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Раздел «Чтение» (30 минут). Задания В2, В3, А15-А211. The House of Commons
2. Parliamentary Procedure
3. The House of Lords
5. The System of Government
6. Parliamentary Committees
8. The Crown
A. Her Majesty’s Government, in spite of its name, derives its authority and power from its party representation in Parliament. Parliament 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.
B. The reigning monarch is not only head of state but symbol of the unity of the nation. The monarchy is Britain’s oldest secular institution, its continuity for over a thousand years broken only once by a republic that lasted a mere eleven years (1648-1660). 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. 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.
C. The dynamic power of Parliament lies in its lower chamber. Of its 657 members, 527 represent constituencies in England, 37 in Wales, 77 in Scotland and 9 in Northern Ireland. There are only seats in the Commons debating chamber for 376 members, but except on matters of great interest, it is unusual for all members to be present at any one time. Many MPs are in other rooms of the Commons, participating in a variety of committees and meetings necessary for an effective parliamentary process.
D. 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 a 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. This curious situation came about as a result of a long struggle for power between the Crown and Parliament during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.
E. 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 party represented in the Commons, to form a government on her behalf. Government ministers are invariably members of the House of Commons, but some members of the House of Lords are appointed. All government members continue to represent “constituencies” which elected them.
F. 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. Leading members of the Commons may hear the speech from the far end of the chamber, but are not allowed to enter the House of Lords.
G. The upper chamber of Parliament is not democratic in any sense at all. It consists of four categories of peer. The majority are hereditary peers, a total of almost 900, but of whom only about half take an active interest in the affairs of the state. A smaller number, between 354 and 404, are “life” peers – an idea introduced in 1959 to elevate to the peerage certain people who rendered political or public service to the nation. The purpose was not only to honour but also to enhance the quality of business done in the Lords.