AS Politics - The British Constitution notes

AQA AS politics note, Unit 2, the Constitution.

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  • Created on: 04-06-11 19:22
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· Should Britain have a codified/written constitution?
· Parliamentary sovereignty --> getting stronger/weaker?
· Separation of Powers? Erosions/Strengthening? Good/bad?
· Constitutional Reforms - Labour govt. 1997 reforms (HRA, HoL)
· Human Rights Act/Judiciary
· Are courts increasingly taking on quasi-govt. roles through judicial reviews - Judicial Activism?
· Influence of European on the Constitution?
What is a Constitution?
· Basics principles and rules of Government
· Covers all the institutions that govern...
· Consists of...
Says what kind of country it is
Announces principles of the state
Defines Rights of Citizens
Identifies where power lies
Lays out arrangements for change
Characteristics of a Constitution
· Codified/Uncodified
· Written/Unwritten
· Unitary/Federal
· Flexible/Rigid
· Parliamentary/Presidential
· Fusion of Powers/Separation of Powers
The British Constitution is...
· Uncodified but written (conventions, statue laws and parliamentary acts)
Always adapting/evolving
· Flexible
Ease and speed at which the constitution can be changed/amended
Any change of Law concerning how the country is governed or the right of the citizens
changes the Constitution
An Act can go through in a matter of hours or days due to the 1974 terrorism act
· Unitary
Power and authority is centralized around one body: Parliament
· Parliamentary
Parliament is the supreme Government institution
It makes Laws and sustains the Government
· Fusion of powers
The Executive (Government) and the Legislature (Parliament) are fused together, all MP's
are part of the legislature
The Supreme Court is separate from the other two branches of government
THe Executive is potentially in a dominate position
· Rule of law
A system of rule where the relationship between the state and the individual is governed
by the law, protecting the individual from arbitrary state action
· Parliamentary government in a constitutional monarchy
Government ministers are politically accountable to parliament and legally accountable to
the Crown, and must face the verdict of the electorate at least every 5 years.
· Not entrenched

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Entrenchment - protects the constitution from short term amendment so that the constitution is
secured and difficult to change. In the UK it is not possible to entrench principles as parliament is
Constitutionalism - to be bound and checked by the rules on how a country is governed.…read more

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Parliamentary sovereignty is
Name of limitation Parliament remains sovereign
All people (over 18) can vote, so the The people do not decide the Laws.
Mass electorate people have sovereignty as they Legal sovereignty remains with
decide the make up of Parliament. Parliament.
All referendums are non-binding so
Remove powers of decision making Parliament can choose to ignore
Referendums from Parliament and give it to the outcomes. Parliament decides the
people. question and organize the
referendums.…read more

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How does the Constitution limit the Executive?
Limitations No limitations
· Parliamentary sovereignty
No govt. can bind its successors
· Parliamentary sovereignty/government
Law made by current govt. can be
Govt. has a majority so should win
replaced/altered by the next (e.g.
every vote in HoC
GLA Blair/Thatcher)
Party discipline: govt.…read more

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Human Rights Act (1998) incorporates Derogation from Article 5 of
European Convention on Human Rights into Human Rights Act (2002-05)
UK law. overturned.
Freedom of Information Act (2000) gives New Bill of Rights and Duties
greater access to information held by public was proposed but no legislation
bodies. was introduced.
Scottish Parliament - primary legislative
Proposal for regional
and tax-raising powers.
assemblies in England dropped
Welsh Assembly with secondary legislative
Devolution after 2004 "no" vote in
powers.…read more

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· Judicial neutrality - Where judges operate impartially in their administration of justice. It is an
essential requirement of the rule of law.
· Politicisation - The process by which individuals traditionally regarded as being beyond the party
political fray are drawn into it. Politicisation of the judiciary is said to result from appointments
being made on political grounds as oppose to being truly meritocratic (the holding of power by
people selected on the basis of their ability).…read more


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