Unit 2- Uk Constitution

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  • The UK Constitution
  • Sources of UK constitution
    • Parliamentary statutes
      • acts of Parliament that have effect of establishnga principle
    • Historical principles
      • principles that have developed over yeard
        • Sovereignty of parliament and parliamentary government
    • Common law
      • Laws that have been used throughout history
        • PM's prerogative powers that courts guard
          • when there's no statute in place, these laws are used.
    • Tradition
      • practices and traditions of parliament
        • allowing the queen to announce new legislation
          • the queen's speech
  • EU and the constituton
    • Passed Europeans committee act on 1972
      • Britain joined EU
    • EU law superior to British law
      • Factortame case
    • British courts must implement EU law
    • HoL not highest court of appeal, European court  of justice is
    • proposals requiring unaminous vote in the EU council has effective veto.
      • E.G harmonious taxation
    • Where proposals only need majority vote, UK accept these.
    • Parliament shouldn't pass any statutes that conflict with EU law
  • Sovereingty in the UK
    • Parliament remain legally sovereign
      • all laws must be passed by parliament
      • any devolved powers can be taken back, with regards to EU
    • Parliament has to effectively accept the result of referendum
    • Power gone to PM or gov, through prerogative powers he uses on behalf of the crown
  • attitude towards constitutional reform
    • Conservatives believe reform should not be a conscious policy
      • Natural procedure
      • When there has been a political breakdown
        • Call for removal of house of lords, removal of hereditary peers
          • would disrupt political process of UK
    • Labour and liberals have more dominant issues
      • constitutional reform has few votes and so squeezed off the agenda
        • even when labour and socialists haven't been able to agree on reform.
    • Constitutional reform before 1997
      • very little change
      • UK joining EU committee 1973
      • Pol role of Monarchy grad dissapeared
      • role of HoL weakened
        • Salisbury convention
        • 1911 parliament act said HoL can't interfere with financial affairs
      • Power drifted form local gov to central
        • through legislation & conventions
      • Electoral reform
        • changed as parties come and go
          • Libs supportive- current FPTP is undemocratic & unrepresentative
          • other sides say it leads to strong and stable gov.
        • Labour moved away from reform of gen election, strong victories of 35% in 2005
          • 66% majority in commons.
          • made changes in devolved areas.
    • Labour supported constitutional reform 1997
      • support equal rights democracy and abolition of traditional establishment powers
      • 1997 seemed definite they'd win election
      • stop one party dominating after long period of conservative gov
      • public support for reforms as growing
      • Principles of labour reforms
        • Demo- cratisation - HoL and unrepresentative electoral system
        • decentral isation -dispersing power away to local authorities,
        • restoration of rights- European convention of human rights, freedom of info act
        • modernisation -of the civil service and parliament
    • Parliamentary reform
      • 1998 con peers and majority labour, reduced hereditary peers to 92
        • system more democratic
          • remains whether to make it elected
      • changes to commons, powerful select committees, PM questions
        • Brown tried to shift power from gov to commons.
  • assessment of constitutional reform
    • fully appointed HoL still not accountable or representative
    • HoC remains ineffective and inefficient, gov not accountable enough
    • electoral reform has not taken place in parliamentary or local elections
  • Possible future reforms
    • transfer powers from gov and PM to commons
      • deploy troops, decide on a date of general election, declare war, ratify or reject foreign treaties
    • changing general election day from thursday to weekend
    • introducing e-petitions
    • initiate consultation on bill of rights and possible codification
  • London mayor
    • after era of Thatcher who abolished GLC and split London up into 33 boroughs, labour party wanted to restore power to london
    • pushed through reforms for creation of London mayor & greater London authority
      • didn't live up to promise, only had influence
      • main influence being congestion charge and public transport in London, increasing police
  • Human rights Act 1998
    • Causes
      • bring UK closer to rest of EU, police and courts too powerful, gov had lost ECHR nearly 50 times
        • in return for active citizenship, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland were already bound by convention
    • how it works- judgments of ECHR aren't biding, parliamentary acts remain sovereign, cases heard in British courts
    • Gov listens- E.G. Belmarsh, anti terrorism act needed to be amended.
  • Freedom of information
    • gave citizens right to know info gov and public bodies and on them.
    • Harder for gov to be secret and conceal documents
    • Labour changed its mind and said there should be sufficient reasons for release of document  rather than reasons to conceal it

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