Gov p2 notes

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  • Created on: 06-10-16 19:07
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Government and Politics
The British Constitution
1. What is a constitution
A constitution is a legal frame work detailing the compulsion and responsibilities of the
institutions of government
Constitutions purpose and context
Define the limits of governments power
Encourage stability through order and predictability in politics
- 2011 Fixed term act was introduced as a result of the coalition government
between Lib Dems and Conservatives. This ensured that the next election would be
held in May 2015 thus giving the weaker coalition a five year term. However this was
not the case before as Prime ministers could hold elections at any time when their
party seemed to be doing well e.g. an introduction of a popular policy.
This act created a stable government which is much needed for the country to be
governed properly and for new policies to be introduced.
Provide legitimacy to those in power
Set out respective spheres of influence
Classifying constitutions
1. Uncodified constitution
When laws are not written in the same place countries include the UK, New Zealand
2. Codified constitution
When all laws are written in the same place e.g. .France and U.S.A
3. Flexible constitutions
Under flexible constitutions, there are no formal arrangements for constitutional
amendment e.g. UK, New Zealand
4. Rigid constitution
The principles and institutions assume the character
of fundamental law (Basic principle on
which a body of knowledge
or constitution
is built. organic law).
Germany and U.S.A have rigid constitutions
In Germany, the first 20 principles are set in stone in order to prevent dictators from
amending it for their own benefits e.g. Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

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Where laws or constitutional provisions are offered greater protection from arbitrary
changes than regular statues
The USA has an entrenched provision which is the right of all citizens to bear arms. Barrack
Obama cannot change law because it is ridged.
In rigid constitutions, the principles and institutions assume the character of fundamental
Amendment is deliberately made difficult so changes cannot be made without due
consideration and discussion, examples include France and the USA.…read more

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Wales and Scotland act - these acts allowed for the creation of the Scottish parliament
and Welsh assemblies.
1999 House of Lords reform act - removed all but 92 hereditary peers from the House of
2005 Constitutional reform act - created a supreme court in the UK. This replaced the law
lords as the highest court. The powers of the Lord Chancellor were removed and the new
head of the judiciary was called lord chief justice.…read more

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Electoral reform
- London and local government
- Freedom of information
- Human rights
Should the human rights act be replaced?
-civil liberties are rights derived from positive law
-Civil liberties are contextual- reflects the societies they are found
Arguments for keeping the HRA
-HRA has been used to stop local authorities from separating elderly couples when one of
them needs to be taken into residential care to ensure that mental health patients are
treated with dignity.…read more

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Four functions of cabinet
1. Deciding on major policy in the UK and abroad e.g. reducing the voting age, war
2. Dealing with unforeseen events e.g. floods, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks(
Paris 2015)
3. Coordinating the policies of different departments e.g. education, health
industries or all spending industries
George Osbourne_ Chancellor of the Exchequer is in charge of Her Majesty's
4. Planning for the long term e.g. economic planning (George Osbourne's motto is
"Long term economic planning").…read more

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The cabinet
Collective cabinet responsibility
"It doesn't matter what we say, as long as we all tell the same story" ­ Lord Melbourne
century PM)
"For all that passes in the cabinet, every member of it who does not resign is absolutely
and irretrievably responsible"- Lord Sainsbury
Examples of resignations as a result of collective cabinet responsibility
Lady Waissi Summer 2014- resigned from David Cameron's cabinet and moved to
the backbenches because she believed that the government should have done
more to help the…read more

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Mistakes made within departments
1954- Sir Thomas Dugdale resigned in 1954 when mistakes made about civil servants
in the Crichel Down case were exposed. However such cases are rare.
2. Policy failure
Resignations following policy failure- e.g. Chancellor of the Exchequer, James
Callaghan resigned in 1969 after the devaluation of the sterling.
3. Personal misconduct
October 2014- Brook Newark (minister for civil society) resigned after he was caught
sending explicit photos to an undercover journalist on the internet.…read more

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Political neutrality- They are required to be politically impartial, not allowing their
opinions to influence their actions and loyally carry out decisions whether they agree
or not.
3. Anonymity- Whilst ministers are politically answerable for their departments to
parliament and the public. Civil servants offer confidential advice to ministers.
If they become public figures, this might compromise their neutrality as they would
become associated with a particular policy.
They do not work for the minister but for the state owned by the Queen.…read more

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Can be unnecessarily costly
-Performs no useful role that cannot be covered by a streamlined lower house.
- Slows down the task of government, sometimes delaying much needed legislation.
-Sometimes it does not represent the electorate and often adapts a broadly conservative
-Can lead to constitutional gridlock between two chambers.
Parliamentary sovereignty
Sovereignty means complete political authority
Referendum Power is placed in citizens hands Upcoming EU referendum in June
so parliamentary sovereignty is 2016. Results will determine
not involved.…read more

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-Judges review laws made by the government
- Membership of the EU ensures that UK courts can suspend UK statute law if it contradicts
ECHR (Factortame case)
-Pressure groups may act as a check on the government but can slow down efficient
-The PM can make laws
-The PM has been voted for by the electorate to govern the country
Parliamentary sovereignty becomes more apparent in parties with huge majorities e.g. Tony
Blair and Thatcher.…read more


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