Great Britain. Its geographical survey, economy and political system
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the group of islands lying just off the mainland of north-western Europe. The British Isles include Great Britain, Ireland and a number of smaller islands. The total area of the British Isles is 325 000 square km. The island of Great Britain consists of three main parts: England (the southern and middle part of the island), Wales (a mountainous peninsula in the West) and Scotland (the northern part of the island). Northern Island, also known as Ulster, occupies one third of the island of Ireland. It borders on the Irish Republic in the south. Its capital is Belfast.
Great Britain is separated from the continent by the English Channel, the narrowest part of which is called the Strait of Dover. The British Isles are surrounded by the shallow waters of the Irish Sea and the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. There are wild mountains in the northern Highlands of Scotland. The Pennine Range in northern England and the Cambrian Mountains in Wales are much lower.
The rivers of the region are short and of no great importance. The longest of them is “the Father of London”, the Thames, which is over 200 miles. Britain’s principal ports are London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. The have splendid harbors. Owing to the shape of the country, any point in Great Britain is no more than 70 miles from the sea.
Great Britain is not very rich in mineral resources, it has some deposits of coal and iron ore and vast deposits of oil and gas that were discovered in the North Sea. Birmingham in England is often called the “City of 1 500 trades” because of the great variety of its industries. Glasgow is the industrial capital of Scotland. It is the third largest city in Great Britain. The typical products of Scotland are timber, whisky, salmon. Wales is mainly a mountainous land with a chiefly agricultural economy and an industrial and coal-mining area in the south. Its landscape is beautiful. Belfast is a most important port and commercial and industrial centre. Some parts of the territory, those that are not close to the capital, have remained mainly rural. The warm currents of the Atlantic Ocean influence the climate of Great Britain. Winters are not severely cold and summers are rarely hot.
Parliament is the most important authority in Britain. Britain does not have a written constitution, but a set of laws. Technically Parliament is made up of three parts: the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Formally the monarch has a number of roles. He is expected to be politically neutral, and should not make political decisions. Nevertheless, the monarch still performs some important executive and legislative duties including opening and dissolving Parliament, signing bills passed by both Houses and fulfilling international duties as head of state. The present sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1953.
The House of Lords comprises about 1200 peers. The house is presided over by the Lord Chancellor. This house has no real power but acts as an advisory council for the House of Commons. The Lords is the highest court of appeal. The House of Commons consists of Parliament who are elected by the adult suffrage of the British people in general elections which are held at least every five years. The party which wins the most seats form the Government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister. The functions of Commons are legislation and security of government activities. The hose is presided over by the Speaker. The government party sits on the Speaker’s right while on his left sit the members of the Opposition.
There are two leading political parties there: the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The name of Margaret Thatcher – the Prime Minister of Great Britain – is known all over the world (about M. T.). Britain is administered from the Palace of Westminster in London. The Prime Minister must answer questions every Tuesday and Thursday in the Commons – this is called Prime Minister’s Question Time. Everyone wants to know what has been decided behind the closed doors of the Cabinet Room.