AS Politics - Parliament (detailed notes)

OCR AS Politics - Parliament (detailed notes)

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The Legislature
A legislature is a lawmaking body. In the UK, parliament consists of two chambers ­ it is a
bicameral system ­ the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The membership of the Commons:
The Commons consists of 650 MPs.
Elected in singlemember constituencies via the FirstPastThePost voting system.
MPs are usually representative of a party, and are subject to strict party discipline
enforced by the whips.
The government has an inbuilt majority in the Commons, which enables them to pass
laws.
Most MPs are categorised as backbenchers, while a minority are categorised as
frontbenchers.
The powers of the Commons:
The Commons has `supreme legislative power'. In theory, the Commons can
make, repeal and amend any law it wishes. The Commons exercises the
constitutional principle of `parliamentary sovereignty'.
The Commons only can remove the government of the day, through a motion of
noconfidence. A government that is defeated in the Commons on a major issue or
a matter of confidence is obliged to resign or call a general election. The last time this
happened was in 1979, in the dismissal of Jim Callaghan's government.
The powers of the Lords:
The Lords can delay bills passed but the Commons for up to one year, in accordance
with the 1949 Parliament Act, previously with the 1911 Act they could delay a bill for
two years. The lords cannot delay `money bills' however and by the `Salisbury
Convention', the Lords cannot defeat measured that are outlined in the government's
manifesto.
The Lords possess some veto powers. These are powers that cannot be overridden
by the Commons, they include:
The extension to the life of Parliament ­ delays to general elections.
The sacking of senior judges, which can only be done with the consent of both
Houses of Parliament.
The introduction of secondary, or delegated legislation.

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The membership of the Lords:
Life peers Peers that are appointed under the Life Peerages Act 1958. They used
to be appointed by the prime minister, with recommendations made by the opposition.
Since 2000, nonpartypolitical life peers are recommended and vetted by the House
of Lords Appointments Commission. There are 647 life peers currently.
Hereditary peers ­ These are peers who hold inherited titles which also carry the
right to sit in the Lords.…read more

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The whip system ensures that government proposals are rarely defeated and that
most amendments are acceptable to it.
The Lords scrutinises and revises legislation, but does not alter the key features of
most bills.
2) Scrutiny ­ Parliament holds the executive accountable for its actions through a
number of ways:
Question Time: Government ministers/PM face questions from MPs on the floor of
the house. It captures the essence of adversarial party politics.…read more

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DSCs can scrutinise ministers
via sustained questioning, it has a preemptive effect on ministers ­ who often are
given detailed briefing ­ unlike PMQs which is pantomime politics in which MPs use
`soundbites' to play to the gallery. DSCs increases focus and specialisation for MPs.
DSCs have a strong track record, e.g. Education SC on Gove's GCSE reforms ­ `too
far, too fast'. Transport SC ­ West Coast Line fiasco. Culture, Media and Sport ­
phone hacking.…read more

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MPs signal that they want to speak by standing up from their seat
'catching the Speaker's eye' or they can notify the Speaker in advance by
writing. The Speaker has full authority to make sure MPs follow the rules of the
House during debates.…read more

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