ex-Portuguese territory of Mozambique, Yemen and the embryo state of Palestine have both expressed interest in membership. The Queen is titular head of the Commonwealth, even though half the member states are republics. She remains an ardent supporter of the Commonwealth idea.
Why is the Commonwealth so popular? A chief reason is that it is an international forum that lacks the formality and pomposity of the United Nations. In the words of Peter Lyon, head of the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, 'It is a comfortable form of international cooperation where people can talk confidentially without feeling threatened. It hasn't got a centre or periphery. All have equal status.' One of the major attractions for the prime ministers of the member states is that at the conferences they have direct personal contact with each other, frequently without any officials present. The Commonwealth also operates by consensus rather than by voting. This allows for a more gradualist approach to problems than is possible in the United Nations. The heads of government of member states meet every two years to consider current issues, and sometimes to make declarations on agreed principles. For example, in 1971 the Singapore Declaration stated: 'We believe in the liberty of the individual, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief, and in their inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which they live.' As with the United Nations, many members fall short of their undertakings.
It is easy to think of the Commonwealth as a cosy association. In fact it has times of great stress, three of which were a direct consequence of British policy. When Britain refused to send troops to restore Rhodesia to British rule in 1964, the Commonwealth came close to disintegration. Its entry into the European Community greatly damaged relations with Commonwealth trading partners in the 1970s, and its refusal to apply economic sanctions against South Africa nearly resulted in the relocation of the Secretariat to Toronto, Meanwhile a number of Conservative MPs openly expressed the view that the Commonwealth was no longer worth having. It was the quiet diplomacy of the Queen herself which healed this rift.
The current popularity and growth of the Commonwealth may signal its success. Yet the great virtue of the Commonwealth in the 1960s and early 1970s was the intimacy of this varied club. The larger the Commonwealth becomes, the harder it is to ensure it remains a place for the uninhibited exchange of views and to achieve consensus.
The End of Empire?
In 1997 Britain relinquished sovereignty of Hong Kong. Under the 1984 accord with Beijing, Hong Kong is designated a Special Administrative Region with its own government and legislative council composed of Hong Kong people. But it is less democratic than the last British governor had wanted. The existing elected legislative council was replaced with an appointed provisional legislature by the Chinese government, followed by fresh elections for a legislative council in 1998 with a severely reduced franchise. Of the six million people in Hong Kong, just over three million are British passport holders, but only 50,000 of these have rights of residence in Britain. Britain retains a strong interest in Hong Kong, partly because of the embarrassment it will feel if Beijing does not honour its obligations, but also because Hong Kong remains Britain's second largest export market in Asia.
Many viewed the loss of Hong Kong as the final end of empire, but in fact Britain retains another 16 'dependent' territories, with a total population of about 200,000. The largest is Bermuda, with 60,000 inhabitants, which, like most of the others, is British by choice, Britain claims all these territories may freely exercise self-determination, but there is one glaring exception. In the early 1970s Britain removed the 1,800 or so islanders from the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia to Mauritius in order to make it a base for US forces. They have not been allowed back or allowed to determine their future. Government conduct contrasts with its willingness to fight for the self-determination of the Falklands/Las Malvinas which Argentina occupied in 1982. Although ejected by British forces, Argentina continues to claim the Falklands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. Gibraltar, acquired in 1713, is claimed by Spain, which from time to time has tried to pressure this territory into accepting Spanish sovereignty. In the latter two cases the inhabitants strongly wish to remain under British rule.
In 1981 the British Nationality Act stripped the people of these dependent territories, including Hong Kong, of full British citizenship with the exception of the Falklands and Gibraltar whose citizens are largely of European origin. Many believed this to be overtly racist. The other area of discontent concerns a sense of under-representation in London and a desire for direct
representation in the Commonwealth.
The Armed Forces
The British have mixed feelings about their armed forces. There is pride in their abilities and bravery, and in the history and traditions of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the regiments of the Army, many of which are over 250 years old. On the other hand the authority required in, and imposed by, an army is deeply disliked by a nation of individualistic and anti-authoritarian people. Any use of the armed forces in mainland Britain to maintain order would provoke a major popular protest.
After 1945 it was clear that Britain was no longer the foremost power it had been previously. In order to secure 'the right to sit at the top of the table', as one Prime Minister put it, Britain invested in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. It soon found it could not afford the production costs and became dependent on US-supplied weapons. Whether Britain needs a nuclear deterrent for security rather than to increase its political influence has always been a matter for debate. During the 1980s Britain upgraded its nuclear capability with US Trident missiles. These came into service in the 1990s and will last until about 2020. Trident gives Britain a nuclear capacity greatly in excess of its deterrent requirement. Each of four submarines will carry eight missiles with each missile capable of carrying fourteen independent warheads. Supporters of nuclear deterrence speak of Britain being able to 'punch above its weight'. Critics point to what the enormous sum of money could buy in terms of the civil economy, education or health. As in the political sphere, Britain has adjusted too slowly to its changing status as a military power, and failed to anticipate the need to contract from widespread commitments in good time.
In response to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact there has been a 30 per cent reduction in the size of the armed forces since 1990. Yet Britain still spends proportionately more on defence than other NATO members. In 1997 it spent f22 billion to maintain a force of 214,000 service personnel. This was 2.8 per cent of its gross domestic product compared with the NATO average of 2.3 per cent an extraordinary fact for one of the poorer members of NATO which faces no major military threat. How does one rate value for money. Take, for example, the cost of its fleet, A report in 1990 showed that out of the 20-year life expected of the average naval vessel, only five years were spent at sea and that the total maintenance bill might well be two or three times the initial purchase price, Or look at the Air Force. In 1998 it was admitted that half its war planes were unfit to fly.
The continuing pressure to reduce significantly both the size and cost of Britain's armed forces cannot be ignored. Labour undertook the third major review in a decade when it came to power. But any government faces a dilemma. Should it maintain an integrated force, which will require maintenance of tanks, heavy artillery and the equipment necessary for a major war or radically reduce these, in favour of more helicopters and transport planes to produce a highly versatile rapid deployment force which can be used anywhere in the world? Or should it reduce its already small navy, or alternatively abandon development of the warplane Eurofighter, to which the Conservative government pledged over f15 billion?
The Army, more than the Navy or Air Force is a deeply 'tribal' institution. Infantry regiments, with 200 or more years of history, regard themselves as families. Many officers are the sons or grandsons of men who also served in the same regiment. The officer culture tends to be old-fashioned and conservative in its values and political outlook, It is also, particularly in the 'smarter' regiments, like the Guards, cavalry, Highland and rifle regiments, distinctly upper class in a way seldom found outside the Army. The sons of great landowners sometimes pursue an army career, for example in a Guards regiment, until they inherit the family estate. It almost goes without saying that most officers in such regiments were educated at public schools.
The Guards may represent the upper-class elite in the Army, but the Special Air Service (SAS) represents the tough operational elite. It was established during the Second World War to work behind enemy lines. Since then it has continued to exist, but is deliberately hidden from publicity. Men may only join the SAS from other army units after the most rigorous selection procedure for physical and mental ability. They sometimes operate in other countries to support regimes considered friendly to Britain. They also operated in Northern Ireland, though it was years before the government admitted to this. Their image of a tough, 'go anywhere', secret elite has stimulated much interest.
It is, perhaps, inevitable that no army is likely to be described as liberal. But the frank statement of one officer, 'You' re training people to be aggressive. The kind of guy that's going to leap into a trench and kill someone is probably not going to help some nice Indian chap across the road' says much about the state of mind in the British army. Fewer than 1 per cent of the armed forces belong to an ethnic minority, and those with the courage to enlist often complain of racism. There is also strong official prejudice against homosexuality, and several men and women in the armed forces have been discharged for being of homosexual orientation. With the intended incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, it would no longer be possible to forbid homosexuals to serve in the armed forces, but the prejudice is likely to linger on.
The Question of Security
Britain is possibly the most secretive of all parliamentary democracies. The air of mystery surrounding the intelligence services fascinates the public, both in Britain and elsewhere. The success of lan Fleming's hero James Bond, the novels of Len Deighton and also John Le Carre owes much to this fascination.
Secrecy may be romantic but it has serious implications in a democracy. Parliament is unable to know what is undertaken by Britain' s intelligence services, on the grounds that some parliamentarians would be a security risk. It is a strange argument for a parliamentary democracy to use, since it implies that neither Parliament nor people are sovereign, and that someone else, whose identity we cannot be sure of, knows best.
Secrecy provides a protection against public accountability. It also gives the intelligence services a powerful hold on the country. Two main intelligence organisations exist: MI5, which deals with internal security and countering espionage, and MI6, Britain's spy network abroad.
In the past MIS threatened or used smear campaigns to undermine Labour politicians of whom it did not approve. In 1997 it was revealed that MIS had once monitored the activities of ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath, and also of two Labour politicians who became senior members of Blair's administration. One, embarrassingly for MI5, was the Home Secretary, responsible for overseeing MIS's activities. Indeed, it is the Home Secretary, not a law officer, who grants approval to tap telephones, intercept mail or break into property.
Since the decision for such normally illegal measures is essentially a political one, there is no legal protection for the citizen. It is estimated that 35,000 telephone lines are tapped yearly.
In spite of government silence, the existence of MI5 and MI6 was common knowledge for years.
Both services received considerable public exposure during the 1980s because of open discussion in the press. MI5 was officially acknowledged in 1989 and MI6 (also known as the, Secret intelligence Service (SIS)) only in 1992 when denial became increasingly untenable since MI6 and the identity of its director had become such public knowledge. British diplomats, however, are still coy. They refer to MI6 simply as 'the Friends'. Although it is unlikely that MI6 has entirely abandoned watching its old adversaries of the Eastern Bloc, its greatest effort is now on monitoring drugs trafficking. It has also increased intelligence gathering in the Islamic and Arab worlds.
MI5 has made a virtue of its new public persona. It has even advertised publicly for recruits. Greater openness indicates a shift of emphasis since the end of the Cold War. Since 1990 two-thirds of its effort has been directed to counter-terrorist intelligence gathering, particularly in Northern Ireland, and it has a growing role in combatting organised crime. Peace in Northern Ireland would probably not lead to a reduction in MI5's activities and personnel but greater concentration on combatting organised crime.
MI5, MI6, the police Special Branch and Signals Intelligence (which monitors international radio and satellite communications) are all coordinated by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which is composed of senior civil servants and intelligence chiefs responsible to the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister, The rivalry between these intelligence networks is most in evidence, it is said, at meetings of the JIC.
During the 1980s several important incidents occurred which demonstrated the government's obsession with secrecy. The government forbade the publication of an intelligence officer' s autobiography, protected the anonymity of some SAS men who killed three unarmed members of the IRA in Gibraltar, and brought a police investigation into the activities of MI5 and the Special Branch in Northern Ireland to a swift and unresolved end. In another incident, a senior civil servant believed his minister was deliberately concealing information from Parliament. He revealed this information to an interested MP. His argument was that concealment had taken place not on the grounds of secrecy but because it would embarrass the government since it had already been deliberately misleading Parliament for two years. He was prosecuted for violating the Official Secrets Act, but the jury found him not guilty. It decided he had acted in the public interest and that his disclosure was justified. The government angrily introduced a new Official Secrets Act in 1989 which specifically stated that the disclosure of secrets 'in the public interest' was no defence.
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham operates one of the most important parts of the security apparatus, Signals Intelligence, known as SIGINT. The system is linked to similar operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As with other aspects of its intelligence services, the government is shy about its existence.
Conservative governments, 1979-97, championed secrecy more than their predecessors but almost every government this century has acted undemocratically in areas of national security. There have been repeated evasions by government from telling the truth to Parliament on sensitive issues, for example the costs involved in nuclear weaponry. Too often the need for state security has been invoked merely to save the government from embarrassment, either for having deliberately misled Parliament or the public, or for having wasted large sums of money or some other kind of glaring incompetence. The trouble is that the desire for secrecy in British government goes beyond the need to protect national security to the protection of politicians in power from embarrassment. Whitehall's standard security handbook reads: 'Precautions are needed to prevent foreign powers and subversive organisations from obtaining unauthorized information and to avoid disclosures which would cause embarrassment hampering good government'. However, secret government is usually bad government as well as undemocratic. The ability to conceal the truth is an irresistible temptation for a government under attack from the opposition. Yet the process is corrupt and undermines the democratic principle. In 1980 the Civil Service set out regulations (known as the 'Osmotherly Rules') for civil servants appearing before the new select committees which state, 'Any withholding of information should be limited to reservations that are necessary in the interests of good government or to safeguard national security,' The explanatory notes following this rule effectively deny MPs any real knowledge of the inside workings of Whitehall, thus preventing Parliament or the electorate making government truly accountable for its conduct.
Labour came into office in 1997 pledged to establish the principle of accountability. It promised a Freedom of Information Act designed to give citizens a right of access to government information including the right to challenge any government refusal to disclose material. It also promised to reintroduce the 'public interest' principle which the Conservatives removed. In short, it promised 'a change in the culture of government'.
It is, perhaps, never possible to strike a final balance between secrecy in the interests of national security or good government, and openness in the protection of democratic values. It is only by constant challenge and debate that the public (and Parliament) can keep governmental secrecy within reasonable limits.
Exercise 1. Supply information about the following:
The Commonwealth; the European Community/Union; the NATO; the Cold War; the UN; the Security Council; the special relationship; Churchill; Roosevelt; Reagan; Thatcher; Blair; Clinton; the Scott Inquiry; Brussels; Major; the Treaty of Maastricht; Hong Kong; Beijing; the Falklands/Las Malvinas; Gibraltar; Trident missiles; the Warsaw Pact, the SAS, MI5; MI6; the Secret Intelligence Service; the Home Secretary.
Exercise 2. Which of the following sentences do you think best illustrates the basic problems of British foreign policy?
Britain still cannot abandon a self-image of imperial greatness.
Britain has always been late in scaling down its foreign policy commitments in the line with its real political and economic power.
Britain’s fundamental problem is whether to back the European Union fully or to pursue a wider role as a junior partner of the United States?
Exercise 3. Answer the following questions:
What myth has Britain created about itself?
What was the legacy of the British Empire? How does it hinder Britain/s economic and political development?
What dilemma faced Britain after the 60s?
What fear underlies British foreign policy?
What was awkward in Britain’s position as both a NATO and a UN member?
What is the “special relationship”? What is it based on?
What is the essence of the double standards policy as regards arms sales Britain’s government carries out?
Why does Britain have such ambiguous feelings about the European Union?
What is the current position of Britain in the EU?
Why are the British “Euroscepticed” prejudiced in favour of the Commonwealth?
Why is the Commonwealth popular with its membership?
Why has Britain had difficulty in reducing military expenditure?
In what ways is Britain’s preoccupation with secrecy bad for democracy?
Exercise 1. Give English equivalents:
Признавать что-либо только на словах; в отношении; соблюдать условия; не присоединиться; осуществлять право на самоопределение; недостаточное представительство; противодействовать шпионажу; черный PR; прослушивать телефонные разговоры; перехватывать почту; обнаруживать каналы сбыта наркотиков; бороться с организованной преступностью.
Exercise 2. Give Russian equivalents:
A keen advocate; an offshore island; by dint of; to condone; to be contingent on; pan-European; uninhibited; the deployment of nuclear weapons; a nuclear deterrent; a warhead; a public school; public accountability.
Exercise 3. Fill in the gaps with the words and expressions from ex.1 and ex.2:
Indeed, it is the Home Secretary, not a law officer, who grants approval to _________ , __________ or break into property.
Although it is unlikely that MI6 has entirely abandoned watching its old adversaries of the Eastern Bloc, its greatest effort is now on ________.
Secrecy provides a protection against _______.
All governments ___________ to human rights requirements but few ______ them.
Behind Britain’s strategic concerns lay another fear, that without the role it plays in NATO, it might return to what it was until the XYII century, ____________ on the edge of European affairs.
Britain claims all its dependent territories may ___________.
In order to increase its political influence Britain invested in the development and ________.
Major’s government insisted on Britain’s right ________ of the European Social Chapter.
In the past MI5 threatened or used ____________ to undermine Labour politicians of whom it did not approve.
The other area of discontent concerns a sense of ________ in London and a desire for direct representation in the Commonwealth.
Sceptics believed it would only occasion embarrassment as Labour discovered the irroncilable clash of interests, particularly _________ arms sales.
It almost goes without saying that most officers in such regiments were educated at ______.
Whether Britain needs a _________ for security rather than to increase its political influence has always been a matter for debate.
Do you believe that myths are essential to a national self-image? What myths about self does Russia have?
What do you think Britain and the USA gain from the “special relationship”?
What reasons to you find for it that not all Britons feel culturally European?
What is your opinion of the Falklands/Las Malvinas and Gibraltar questions?
Why should the British have ambiguous feelings about their armed forces?
Do you think military spendings at the expense of the civil economy, education or health are justified?
“Secrecy may be romantic but it has serious implications in a democracy” Comment on the statement.
David McDowall “Britain in Close-Up. An In-Depth Study of Contemporary Britain”. Longman, 2000
K.Hewitt “Understanding Britain”. NN, 1996
K.Hewitt, M.Feklin “Understanding British Institutions”. NN, 1998
James O’Driscoll “Britain. The Country and Its People”. Oxford, 1997
Stephen George, Ian Backe “Politics in the EU”. Oxford, 2001
Martin Pugh “A History of Britain 1789-2000”. Oxford, 2001
“Россия и Британия: в поисках достойного правления”, под ред. И.Кирьянова, Н.Оуэна, Дж.Сникера. Пермь, 2000
British Political Institutions
Учебно-методические материалы для студентов IY курса ПФ и РФУ
Составитель: Полина Юрьевна Степанянц