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Task 1. Study Basic Texts 1, 3, 5 & find the English equivalents for the
following words & phrases.
3. ,
6. , ,

11. -
12. ,
18. ,


25. ( )
28. ,
36. ,
47. (2)
49. (2)

51. ,
56. ( )
66., -



Task 2. Study Basic Texts 2,4,6 & find the English equivalents for the
following words & phrases.
1. to run/head government departments
2. to take on responsibilities
3. the Cabinet
4. single-party government
5. coalition government
6. collective responsibility
7. to act unanimously
8. to resign to signify dissent
9. to wield the monarchs executive power
10.the Ministry of Defense
11.a secretary of state
12.Lord of the Treasury
13.the Lord President of the Council
14.the Paymaster General
15.the Lord Privy Seal
16.to be assigned to specific tasks
17.to move members of the Cabinet from post to post
18.to drop individuals from the Cabinet
19.to take decisions about new policies & the implementation of existing

20.to run a busy communication network

21.to draw up the agendas for cabinet meetings
22.cabinet committees
23.to look into various matters in more detail
24.to command a majority in the House of Commons
25.the foremost of Her Majestys political servants
26.the monarchs powers of patronage
27.to confer honors on people
28.the cabinet reshuffle
29.PMs dominance over other ministers
30.to go over the heads of the other ministers & appeal directly to the public
31.the Commonwealth
32.court of appeal
33.for electoral purposes Britain is divided into 659 constituencies
34.to represent the interests of local people, the constituents
35.to hold regular surgeries
36.parties to stand for election
37.a first past the post system
38.to win most seats in Parliament
39.a system of proportional representation
40.to allocate seats in Parliament according to the total number of votes cast for
each party
41.to go to the country
42.to stand for Parliament (=be a candidate for election)
43.to leave a deposit of 500
44.the Returning Officer
45.a marginal
46.party workers
47.to spend the tame canvassing
48.to spend a lot of money on advertising & media coverage

49.party political broadcasts

50.to hold a daily televised news conference
51.to be on the electoral register
52.the high turnout
53.to receive a polling card
54.a polling station
55.to be given a ballot paper
56.a polling day
57.to go into a polling booth
59.exit polls
60.to predict the overall election result
62.to demand a recount
63.a county, a region, a district, a parish
64.a community
65.a borough
66.to be run by councils
67.new metropolitan counties
68.to set up a Local Government Commission
69.a unitary authority
70.a two-tier structure
71.a ward
72.to meet in a council chamber at the local town hall or county hall
73.the Lord Mayor
74.local government officers
75.local authorities
76.be put out to tender
77.compulsory competitive tendering
78.to collect taxes, called business rates

79.to charge local people a council tax

80.to obtain money from the rates
The Monarchy
Britain is a constitutional monarchy without a written constitution. The
British constitution comprises multiple documents such as Magna Carta, a famous
document in English history agreed upon in 1215 by King John & the barons,
which set certain limits on royal power & which was later regarded as a law stating
basic civil rights; Habeas Corpus Act, a law passed in 1679, which guarantees to a
person arrested the right to appear in court of justice so that the jury should decide
whether he is guilty or not guilty; the Bill of Rights, an act of Parliament passed in
1689, which confirmed certain rights of the people; the laws deciding the
succession of the royal family, & a number of constitutional acts, separate laws &
British monarchy is hereditary: it passes from the monarch to the eldest son.
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, will inherit the throne from his mother, Queen
Elizabeth II. If the monarch has no living son, the throne passes to the eldest
daughter. The wife of a king becomes a queen, but the husband of a queen doesnt
take the title of king. Consequently, Queen Elizabeths husband is called Prince
Philip, not King Philip.
The monarchy has survived for over a thousand years, except for a short
break between 1649 & 1660, when a republic was established by Oliver Cromwell.
The monarch personifies the state & thus is head of the executive & the
judiciary (the legal system). As head of the government, the Queen invites the
leader of the winning party in a General Election to form a government & pass
laws in her name; she opens Parliament, & she dissolves Parliament before the
next election. However, she cannot be a member of any political party, nor can she
vote in an election. The monarch must sign all Acts of Parliament.

As well as being Head of State, the monarch is the Supreme Governor of the
Church of England, of which she must be a member, & Commander-in-Chief of
the armed forces of the crown. In these roles she appoints government ministers,
judges, bishops, diplomats & officers in the armed forces.
As you can see, the monarch has considerable power, though she rarely uses
it. In fact, she never refuses to sign an Act of Parliament, & she makes
appointments only on the advice of the Prime Minister or her other advisors. She
has great power in theory, but not in practice.
The royal family endorses developments in Britain by performing such
ceremonial functions as cutting ribbons, opening businesses, launching ships, and
laying cornerstones. Many members of the royal family are involved in charity
work and maintain a public presence by visiting shelters, hospitals, and clinics.
Because foreigners are attracted to the pageantry of royalty, tourism related to the
royal family brings a substantial amount of money into the country.
The Government
Who governs Britain? When the media talk about the government they
usually mean one of two things. The term the government can be used to refer to
all of the politicians who have been appointed by the monarch (on the advice of the
PM) to help run government departments (there are several politicians in each
department) or to take on various other special responsibilities, such as managing
the activities of Parliament. There are normally about a hundred members of the
government in this sense. Although there are various ranks, each with their own
titles, members of the government are usually known as ministers.
The other meaning of the term the government is more limited. It refers
only to the most powerful of these politicians, namely the Prime Minister & the
other members of the cabinet.
Britain normally has single-party government. In other words, all members
of the government belong to the same political party. Traditionally, British

politicians have regarded coalition government (with several parties involved) as a

bad idea.
The habit of single-party government has helped to establish the tradition
known as collective responsibility. Collective responsibility means that the Cabinet
acts unanimously, even when Cabinet ministers do not all agree upon a subject. If
an important decision is unacceptable to a particular Cabinet member, it is
expected that he or she will resign to signify dissent.
The Cabinet
The Cabinet developed during the 18th century out of informal meetings of
key government ministers during the reigns of the Hannoverian monarchs, who
took relatively little interest in politics. During the 19th century this committee of
key ministers evolved into an effective body that wielded the monarchs executive
The Cabinet has about 20 members, or ministers, all of whom must be
members of Parliament (MPs). Members of the Cabinet are leaders of the majority
party in the House of Commons or, more rarely, members of the House of Lords.
Cabinet ministers who head a particular government department, such as the
Ministry of Defense, are known as secretaries of state. The PM serves as the first
Lord of the Treasury and as minister for the civil service. In addition to the various
secretaries of state, the Cabinet includes non-departmental ministers who hold
traditional offices - such as the Lord President of the Council, the Paymaster
General, and the Lord Privy Seal - and ministers without portfolio, who do not
have specific responsibilities but are assigned to specific tasks as needed. The PM
has the power to move members of the Cabinet from post to post, or to drop
individuals from the Cabinet entirely. Former Cabinet ministers may retain their
positions as members of Parliament.
The cabinet meets once a week & takes decisions about new policies, the
implementation of existing policies & the running of the various government

To help run the complicated machinery of a modern government there is an

organization called the cabinet office. It runs a busy communication network,
keeping ministers in touch with each other & drawing up the agendas for cabinet
meetings. It also does the same things for the many cabinet committees. These
committees are appointed by the cabinet to look into various matters in more detail
than the individual members of the cabinet have the time (or knowledge) for.
Unlike members of the government itself, the people on these committees are not
necessarily politicians.
The Prime Minister
The position of a British Prime Minister is in direct contrast to that of the
monarch. Although the Queen appears to have a great deal of power, in reality she
has very little. The PM, on the other hand, appears not to have much power but in
reality has a very great deal indeed. As we know, the Queen is, in practice, obliged
to give the job of Prime Minister to the person who can command a majority in the
House of Commons. This normally means the leader of the party with the largest
number of MPs.
From one point of view, the PM is no more than the foremost of Her
Majestys political servants. The traditional phrase describes him or her as primus
inter pares (Latin for first among equals). But in fact the other ministers are not
nearly as powerful. There are several reasons for this. First, the monarchs powers
of patronage (the power to appoint people to all kinds of jobs & to confer honors
on people) are, by convention, actually the PMs powers of patronage. The fiction
is that the Queen appoints people to government jobs on the advice of the Prime
Minister. But what actually happens is that the PM simply decides. Everybody
knows this.
The strength of the PMs power of patronage is apparent from the modern
phenomenon known as the cabinet reshuffle. For the past thirty years it has been
the habit of the PM to change his or her cabinet quite frequently (at least once
every two years). A few cabinet members are dropped, & a few new members are

brought in, but mostly the existing members are shuffled around, like a pack of
cards, each getting a new department to look after.
The second reason for a modern PMs dominance over other ministers is the
power of the PMs public image. The mass media has tended to make politics a
matter of personalities. The details of policies are hard to understand. An
individual, constantly appearing on the television & in the newspapers, is much
easier to identify with. Everybody in the country can recognize the Prime Minister,
while many cannot put a name to the faces of the other ministers. As a result the
PM can, if the need arises, go over the heads of the other ministers & appeal
directly to the public.
Third, all ministers except the PM are kept busy looking after their
government departments. They dont have time to think about & discuss
government policy as a whole. But the PM does, & cabinet committees usually
report directly to him or her, not to the cabinet as a whole. Moreover, the cabinet
office is directly under the PMs control & works in the same building. As a result,
the PM knows more about what is going on than the other ministers do. Because
there is not enough time for the cabinet to discuss most matters, a choice has to be
made about what will be discussed. And it is the PM who makes that choice.
Matters that are not discussed can, in effect, be decided by the PM. The convention
of collective responsibility then means that the rest of the government have to go
along with whatever the PM has decided.
The Privy Council
The Privy Council is a large, and generally ceremonial, body of more than
450 members that developed out of the royal council that existed in the Middle
Ages. By the 18th century the Privy Council had taken over all the powers of the
royal council. The Privy Council comprises all current and former Cabinet
members, as well as important public figures in Britain and the Commonwealth.
The council advises the monarch and arranges for the formal handling of
documents. It has a large number of committees, each with a specific task, such as
dealing with outlying islands, universities, or legal matters. The most important

committee is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is the highest
court of appeal for certain nations in the Commonwealth & some church-related
In the United Kingdom the institution responsible for making laws,
discussing major issues affecting the country & raising taxes is called Parliament.
The three parts of Parliament, the sovereign (=the king or queen), the House of
Lords & the House of Commons, meet together only on special occasions.
Although the agreement of all three is required for laws to be passed, that of the
king or queen is now given without question.
Parliament comes from parley, a discussion. The word was first used in
the 13th century to describe meetings between Henry III & his noblemen in the
Great Council. At that time, the king used his & his noblemens money to pay for
government & war. Several kings found that they did not have enough money, &
so they called together representatives from the counties & towns of England to
ask them to approve increased taxes. Over time, the Great Council became the
House of Lords, & the people from the counties & towns became the House of
Commons. Originally, the king needed only the support of his councilors to pass a
law, but by the end of the 15th century members of the House of Commons were
taking part in the law-making process.
The House of Commons
The House of Commons, often called simply the Commons or the House, is
elected by the adult population of Britain& is responsible to them. Members of the
House of Commons are known as Members of Parliament, or MPs. There are
currently 659 MPs representing constituencies (=special districts) in England,
Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland. Elections must be held every five years, but if
an MP resigns or dies there is a by-election in that constituency.
Until the 20th century MPs did not receive a salary, so that only rich people
could afford to be MPs. Most MPs are now full-time politicians but the hours of

business of the Commons reflect a time when MPs had other jobs. The House does
not sit in the mornings, except on Fridays, but starts at 2.30 p.m. & does not finish
until 10.30 p.m., & sometimes much later. On Fridays, they finish early for the
weekend. MPs spend their mornings on committee work, preparing speeches &
dealing with problems from their constituency.
The House of Commons has several rows of seats facing each other. MPs
who belong to the Government sit on one side & those from the Opposition sit on
the other. There are no cross-benches (=seats for MPs who do not support the main
parties). Ministers & members of the Shadow Cabinet (=leaders of the Opposition)
sit on the front benches. Other MPs sit behind & are called backbenchers. On the
table between them are two wooden dispatch boxes. Ministers & shadow ministers
stand beside them when making a speech. The Speaker, who is chosen by MPs
from amongst themselves to preside over debates, sits on a raised chair at the top
end of the table. MPs sit wherever they can find room on their side of the House.
There are only about 400 seats, not enough for all MPs to sit down at once. The
press & members of the public can listen to debates from the Strangers Gallery.
The House of Lords
The House of Lords consists of Lords Spiritual, i.e. the Archbishops of
Canterbury&York& senior bishops, & Lords Temporal, i.e. all hereditary peers &
life peers. The total number of people eligible to attend the Lords is about 1 200
but some get permission to be absent. The Lord Chancellor presides over debates
from Woolsack.
The power of the House of Lords has been reduced over time. Since 1911
the Lords have had no control over financial matters, & since 1949 they have not
been able to reject legislation (=laws) passed by the Commons, though they may
suggest amendments. At various times people have suggested that the House of
Lords should be abolished (=got rid of), or that its composition & functions should
be changed. In 1998 the Labor government announced that it would abolish the
right of hereditary peers to sit in the Lords, & also that it would create new life
peers to take their place. It is not yet clear how they will be chosen.

Meetings of Parliament
The word parliament is also used to mean a period of government. Each
parliament lasts a maximum of five years & is divided into shorter sessions lasting
one year, beginning in October. There are adjournments at night & for holidays.
The State Opening of Parliament takes place at the beginning of each
session. Black Rod, a servant of the Queen, knocks on the door of the House of
Commons & demands that MPs allow the Queen to come inside & tell them what
her Government is planning to do in the next year. The Commons always refuse to
let her in. This is because, in the 17th century when Parliament was trying to take
away some of the monarchs power, King Charles I tried to control the House of
Commons by having some MPs arrested. This led to the Civil War, & Charles was
beheaded in 1649. Ever since then, the monarch has not been allowed to enter the
Commons. Instead, MPs agree to go to the House of Lords & listen to the Queens
speech there. By tradition, they enter in pairs with an MP from a different party.
Parliament is then prorogued (=told not to meet) for a week.
Parliament works in the Place of Westminster, often called the Houses of
Parliament. As well as the two chambers where the House of Commons & the
House of Lords meet, there are committee rooms, libraries, offices & restaurants.
Parliamentary procedure
The party system is essential to the way Parliament works. The Government
proposes new laws in accordance with its policies, & the Opposition opposes or
tries to amend them, & puts forward its new policies. Detailed arrangements of
parliamentary business are settled by the Chief Whips. The Whips then inform
party members, & make sure that enough of them attend & vote in important
debates. The Whips also pass on the opinions of backbenchers to the party leaders.
Both Houses have a similar system of debate. Each debate starts with a
proposal or motion by a minister or a member of the house. This may be about a
new law or tax, or about plans for spending money. The House debates it & finally
decides whether to agree or to disagree with it. When a motion has been moved,
another MP may propose to amend it, & in that case his proposal is debated.

When the House has decided on the amendment it goes back to the original
motion, which is now in a new form if an amendment to it has been accepted.
MPs or Lords may speak only once in a debate. They stand up & speak from
wherever they are sitting. MPs do not use personal names but refer to another MP
as my right honorable friend or the honorable Member for . This practice was
originally intended to prevent MPs getting too angry with each other.
A debate ends either (1) when every Member who wants to speak has done
so, or (2) at a time fixed in advance, (3) when the House, with the Speakers
consent, votes that it shall end.
After a debate the Speaker puts the question whether to agree with the
motion or not. This may be decided without voting or by a simple majority vote. If
there is a vote this is carried out by a division: MPs vote for or against the proposal
by walking through one of two division lobbies (=corridors), one for those in favor
(the Ayes) & one for those against (the Noes). The Whips tell members of their
party which way they should vote but sometimes people defy their Whip & vote in
the opposite way or abstain. If the Government loses a vote on an important issue it
has to resign. Sometimes there is a free vote so that MPs can vote according to
their beliefs & not according to party policy, e.g. on issues such as the death
penalty. The Speaker announces the result of a vote & says either The ayes have
it or The noes have it. If the number of votes cast is equal, he or she gives a
casting vote. Speeches & minutes of debate are published daily in Hansard & may
be broadcast on television or radio.
One of the liveliest, noisiest times in the House of Commons is Question
Time. For an hour each day MPs may ask ministers questions. Questions have to
be tabled (=put on the table of the House) two days in advance so that ministers
have time to prepare answers. The Government can therefore usually avoid major
embarrassment. The trick is to ask a supplementary question: after the minister has
answered the original question, the MP who asked may ask a further question
relating to the ministers answer. It is then possible to catch a minister unprepared.
On Wednesdays Prime Ministers Questions last for 30 minutes. MPs no longer

have to ask a standard question about the Prime Ministers official engagements
but can immediately ask their supplementary question.
How a bill becomes a law
Before a proposal for a new law starts its progress through Parliament, there
will have been much discussion. If it is a government proposal, Green & White
Papers will probably have been published, explaining the ideas behind the
proposal. After this, lawyers draft the proposal into a bill. Most bills begin life in
the House of Commons, where they go through a number of stages.
First reading
This is a formal announcement only, with no debate.
Second reading
The house debates the general principles of the bill &, in most cases, takes a vote.
Committee stage
A committee of MPs examines the details of the bill & votes on amendments
(changes) to parts of it.
Report stage
The House considers the amendments.
Third reading
The amended bill is debated as a whole.
The bill is sent to the House of Lords, where it goes through the same stages. (If
the Lords make new amendments, these will be considered by the Commons.)
After both Houses have reached agreement, the bill receives the royal assent &
becomes an Act of Parliament which can be applied as part of the law.
Elections to Parliament
The electoral system
For electoral purposes Britain is divided into 659 constituencies: 529
inEngland, 40 inWales, 72 inScotland, 18 inNorthern Ireland. Each constituency
elects one representative, who becomes a Member of Parliament in the House of
Commons. MPs are expected to be interested in the affairs of their constituency &

to represent the interests of local people, their constituents, in Parliament. Many

hold regular surgeries, sessions at which they are available for local people to talk
to them. People may also write to their MP if they want to protest about something.
Anyone who wants to become an MP must be elected by the people of a
constituency. Before an election one person is chosen by each of the main political
parties to stand for election in each constituency. People usually vote for the
candidate who belongs to the party they support, rather than because of his or her
personal qualities or opinions. Only the candidate who gets the most votes in each
constituency is elected. This system is called first past the post.
In a general election, when elections are held in all constituencies, the
winning party, which forms the next government, is the one that wins most seats in
Parliament (=has the most MPs), even though it may have received fewer votes
overall than the opposition parties. In 1992, for example, the Conservative Party
gained more than half the total number of seats but fewer than half of all the votes
cast. A proposal that Britain should use a system of proportional representation,
whereby seats in Parliament would be allocated according to the total number of
votes cast for each party, has been put forward on various occasions.
General elections
By law, a general election must take place every five years. The government
decides when to hold an election, & the Prime Minister may decide to go to the
country earlier than is legally necessary if there seems to be a good chance of
General elections are always held on Thursdays. After the date has been
fixed, anyone who wants to stand for Parliament (=be a candidate for election) has
to leave a deposit of 500 with the Returning Officer, the person in each
constituency responsible for managing the election. The local offices of the major
parties pay the deposit for their own candidates. If a candidate wins more than 5%
of the votes, he or she gets the deposit back. Otherwise candidates lose their
deposit. This is intended to stop people who do not seriously want to be MPs from
taking part in the election. Sometimes people who feel very strongly about an

issue, e.g. protecting the lives of unborn babies, become candidates & campaign
specifically about that issue. A few people become candidates for a joke, especially
in the constituency which the Prime Minister is defending, because they know that
they will get a lot of publicity. One candidate, Lord David Sutch, has stood
against the Prime Minister in most elections since 1966.
Before an election takes place candidates campaign for support in the
constituency. The amount of money that candidates are allowed to spend on their
campaign is strictly limited. Leading members of the government & the opposition
parties travel through the country addressing meetings & meeting the people,
especially in marginals, constituencies where only a slight shift of opinion would
change the outcome of the voting. Local party workers spend their time
canvassing, going from house to house to ask people about how they intend to
vote. At national level the parties spend a lot of money on advertising & media
coverage. They cannot buy television time: each party is allowed a number of
strictly timed party political broadcasts. Each also holds a daily televised news
If an MP dies or resigns, a by-election is held in the constituency which he
or she represented. By-elections are closely watched by the media as they are
thought to indicate the current state of public opinion & the governments
Anyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote at elections, provided that
they are on the electoral register. This is a list of all the adults living in a
constituency. A new, revised list is compiled each year. Copies are available for
people to look at in local public libraries. Voting is not compulsory but the turnout
(=the number of people voting) at general elections is usually high, about 75%.
About a week in advance of an election everyone on the electoral register
receives a polling card. This tells them where their polling station is, i.e. where
they must go to vote. On the day of the election, polling day, voters go to the

polling station & are given a ballot paper. This lists the names of all the candidates
for that constituency, together with the names of the parties they represent. Each
voter then goes into a polling booth where nobody can see what they are writing, &
puts a cross next to the name of one candidate only, the one they want to elect.
Polling stations, often local schools or church halls, are open from 7 a.m. to 10
p.m. to give everyone an opportunity to vote. During a general election, people
leaving the polling station may be asked by professional analysts called pollsters
how they voted. Similar exit polls taken all over the country are used to predict the
overall election result.
After the polls close, the ballot papers from all the polling stations in a
constituency are taken to a central place to be counted. In most constituencies
counting takes place the same evening, continuing for as long as necessary through
the night. If the number of votes for two candidates is very close, the candidates
may demand a recount. Several recounts may take place until all the candidates are
satisfied that the count is accurate. Finally, the Returning Officer makes a public
announcement giving the number of votes cast for each candidate & declaring the
winner to be the MP for the constituency. On general election night, television &
radio keep everyone informed of the results throughout Britain& make predictions
about the overall result & the size of the winning partys majority in Parliament.
Political Parties in Britain
The party system
The British political system relies on having at least two parties in the House
of Commons able to form a government. Historically, the main parties were the
Tories & the Whigs. More recently these parties became known as the
Conservative Party & the Liberal Party. The Conservative Partys main rival is now
the Labor Party, but there are several other smaller parties. The most important is
the Liberal Democratic Party, which developed from the old Liberal Party & the
newer Social Democratic Party. Wales & Scotland have their own nationalist
parties, Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) & the Scottish National Party. Northern

Ireland has several parties, including the Ulster Unionist Party, the Ulster
Democratic Unionist Party & the Social Democratic & Labor Party.
Party support
The Conservative Party is on the political right & the Labor Party on the left.
The Liberal Democrats are generally closer to Labor in their opinions than to the
Conservatives. Each party has its own emblem & color: the Conservatives have a
blue torch, Labor a red rose, & Liberal democrats a yellow bird.
In order to have closer contact with the electorate (=people who have the
right to vote in elections), the Conservative Party set up constituency associations,
local party offices coordinated by Conservative Central Office. These raise money
for the party & promote its policies. By contrast, the Labor Party began outside
Parliament amongst trade unions & socialist organizations, & tried to get
representatives into Parliament to achieve its aims. Both parties now have many
local branches which are responsible for choosing candidates for parliamentary &
local government elections.
Conservative supporters are traditionally from the richer sections of society,
especially landowners & business people. The Labor Party originally drew its
support from the working classes & from people wanting social reform. It has
always had support from the trade unions, but it also appeals to a wider group,
especially well-educated & professional people. The Liberal Democratic Party
draws most of its votes from those people who are unwilling to vote Labor.
Support for the main parties is not distributed evenly throughout Britain. In
England, the south has traditionally been Conservative, together with the more
rural areas, while the north & inner cities have been Labor. In Scotland, Wales &
Northern Ireland the situation is complicated by the existence of the nationalist
parties. Wales is traditionally a Labor region, though Plaid Cymru is strong.
Scotland, formerly a Conservative area, is now also overwhelmingly Labor, though
many people support the Scottish Nationalist Party. Support for the Liberal
Democratic Party is not concentrated in any one area.
Party conferences

A party conference is organized each year by the national office of each

party, to which constituency offices send representatives. Prominent members of
the party give speeches, & representatives debate party policy. Conferences are
usually lively events & receive a lot of attention from the media. They also give
party leaders the opportunity to hear the opinions of ordinary party members.
Before an election, each party prepares a detailed account of its ideas & intended
policies & presents them to the electorate in an election manifesto.
The Labor leader is elected at the party conference by representatives of
trade unions, individual members of the party & Labor MPs. The Liberal
Democrats leader is also elected by party members but by a postal vote. But the
Conservative leader is elected only by Conservative MPs in a secret ballot.
The parties in Parliament
In debates in Parliament, MPs from different parties argue fiercely against
each other. However, representatives of all parties cooperate in arranging the order
of business so that there is enough time for different points of view to be
expressed. Another example of cooperation between parties is the pairing system.
An MP of one party is paired with an MP of another party, & when there is to be a
vote & the two MPs know that they would vote on opposite sides, neither of them
will be present to vote. In this way, the difference in numbers between the two
sides is maintained while MPs are free to do other parliamentary work.
The parties are managed by several Whips, MPs or peers (=members of the
House of Lords) chosen from within their party. The Government Chief Whip &
the Opposition Chief Whip meet frequently & are the usual channels through
which arrangements for debates are made. Junior whips act as links between the
Chief Whips & party members.
The main parties hold regular meetings at which party policy is discussed.
Conservative MPs belong to the 1922 Committee which meets once a week &
provides an opportunity for MPs to give their opinions on current events. Meetings
of the Parliamentary Labor Party are generally held twice a week & are open to all
Labor MPs & Labor members of the House of Lords. Liberal Democrat MPs &

peers also meet regularly. In addition, the parties have their own specialist
committees that deal with different areas of policy.
Local Government
As you know, for administrative purposes Britain is divided into small
geographical areas. The oldest & largest divisions in England & Wales are called
counties. In Scotland, the largest divisions are regions. Counties & regions are
further divided into districts. Parishes, originally villages with a church, are the
smallest units of local government in England. These are called communities in
Scotland&Wales. Northern Ireland is sometimes known as the Six Counties, but
local government there is based on districts. Boroughs were originally towns large
enough to be given their own local government. Now, only boroughs in London
have political power, which they took over in 1985 when the Greater London
Council was abolished.
Counties & districts are run by councils which have powers given to them
by central government. A system of local councils was first established in the 19 th
century, but since then there have been many changes to their structure & powers.
During the 1970s, some counties were abolished & some new ones created,
including new metropolitan counties around large cities. In 1992 a Local
Government Commission was set up to consider whether counties should be
replaced by unitary authorities. Counties have a two-tier structure (=two levels of
government), with both county & district councils. The county council is the more
powerful. Unitary authorities have only one tier of government. The Commission
recommended keeping a two-tier system in many places but suggested that some
areas, especially large cities, should become unitary authorities.
Councils consist of elected representatives, called councilors. They are
elected by the local people for a period of four years (in Scotland for three years).
Counties, districts & parishes are divided into areas, often called wards, each ward
electing one councilor or in some cases more. Most councilors belong to a political

party &, especially at county level, people vote for them as representatives of a
party, not as individuals. County councils meet in a council chamber at the local
town hall or county hall. Councilors elect a chairperson from amongst themselves.
In cities, he or she is called the Lord Mayor. Members of the public are allowed to
attend council meetings.
In 1998 further changes to local government structure were proposed. The
most widely discussed proposal is that mayors should be directly elected by the
people. It has already been decided that the people of Greater London will elect
their mayor.
Councils make policies for there area. Decisions are made by the full council
or in committees. Policy is carried out by local government officers, who have a
similar role to that of civil servants. Local authorities (=councils & committees)
rather than central government are responsible for education, social services, town
planning, recreation facilities & other local services. In two-tier counties these
responsibilities are divided between county & district authorities.
Councils employ about 1.4 million people. Formerly, staff employed by the
council carried out most activities, but now councils often give contracts to private
firms. Many local government functions, e.g. rubbish/garbage collection, must be
put out to tender (=competed for by private companies). This procedure is called
compulsory competitive tendering & is intended to save money. There is an
increasing tend away from local authorities providing services directly. The social
services department, for example, may decide who need care & what sort of care
they require, but the care itself is often provided by companies or voluntary
organizations which are paid by the authority.
Central government provides a lot of the money spent by councils in the
form of grants. It also collects taxes, called business rates, on commercial
properties throughout the country & then shares the money out between local
authorities according to their population.

Councils also charge local people a council tax. This is the only tax that they
are allowed to collect. The council tax has existed since 1993 & is based on the
actual value of a persons house. A person living alone can claim a reduction of
25%. Previously, councils obtained money from the rates, a tax based on the size of
a house & its value if it were rented. Under this system, people living alone in a
large property did badly. Rates varied a lot between councils, & in 1985 the
government gave itself the power to set an upper limit on the amount that councils
could raise from the rates. This was called rate-capping. In 1989-90 the rates were
replaced by the community charge or poll tax. Everyone paid the same, whether
they owned or rented property. The community charge was very unpopular &
many people refused to pay it. The government still has powers to limit or cap
local authority budgets, & this is called charge-capping.
The Russian Political System.
The Russian Federation became an independent state in December 1991 as a
result of the collapse of the USSR. During the Communist era the Russian Soviet
Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was the largest of the USSRs 15 republics.
The present Russian Federation occupies the same territory as the former RSFSR.
Since independence, Russia has adopted a new constitution and system of
Russia is a federal and presidential republic governed under a constitution
that took effect in 1993, replacing the 1978 constitution of the RSFSR. The central
government is composed of three independent branches: the executive (the
president and prime minister), legislative (the Federal Assembly), and judicial. The
government is responsible to the president, and the executive branch is
considerably more powerful than the other two branches. The constitution is
largely the creation of Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who dominated Russian
politics from independence until his retirement from politics in 1999.
A The Constitution Origins & Development

During the Soviet period, power was concentrated in Communist Party

institutions and was highly centralized. Federal institutions, located in Moscow,
were much more powerful than the regional institutions of the 15 republics.
Although Russians dominated the central party and government institutions, the
RSFSRs own institutions were even weaker and less autonomous than those of the
other 14 republics. Unlike the other Soviet republics, Russia did not have its own
separate Communist Party, security police (KGB), or Academy of Sciences for
most of the Communist era. Although Russia did have its own government
(Council of Ministers) and legislature (Supreme Soviet), these institutions did not
exercise their full constitutional powers.
The RSFSRs 1978 constitution only became significant when the Soviet
Union collapsed. The constitution gave the legislative branch supremacy over the
executive branch. However, the legislators lack of political experience made
government extremely difficult. As a result, increasing power was granted to the
newly established state presidency, sometimes on a temporary basis. In 1992 and
1993, when President Yeltsin and the legislature clashed over policy, the absence of
clear and realistic constitutional demarcation between executive and legislative
power became a major problem.
A new constitution, ratified by referendum in December 1993, solved this
difficulty. Although it greatly increased the power of the presidency, it also
established basic democratic guidelines, such as fixed terms of office, electoral
procedures, and universal suffrage for all citizens aged 18 or older. In principle, the
constitution also guarantees civil rights and the rule of law. Yeltsins opponents
regarded the constitution as illegitimate, and they disputed whether a majority of
voters had in fact endorsed it in the referendum. After a few years, however,
hostility to the constitution decreased somewhat.
B The Executive
Power is concentrated in the executive branch, which is headed by a
president. He or she is directly elected by the people to a six-year term and cannot
serve more than two consecutive terms. The president serves as the commander in

chief of the armed forces and chairs the Security Council, which is the central
decision-making body for matters of defense. With the defense minister, the
president has control over Russias nuclear weapons. The president appoints the
prime minister, who is second in command. The appointment is subject to
ratification by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament; if the State Duma
rejects the candidate for prime minister three times, the president can dissolve the
legislature and call for new elections. The president has the right to dissolve the
legislature under certain other conditions as well. In the event of the presidents
death or permanent incapacitation, the prime minister temporarily takes on the
presidents duties, but new presidential elections must be held within three months.
C Legislature
The Federal Assembly is Russias bicameral national legislature. It is
composed of an upper house, called the Council of the Federation, and a lower
house, the State Duma. The Council of the Federation has 166 members. The local
executive and legislative heads of each unit serve as the representatives for their
The State Duma has 450 members. Voters elect half of the Duma members
by casting a vote for a specific party listed on the ballot; these 225 seats are
divided among the qualifying parties by proportional representation. The other 225
Duma members are elected individually from electoral districts throughout the
country. Each of Russias constituent units has at least one electoral district; some
densely populated units have more than one. In the December 1995 legislative
elections, each party on the ballot needed at least 5 percent of the vote in order to
gain representation in the State Duma. Prior to the 1995 elections, legislators
served two-year terms; in 1995 they began serving four-year terms, as mandated by
the constitution. And in 2011 they started serving five-year terms.
In the consideration and disposition of most legislative matters, however, the
Federation Council has less power than the State Duma. All bills, even those
proposed by the Federation Council, must first be considered by the State Duma. If
the Federation Council rejects a bill passed by the State Duma, the two chambers

may form a conciliation commission to work out a compromise version of the

legislation. The State Duma then votes on the compromise bill. If the State Duma
objects to the proposals of the upper chamber in the conciliation process, it may
vote by a two-thirds majority to send its version to the president for signature. The
part-time character of the Federation Council's work, its less developed committee
structure, and its lesser powers vis--vis the State Duma make it more a
consultative and reviewing body than a law-making chamber.








administrators appointed by Yeltsin, that body often supported the president and
objected to bills approved by the State Duma, which had more anti-Yeltsin
deputies. The power of the upper house to consider bills passed by the lower
chamber resulted in its disapproval of about one-half of such bills, necessitating
concessions by the State Duma or votes to override upper-chamber objections. In
February 1996, the heads of the two chambers pledged to try to break this habit,
but wrangling appeared to intensify in the months that followed.
The State Duma confirms the appointment of the prime minister, although it
does not have the power to confirm Government ministers. The power to confirm
or reject the prime minister is severely limited. According to the 1993 constitution,
the State Duma must decide within one week to confirm or reject a candidate once
the president has placed that person's name in nomination. If it rejects three
candidates, the president is empowered to appoint a prime minister, dissolve the
parliament, and schedule new legislative elections.
The State Duma's power to force the resignation of the Government also is
severely limited. It may express a vote of no-confidence in the Government by a
majority vote of all members of the State Duma, but the president is allowed to
disregard this vote. If, however, the State Duma repeats the no-confidence vote
within three months, the president may dismiss the Government. But the likelihood
of a second no-confidence vote is virtually precluded by the constitutional
provision allowing the president to dissolve the State Duma rather than the
Government in such a situation. The Government's position is further buttressed by

another constitutional provision that allows the Government at any time to demand
a vote of confidence from the State Duma; refusal is grounds for the president to
dissolve the Duma.
D Judiciary
The highest judicial body is the Constitutional Court, composed of 19 judges
who are appointed by the president and approved by the Council of the Federation.
The Constitutional Courts mandate is to rule on the constitutionality of legislative
and executive actions. In the early 1990s the Constitutional Court tried
unsuccessfully to mediate the conflict between the legislature and the president.
With the adoption of the 1993 constitution, the Constitutional Courts powers were
reduced and its membership was changed.
Below the Constitutional Court are the Supreme Court and the Supreme
Arbitration Court. The Supreme Court rules on civil, criminal, and administrative
law, and the Supreme Arbitration Court handles economic suits. As with the
Constitutional Court, judges for these high courts are appointed by the president
and approved by the upper house of the legislature. The 1978 constitution had
established life terms for judges, but the 1993 constitution changed appointments
of high court judges to 12-year terms. By law, all judges in Russia are independent
and cannot be removed from office. Although the judiciary has been freed from the
direct political control that existed in the Communist era, it remains financially
E Political Parties
All parties registered by the Ministry of Justice have the right to participate in any
elections all over the country. The list is placed on the Justice Ministry website. On
December 2012 there were 48 registered parties in Russia, 4 of them are currently
represented in the State Duma.
Currently represented in the State Duma



United Russia



Conservatism, Statism, Pragmatism, Centrism, Neoconservatism





Communist Party
of the Russian


Communism, MarxismLeninism, Patriotism, Left-wing Nationalism



Political party


Russian nationalism, Pan-Slavism, NeoImperialism, Mixed economy



A Just Russia


Social democracy, Democratic socialism



Task 1. Fill in the gaps with a suitable word, to complete the description of
how a new law is created.
1. The Government proposes a .. to the House of .. .
2. the Bill is discussed, often by small groups of MPs called .. .
3. If the Bill is accepted by the House, it is sent to the House of .. .
4. This House can accept the Bill or suggest changes, but it cannot .. it from
becoming law.
5. On its return to the House of .. the Bill, if accepted, becomes an .. .


Task 2. Which monarch does each of these statements refer to? Choose the
correct monarch from this list.
Victoria William I James I Henry II Charles I Elizabeth I
Edward VIII George I Henry VIII John
1. In 1215 the barons made this monarch sign an agreement called Magna
Carta, which limited the power of the monarchy.
2. In 1649 this monarch was beheaded.
3. This poem describes what happened to this kings wives:
Divorced, beheaded, died
Divorced, beheaded, survived
4. This was the longest-reigning monarch (1837-1901).
5. This king abdicated (gave up the crown) to marry a divorced American
woman in 1936.
6. In 1066 this Norman monarch invaded England& killed King Harold at the
Battle of Hastings.
7. In 1170 Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in
Canterbury Cathedral on this monarchs orders.
8. This eighteenth-century monarch came from Hanover in Germany, & could
speak no English.
9. This monarch never married, & reigned in the sixteenth century at the time
when Shakespeare was writing.
10. This

seventeenth-century monarch was the first to be ruler of both England

& Scotland.
Task 3. Read Basic Texts to answer the following questions.
1. Why doesnt Britain have a written constitution?
2. Would you agree with those people who think that there should be a written
constitution in Britain, as in other countries?
3. Of what documents does British constitution comprise?
4. What was the Magna Carta?

5. The monarchy in Great Britain is founded on hereditary principle, isnt it?

What does hereditary principle mean?
6. What are the powers of the monarch? What does the phrase the monarch
has great power in theory, but not in practice' mean?
7. What ceremonial functions does the royal family perform to endorse
developments in Britain?
8. The attitude of the British people towards their royal family has changed
over the last quarter of the twentieth century. In what way has it changed, &
what demonstrates that there has been a change? Why do you think this has
9. What advantages & disadvantages do you see in the survival of the
10.Who can the term government be referred to?
11.What does the term single-party government mean?
12.What tradition has the habit of single-party government helped to
established? Dwell upon it. Do you think the theory of collective
responsibility is a good one? Does it exist in your country?
13.What is the history of the development of the Cabinet?
14.Of whom does the Cabinet consist?
15.Who are secretaries of state & non-departmental ministers?
16.Where do members of the government known as ministers come from?
17.What ministerial titles in Britain do your know? What would be the
equivalent titles in your country for: Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign
18.What is the work of the Cabinet?
19.What is the cabinet office responsible for?
20.Is Prime Minister elected? If it is so, what House of Parliament is Prime
Minister elected in & how?
21.Does the PM in Britain have much power than the Queen? Prove your

22.A British Prime Minister has no status in Law which puts him or her above
other politicians. So why are modern British PMs so powerful?
23.What is the Privy Council?
24.The British Parliament is the oldest parliament in the world, isnt it? Since
what time has it existed? How old is it?
25.Of whom does the British Parliament consist?
26.The British system of Parliament is unicameral, what does it mean? Is your
political system based on two main parties, or on coalitions?
27.How are the members of the House of Commons elected
28.Why could only rich people be MPs years ago?
29.What do you know about an MPs life?
30.What do you know about the design & layout of the House of Commons?
31.Of whom does the House of Lords consist? How many peers are there in the
House of Lords? Do they sit all at once? What are your opinions about the
inclusion in a house of parliament of many people who attend only rarely?
32.Who are the lords spiritual? Who are hereditary peers & life peers?
How are life peers created?
33.What are the powers of the House of Lords?
34.With no written constitution, & with an electoral system that regularly gives
power to a party supported by a minority of the people, Britain needs a
strong second house of Parliament. What do you think about this? Should
there be an elected second chamber with more real power than the House of
35.The word parliament has two meanings. Comment on them.
36.Describe the State Opening of Parliament.
37.What do you know about the system of debates in both Houses?
38.What is one of the liveliest & noisiest times in the House of Commons?
39.How does a bill become a law?
40.What is the role of the Crown in the British Parliament?

41.What is the difference between a first-past-the post electoral system &

proportional one?
42.How often do general elections of the House of Commons take place? What
certain groups are denied the right to vote? Who are excluded from standing
for election to the House of Commons?
43.When do by-elections to the House of Commons take place?
44.Is the idea to leave a deposit of 500 with the Returning Officer helpful &
45.Before an election takes place candidates campaign for support in the
constituency. What does it mean?
46.Describe the process of voting in Britain.
47.Who makes a public announcement giving the number of votes cast for each
candidate & declaring the winner to be the MP for the constituency?
48.Is there a similar level of public interest in learning about election results in
your country as there is in Britain? Does it seem to reflect the general level
of enthusiasm about, & interest in, politics which exist at other times in
Britain& in Russia?
49.In Britain people do not like to say who they vote for. Is this the same in
your country? Why?
50.Which are the two main political parties in Great Britain? Explain the main
differences between the Conservative & Labor parties.
51.What other parties in England, Wales & Scotland do you know?
52.What is the Conservative Party otherwise called? Who are its supporters?
53.What is the Labor Party sometimes called? What organization does the
Labor Party have a close association with? From whom does the Labor Party
draw the majority of supporters?
54.From whom does the Liberal Democratic party draw most of its votes?
55.Support for the main parties is not distributed evenly throughout Britain.
Prove it.
56.What is organized each year by the national office of each party?

57.How do the parties in Parliament cooperate?

58.What areas is Britain divided into for administrative purposes? Dwell upon
the division & explain the difference among counties, boroughs, parishes
59.What two tiers of local authorities are there in Britain?
60.Is the system of local government similar to that of central government?
61.What does the local government deal with?
62.What are the sources of the finance of local government?
Task 4. Read the text about the Russian political system & answer the
following questions.
1. Name three independent branches of the Russian central government & by
whom they are represented? Which of them is considerably more powerful
than the other two, explain your answer.
2. What is the Russian President responsible for?
3. What is the composition of the Federal Assembly? What is the work of the
Federal Assembly?
4. What are the responsibilities of the judicial body in Russia?
5. Name the main political parties in your country.
6. What do your know about the work of the local government in your

Do you like the way how Russia (Great Britain) is governed? Do you see
any drawbacks in the Russian (British) political system? What are they?

Task 5. Render the following article in English using topical vocabulary.


, ,

. ,
, .
, ,
, .
, , ? ,
, ,
, .
, (

, .

, , .
, .
( )
-. , ,
, , .

) (


. , ,
, ,
, , ,
, ..,

, , ,
: .
. (
XIX . , 500 )

, -
, ,

, ,
- .

. , ,
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( , , )
Task 6. Produce an English language version of the following article.

. 1945 .
, .
35 ,
17. , , 1997
. , () 6
, - 4
(, ,
, - ,


, .

. ,

. ,
- .

Task 7. Discuss the following quotations about government, politicians &

The happiness of society is the end of government. (John Adams)


England is the mother of Parliaments. (John Bright)


Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy

means government by the badly educated. (G.K. Chesterton)


If the Government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is

big enough to take away everything you have. (Gerald Ford)


My people & I have come to an agreement which satisfies us both.

They are to say what they please, & I am to do what I please.
(Frederick the Great)


The important thing for Government is not to do things which

individuals are doing already, & to do them a little better or a little
worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all.
(John Maynard Keynes)


The best government is that which governs least. (John L. OSullivan)


There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling, &
waiting, for traces of blood to appear in the water. (Alan Clark)


A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the

nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service.
(Georges Pompidou)

10. We

all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like

other married couples they sometimes live apart. (Saki (H.H. Munro))
11. If

voting changed anything, theyd abolish it. (Ken Livingstone)