Chapter 5 The UK Government, the law, and your role -Part 7 Revision

Fundamental Principles

–          The UK has many rights and freedoms accorded to its peoples.  These rights are rooted in the Magna Carta, the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights of 1689.

–          Diplomats and lawyers from the UK helped draft the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  Britain was one of the first to sign the act in 1950.  Some of those rights are:

  • Right to life.
  • Prohibition of torture.
  • Prohibition of slavery and forced labor.
  • Right to liberty and security.
  • Right to a fair trial.
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • Freedom of expression/freedom of speech.

–          The Human Rights Act of 1998 incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.  The government, courts, and public bodies of the UK must follow these principles.

–          Equal Opportunity

–          Domestic Violence

  • Violence in the home is a serious crime in the UK.  Anyone who is violent toward their partner, whether they are a man or a woman, married or living together, can be prosecuted.
  • Any man who forces a woman to have sex, including that woman’s husband, can be charged with rape.
  • If you are facing domestic violence you should get help as soon as possible.
    • A solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau can explain your options.
    • In some areas there are safe places to stay, called refuges or shelters.
    • There are emergency numbers in the front of Yellow Pages, including the number of the nearest women’s centre.
    • You can call the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
    • The police can help you find a safe place to stay.

–          Female Genital Mutilation

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) can also be known as cutting or female circumcision.  It is illegal in the UK.
  • Taking a girl or woman abroad for FGM is also illegal.

–          Forced Marriage

  • A marriage should be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties.
  • Arranged marriages, where both parties agree to the marriage, is legal in the UK.
  • Forced marriages, where one or both parties do not or cannot agree to marry is a criminal offense.  Forcing another person into a marriage is a crime as well.
  • Forced Marriage Protection Orders were created in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland under the Forced Marriage Act of 2007.  Court orders can be obtained to protect a person in a forced marriage, or protect a person from entering into a forced marriage.
  • Similar Protection Orders were introduced in Scotland in 2011.
  • A potential victim, or someone acting for them, can apply for an order.

Taxation

–          Income Tax

  • People in the UK have to pay tax on their income, including:
    • Wages from paid employment
    • Profits from self-employment
    • Taxable benefits
    • Pensions
    • Income from property, savings, and dividends
  • Money raised from taxes pays for government services, for example, roads, education, police and the armed forces.
  • Taxes are collected by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • Most people have the correct amount of tax deducted from their earnings by their employer.  This is known as the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system.
  • Those that are self-employed must pay income tax through a system known as self-assessment, which includes completing a tax return.
  • If the HMRC sends you a tax return it is important to fill it out and return it as soon as possible.

–          National Insurance

  • Almost everyone in the UK who is in paid work, including the self-employed, must pay National Insurance Contributions.
  • The money from contributions is used for state benefits, the state retirement pension, and the National Health Service (NHS).
  • Your employer should deduct your contribution from your paycheck.  Those who are self-employed need to pay the contribution themselves.
  • If you do not pay your fair share of contributions you will not be able to receive certain benefits such as:
    • Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Full state retirement pension
    • Maternity pay
  • Further information on National Insurance Contributions can be found online at www.hmrc.gov.uk/ni

–          National Insurance Numbers

  • A national insurance number is a unique personal account number.  It ensures that your National Insurance Contributions are being recorded under your name.
  • All young people are sent a National Insurance Number just before they turn sixteen.
  • A non-UK national living in the UK will need a National Insurance Number if they are:
    • Looking for work.
    • Starting work.
    • Setting up a new business.
  • You can start work without a National Insurance Number.  If you have permission to work in the UK, you will need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to arrange for a National Insurance Number.  They will advise you of the proper application process.  You can find out more online at www.gov.uk.
  • A National Insurance Number alone does not prove that you have the right to work in the UK.

Driving

–          You must be at least 17 years old, and have a driving licence to drive a car or motorcycle in the UK.  You must be at least 16 years old to ride a moped.  Drivers can use their licences until they are 70 years old.  After age 70, the licence is valid for three years at a time.

–          You must take and pass a test to get a UK driving licence.  There are other special requirements and tests for driving large vehicles.

–          In Northern Ireland, a new driver must display an “R” licence plate, meaning “restricted driver” for one year after passing the test.

–          If your driving licence is from certain countries you can drive in the UK as long as your licence is valid, including:

  • Any country in the EU
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway.

–          If you have a licence from any other country you may use it for 12 months.  After that time you must get the full UK driving licence.

–          There are certain other requirements that you may have to fulfill:

  • You must have valid motor insurance.  It is a serious crime to drive without insurance.
  • If you own a car or motorcycle you must register it with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).  You must pay the annual tax and display the tax disc on your windscreen.
  • If your car is over three years old you must take it for a Ministry of Transport (MOT) test every year.  It is an offence not to have a valid MOT certificate.

Your Role In The Community

–          There is a shared set of values and responsibilities that everyone can agree with.  They include:

  • To obey and respect the law.
  • To be aware of and respect the rights of others.
  • To treat others fairly.
  • To behave responsibly.
  • To help and protect your family.
  • To respect and preserve the environment.
  • To treat everyone equally, regardless of sex, race, religion, age, disability, class or sexual orientation.
  • To work to provide for yourself and your family.
  • To help others.
  • To vote in national and local elections.

–          Being a good neighbor

  • When you move to a new area it is helpful to get to know your neighbors.
    • They can assist when you need help.
    • They are a good source of advice on local shops and services.

–          Getting involved in local activities

  • Volunteering and helping the community are important parts of being a good citizen.  Volunteering means working for a good cause without payment.  There are many benefits to volunteers including meeting new people and helping to make your community a better place.
    • If you have children you can help support their schools.  Many schools organise events, or need parents to help in classrooms.  Sometimes events are organised by Parent-Teacher associations (PTAs).
  • School govenors and school boards
    • School govenors (called members of the school board in Scotland) are people from the local community who wish to positively impact their child’s education.  Members must be 18 or older.
    • Govenors and school boards have three key roles:
      • Setting the strategic direction of the school.
      • Ensuring accountability.
      • Monitoring and evaluating school performance.
  • Supporting political parties
    • Joining a political party is one way to get involved in the democratic process.
    • Political parties are very busy at election time and are always looking for volunteers.
    • British citizens can stand for office in one of several positions, including:
      • Local councilor
      • Member of Parliament
      • Member of European Parliament
      • If you are an Irish citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of another EU country there may be opportunities as well.  More information can be found on the individual political party websites.
  • Helping with local services
    • There are many local projects that have volunteer opportunities including
      • Local hospitals
      • Youth projects
      • Governing bodies of local groups such as housing associations, museums, and art councils.
      • Police volunteers.
      • Magistrates.
  • Blood and organ donation
  • There are thousands of charities and voluntary organizations in the UK, ranging from local groups to British chapters of international organizations.  Some examples are:
    • AgeUK : working with the elderly.
    • National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
    • Crisis and Shelter – working with the homeless.
    • Cancer Research UK
  • Other activities you can do as a volunteer are:
    • Working with animals at a rescue shelter.
    • Youth work.
    • Improving the environment.
    • Working with the homeless.
    • Helping the elderly.
  • The National Citizen Service programme was developed to give 16 and 17 year old youths opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, develop skills, and take part in a community project.

Looking After The Environment

–          It is important to recycle when you can.   Less rubbish is created so the amount in landfills is reduced.  Recycled products are also created with less energy.

–          You can support your local community by shopping locally.  This will help businesses in your area.

–          Walking and using public transport to travel is a good way to protect the environment as well.