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Didžioji Britanija

Fast facts

United Kingdom
The UK is made up of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland, and is one of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).
Capital cities
London - England
Edinburgh - Scotland
Cardiff - Wales
Belfast - Northern Ireland

Area
Land and water: 152,033 square miles

Population
The UK - approximately 60.6 million
(England 50,714,000; Wales 2,977,000; Scotland 5,108,000; Northern Ireland 1,733,000).

Languages
The two official languages in Britain are English and Welsh, English being the most widely spoken. Scottish Gaelic is also spoken in some parts of Scotland.

People
The majority of the population is English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish. However, Britain is an extremely diverse nation with a strong culture of racial integration and unity.

Religion
Most people are Christian (71%), although all other religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism are freely practiced. About 23% of Britain follows no particular religion.

Government
The UK is a constitutional monarchy that is a representative democracy, where Queen Elizabeth II is recognized as the head of state, and the elected Prime Minister - Gordon Brown - is the head of government.

Economic profile
The UK is a leading trading power and a financial centre. Agriculture is an important industry and highly efficient. Primary energy, like coal and oil, are major contributors to the economy, but services like banking and insurance are the greatest contributors.

Currency
Britain uses the pound sterling. The sign for the Great British Pound (GBP) is £.

Time zone
29 October - 26 March: Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
25 March - 29 October: UTC + 1

Climate
Britain has a fairly temperate climate and is sometimes overcast. The weather can vary greatly from day to day, but generally summer (June-August) is a warm 14 - 25°C, and winter (December-February) is a cool 1 - 4°C.
Major UK holidays 2009
New Year's Day (All UK) - 1 January
Extra New Year's Bank holiday (Scotland only) - 2 January
St Patrick's Day (N. Ireland only) - 17 March
Good Friday (All UK) - 10 April
Easter Monday (England, Wales and N. Ireland) - 13 April
Early May Bank Holiday (All UK) - 4 May
Spring Bank Holiday (All UK) - 25 May
Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only) - 13 July
Summer Bank Holiday (Scotland only) - 3 August
Summer Bank Holiday (England, Wales and N. Ireland) - 31 August
Christmas Day (All UK) - 25 December
Boxing Day (All UK) - 28 December

Weights & measures
Historically Britain used the Imperial System, but new regulations make use of the Metric System compulsory with the exception of a few items, for example distance and speed are measured in miles and miles per hour.

Electricity
Voltage is 240 volts AC at 50HZ. Appliances generally use standard 3-pin square plugs and sockets.
Passports
On arrival in the United Kingdom, you must show a valid national passport or other equivalent official document that satisfactorily establishes your identity and nationality.
Visas
You may need to acquire a visa - entry clearance certificate - before you travel to Britain, if you are not a British citizen or a citizen of one the European Economic Area (EEA) countries.
Nationals from some countries will need a visa whatever the reason they are travelling to the UK, while nationals from other countries may only need a visa for a particular reason; for example, to marry and live with a British citizen.
If you have a valid passport and UK visa, you will normally be granted entry to the UK. When you arrive in Britain your visa tells UK immigrations:
· The reason you are travelling to Britain.
· How long you are allowed to stay.
· The last day you are allowed entry.
Currency & exchanging money
Britain's unit of currency is the Great British Pound (sterling) - GBP. The symbol for the pound sterling is £.
The British monetary system
British money is based on the decimal system - there are one hundred pence to each pound. Coins have the values of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. Notes have the values of £5, £10, £20 and £50. Scottish £1 notes are still in circulation in Scotland. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have some different coins and notes from the mainland but the monetary system is the same.
Bringing money to the UK
If you are an EU citizen and travelling from within the EU you can bring in and take out bank notes, travellers' cheques, letters of credit etc. in any currency and up to any amount.
Please note that from 15 June 2007, if you are travelling to or from a country outside the European Union (EU), you will need to declare any sums of cash of 10,000 Euro or more (or the equivalent in another currency) to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Changing money & exchange rates
Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, post offices, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and most city centres.

Telephones
Public payphones
Wherever you find yourself in the UK, you will never be too far way from a public payphone, and these days they can often offer a lot more than simple telephoning services including email, mobile phone text messaging, and internet services.
Most payphones accept 10p, 20p, 50p & £1 coins. Some payphones accept £2 coins. Calls are charged to the nearest 10p. Only unused coins are returned so you should avoid using 50p, £1 or £2 coins for short calls.
Some payphones accept 50c, 1 Euro and 2 Euro coins. The exchange rate is 1 Euro = 60p and Euros can only be used for directly dialled calls. Major credit/debit cards and country calling cards can also be used from most payphones.
Payphone charges
Domestic calls - cash calls to domestic numbers cost 30p for the first 15 minutes, then 10p for every 7.5 minutes after that. If you use a credit or debit card, the minimum fee for domestic calls is 95p. Calls to premium-rate numbers, mobile phones or calls made via the operator are £1.20.
International calls - the minimum fee is £1.20
Internet Access - £1 for the first 15 minutes, then 10p per 1.5 minutes
Web based email - £1 for the first 15 minutes, then 10p per 1.5 minutes
Text messages - 10p per standard 160 character message
Instant email - 20p per message
Mobile phones
Most dual and tri band mobile phones that have GSM 900 or 1800, will work via roaming in Britain. Check with your mobile phone provider before you leave that the ‘roaming' function is activated on your phone. You can buy a British prepay mobile phone including phone number and SIM card for as little as £30 in many high street shops. You do not need to provide identification to purchase a prepay phone, but you will need to provide identification and proof of address in Britain to set up a mobile phone contract.
Time zone & holidays
· 29 October - 26 March: Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
· 26 March - 29 October: UTC + 1

British summer time
British summer time starts on the last Sunday in March when clocks go forward 1 hour at 01:00, and ends on the last Sunday in October when they go back 1 hour at 01:00. The time for the rest of the year is Coordinated Universal Time.
· 2010 - Starts: 00:01, 28 March. Ends: 00:01, 31 October
· 2011 - Starts: 00:01, 27 March. Ends: 00:01, 30 October
Public holidays
2010
· New Year's Day (All UK) - 1 January
· Extra New Year's Bank holiday (Scotland only) - 4 January
· St Patrick's Day (N. Ireland only) - 17 March
· Good Friday (All UK) - 2 April
· Easter Monday (England, Wales and N. Ireland) - 5 April
· Early May Bank Holiday (All UK) - 3 May
· Spring Bank Holiday (All UK) - 31 May
· Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only) - 12 July
· Summer Bank Holiday (Scotland only) - 2 August
· Summer Bank Holiday (England, Wales and N. Ireland) - 30 August
· Christmas Day (All UK) - 27 December
· Boxing Day (All UK) - 28 December
School holidays
The main summer holiday is about 6 weeks from mid-July to early September. Children also have two weeks holiday at Christmas and at Easter, plus a week in mid-October and in mid-February. Exact dates vary between each education authority.

Getting Married in Britain
You're in love, and you want to get married or register a civil partnership in Britain. Here's what you need to know about getting married in Britain:
Age restrictions
You can marry or register a civil partnership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland if you're:
• Both over 18 and free to marry (single, widowed or divorced).
Or
• 16 or 17 with parental consent.
In Scotland, you can marry or register a civil partnership without parental consent if you're both over 16.
Giving notice
If you want to get married or register a civil partnership in Britain, you first have to give notice of your intent to marry or register a civil partnership.
If you've been married or in a civil partnership before, you'll need to provide evidence that you're now free to marry. This might be a divorce decree absolute, final order of civil partnership dissolution bearing the court's original stamp or a death certificate for your former partner.
England and Wales
In England and Wales, you have to reside in the district you are giving notice in for 7 days before giving notice. After this, both partners can give notice in person to the Superintendent Registrar (Registrar General in Scotland) at the local register office in England and Wales (www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/marriages/), Scotland (www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/files1/registration/reglist.pdf), or Northern Ireland (www.groni.gov.uk/contacts.asp).
When giving notice, you'll need to give evidence of your name, age and nationality (passport). You'll also need to give evidence that you've resided in the district for 7 days. This can be a letter from friends or family you might be staying with, or a letter or bill from the hotel you are staying at.
If you plan to have a civil ceremony in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can give notice in one district, but marry or register your civil partnership in another.
Immigration control
If you're subject to immigration control, you won't be able to give notice unless you have a fiancée visa or a marriage visa. For more information, visit the British High Commission (www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029395231). If you want to register a civil partnership, you must give notice at a designated office (www.gro.gov.uk/Images/dro_tcm69-14324.pdf). When giving notice, you and your partner must go together.
Scotland
In Scotland, notices should be handed in 4 weeks before the marriage or civil partnership, and you need to register in the district where the marriage is to take place. The latest you can hand in notices is 15 days before the ceremony. You don't both need to attend the register office to give notice, but you may be asked to attend before the marriage or civil partnership to finalise details.
If you're from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA), you won't need to provide any Home Office documents, but the registrar may ask to see proof of your nationality. If you're not from a country in the EEA, you'll need a fiancée, marriage, or marriage tourist visa, which you can obtain from the British Embassy (www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029395231).
Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, notices should be handed in 8 weeks before the marriage or civil partnership. The latest you can hand in notices is 2 weeks before the ceremony. You don't both need to attend the register office to give notice, but you may be asked to attend before the marriage or civil partnership to finalise details.
If you're from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA), you won't need to provide any Home Office documents, but the registrar may ask to see proof of your nationality. If you're not from a country in the EEA, you'll need a fiancée, marriage, or marriage tourist visa, which you can obtain from the British Embassy (www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029395231).
After giving notice
After giving notice, you must wait 15 days before the marriage or civil partnership can take place. During that time, a notice is put up in the registry office of your intent to marry or register for a civil partnership. Once your notice is issued, it's valid for a year (3 months in Scotland and Northern Ireland) and you can have your wedding or register your civil partnership any time within that period. You can leave the country once you have given notice.

Utilities & services

Electricity
The voltage used in Britain is 240 Volts AC at 50HZ. Most power sockets are designed for standard 3-pin square plugs. Electrical appliances in Britain generally use the British standard plug with 3 square pins. Plug socket adaptors and power transformers are widely available, you can buy them at most airports, electrical shops and hardware stores.
Water
The quality of tap water in Britain is very high. You can usually drink from all taps that supply water to kitchen areas. Bottled water is also common and available in all local grocery shops and supermarkets.
Gas
Gas is often used in homes for cooking, central heating and to heat water. Some cookers may use both gas and electricity, for example they may use gas for the hob and electricity for the oven.
Car fuel
Most cars in Britain run off petrol, but there are also a large number of cars and lorries that run off diesel. Petrol is usually sold as either Four Star (usually a red pump), or Unleaded (usually a green pump); both types are available for most petrol stations. You will also see an increasing number of electric, or electric-petrol combined and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cars on the road.
Measurements and conversions
Kilometres and miles
1 mile = 1.609 kilometres
1 kilometre = 0.621 miles
Litres & gallons
1 gallon = 4.546 litres
1 litre = 0.220 gallons

Kilos and pounds
1 pound = 0.453 kilos
1 kilo = 2.204 pounds

Weather
Weather overview
Britain has a fairly temperate climate and can sometimes be overcast. However, we enjoy long summer evenings due to our northerly latitude and periods of fine weather can happen in all seasons.
The weather can vary greatly from day to day, but generally summer (June-August) is a hot 14-30 °C, and winter (December-February) is a cool 1-5 °C. There is quite a difference in temperature between Scotland and Southern England. Generally, the further south, the warmer it is likely to be.
See the weather forecast in Britain for the next 5 days (www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ukweather/).
Seasonal variation & what to wear
Whatever the season, the British weather is liable to change from day to day, so if you are wondering what to wear, it is a good idea to bring a selection of items including some light clothes, items you can layer (that way you can add or remove layers depending on temperature), at least one warm pullover and a waterproof coat or umbrella. To get a better idea about what to pack, look at the seaonal variations you can expect in Britain:

Spring (March - May)
In spring, you can enjoy wonderful sunny weather, but it can also be cool or wet. Temperatures fluctuate from around 6 - 11 °C. May can have very warm days - up to about 18 °C.
Summer (June - August)
Most days in summer are warm to hot, but evenings can be cool. Temperatures average around 14 - 30 °C, although it can be up to around 35 °C on some days.

Autumn (September - November)
In autumn there can be very warm days, but equally there can be cool ones too. Temperatures fluctuate around the 7 - 18 °C mark, but are likely to be much warmer in September than November.
Winter (December - early March)
Winter sees Britain's shortest and coolest days (about 7-8 hours of daylight) but these can be crisp and bright. Temperatures fluctuate from around 1 - 5 °C.
Brief history
Great Britain was the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century and played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science.
At its peak, 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.

The timeline of Britain
Neolithic, Bronze & Iron Ages: 8300 BC - 42 AD
‘Britain' itself did not exist until around 6500 BC, when the English Channel formed separating Britain from the rest of Europe. The first settlers here were hunter-gatherers, who spent much of their lives travelling in search of food. Around 750 BC iron was introduced into Britain, which led the way for the production of sophisticated and durable tools and weapons.

Romano Britain: 43 - 1065 AD
In 43 AD the Roman army crossed the Channel and quickly defeated any resistance from local tribes. The Romans founded Londinium (London) and built military roads throughout the country. Within ten years, Roman rule had reached far into the territories of England and Wales. The Roman way of life continued in Britain until the 5th century, after which Britons were left more or less to fend for themselves.

Anglo-Normans & Middle Ages: 1066 -1347
In 1066 Duke William of Normandy invaded Britain and famously defeated King Harold of England, who legend has it was shot with an arrow through the eye during the Battle of Hastings. William of Normandy went on to rule England and Scotland, radically changing the class system and changing the official language to French. In 1216, Henry III was crowned king, but was unpopular throughout his rule.

Late Medieval: 1348 - 1484
The bubonic plague - or Black Death - reached England in 1348 and quickly spread to Wales and Scotland, killing up to a third of the population by the end of 1350. The plague persistently re-emerged in Britain until the 17th century, severely affecting the country's economic balance. In order to combat the devastating effects of the plague, the ruling classes attempted to restore economic stability through parliamentary legislation.

Tudors Stuarts: 1485 - 1713
In 1485, Henry Tudor invaded England and defeated Richard III to assume sovereignty. He went on to marry Elizabeth of York - daughter of Edward IV. In 1603 Elizabeth I - the Virgin Queen - died. With Elizabeth leaving no successor, James VI, King of Scots (son of Mary, Queen of Scots), succeeded as James I, King of England, effectively making him the first King of Great Britain.

Georgians: 1714 - 1836
After the death of Queen Anne, George I became king, whose reign saw the development of the function of prime minister. Although the term ‘prime minister' was not used at the time, Sir Robert Walpole assumed the role typical of a prime minister thanks to his successes in developing economic growth for the country.

Victorians: 1837 - 1900
Victoria - the longest reigning British monarch - became Queen in 1837, aged just eighteen. During her reign, she introduced a number of constitutional changes and the spirit of these changes led to the publishing of the people's charter, which laid out six demands including universal manhood suffrage and annual parliamentary elections. The charter was continually rejected in parliament, but today five out of the six original demands are firm parts of the British constitution.

Early 20th Century: 1901 - 1944
The early twentieth century saw advances in science and technology that were unimaginable in previous eras. Among the ground-breaking achievements of this period were: the invention of the television by the EMI-Marconi Corporation; and subsequent founding of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC); the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming; and insights into the structure of the atom, which led to the development of nuclear weapons and energy.

Post World War II: 1945 - 2006
In 1945 the Labour Party won their first general election, going on to form the National Health Service, which many regard as Labour's greatest achievement. Post-war rationing continued, but the era was marked by public enthusiasm and hope for the future. Since then, Britain has faced a number of economic crises, but survives today as one of the world's leading trade and financial centres, with advanced public services and a thriving economy.
About Britain's Government
The UK is a constitutional monarchy that is a representative democracy, where Queen Elizabeth II is recognised as the head of state, and where the leader of the majority party, the Prime Minister, currently Gordon Brown, is the head government.
Parliament
Parliament is made up of 3 elements: The Queen, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They meet together only on occasions of symbolic significance such as the State Opening of Parliament, when the Commons are summoned by the Queen to the House of Lords.

The agreement of all 3 elements is normally required for legislation, but that of the Queen is given as a matter of course.

House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament. It's a democratically elected body consisting of 646 members called Members of Parliament (MPs).

Each member is elected by and represents an electoral district of Britain known as a constituency. The Prime Minister is an MP, and part of the House of Commons.

The House of Commons is where the MPs meet to debate Bills and issues affecting the country.
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament, and here members called ‘Lords' meet to debate, change Bills and scrutinise the work of the Government.

Members of the House of Lords aren't elected; they either inherit their title or are appointed by the Government or shadow cabinet. The members consist of 2 archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England ("Lords Spiritual") and 692 members of the Peerage ("Lords Temporal").

At the moment, the members of the 731 seat House of Lords currently outnumber the members of the 646 seat House of Commons.

Both the House of Lords and the House of Commons are situated in the Houses of Parliament in London's Westminster.

The main functions of Parliament are:
· to pass laws;
· to provide, by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of government;
· to scrutinise government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure;
· to debate the major issues of the day.
Scotland has its own parliament, and Wales an elected Assembly, which sit in Edinburgh and Cardiff respectively. Both Scotland and Wales remain part of the United Kingdom and have continued representation in the Parliament at Westminster in London.
The State Opening of Parliament
The State Opening of Parliament is a grand affair full of tradition. Britain's Parliament closes over the summer months and the Houses of Parliament open to the public. Our government goes back to work in November, and Parliament officially opens again. The State Opening for the 2008-2009 session takes place on Wednesday 3 December.

For over 500 years, the ceremony has served as a symbolic reminder of the unity of Parliament's 3 parts: the Queen, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

First off, the Queen arrives at the Houses of Parliament. She goes to the House of Lords, where she'll make her speech. Members of both the Lords and the Commons must be present for the Queen's Speech, but the Queen can't enter the House of Commons due to its independence from the Sovereign.

Next, one of the Queen's officials called Black Rod (because of the black baton he carries) has to summon the members of the Commons. He walks from the House of Lords through the Central Lobby, which links the 2 Houses.

When Black Rod reaches the House of Commons, the door is slammed in his face and not opened again until he has banged on the door with his baton and states his name. This is a symbol of the Commons' independence from the Queen.

The MPs then join Black Rod and walk through the Central Lobby to the House of Lords, where the Queen gives her speech, setting out Parliament's business for the coming year. Although the Queen gives the speech, it's actually the Government that draws up the content.

Once she's finished her speech, the Queen leaves the Houses of Parliament and the government goes back to work. After the ceremony, each House meets separately to discuss and debate the contents of the Queen's speech.