Government and Politics - Unit 2.2 Parliament Notes

All the main notes for government and politics unit 2.2 (Parliament) including key words.

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  • Created on: 22-05-13 14:04
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Key Words
Legislature ­ The name given to the political institution whose main role is to pass laws. In the UK this is
Parliament, in the USA congress etc. This does not necessarily mean that the legislature develops the laws, but
that the laws are only legitimate if passed by the legislature. Legislatures often have the additional role of
scrutinising the work of government and acting as a check on its power.
Parliamentary government ­ This is system of politics where the government is drawn from Parliament and is
accountable to it. Government has no separate authority from that of Parliament.
Westminster model ­ This is a description of the political system that is found in the UK. It is a system where
parliament lies in the centre. It is the source of all political authority, government is drawn from parliament and
not separately elected and government is responsible to it.
Bicameralism ­ A political system where the legislature is divided into two houses as in the UK or the USA.
Sometimes the two houses have roughly equal powers, as in the USA sometimes one house is dominant and has
more power, as in the UK.
Presidential government ­ In contrast to parliamentary government, a president normally has a separate source of
authority from that of the legislature. This means that the executive (president) is accountable to the people
directly and not to the legislature.
Separation of powers ­ A constitutional principle that the three branches of government legislature, executive
and judiciary should have separate membership and separate powers and should be able to control each other's
powers. It is largely absent in the UK.
Fusion of powers ­ Government has the power of Parliament and can dominate parliament. In practical terms it
implies that government is drawn from parliament and remains part of it.
Representative government ­ A form of government where political power is largely exercised by elected
representatives, through individual MPs, Parliament as a whole and parties.
Responsible government ­ There are mechanisms by which government is made responsible for its actions and
policies. This means it is forced to justify its actions and accept criticism for them where appropriate. In the UK,
responsible government is largely accountable to Parliament.
Second chamber ­ This is a second House of Parliament, normally seen as a subordinate to the first house.
Currently in the UK this is the House of Lords, whereas in France it is known as the Senate.
The functions of Parliament
Parliament does indeed pass law, but it does not however make law. There are 3 main types of parliaments in
various countries Policymaking legislatures, Policyinfluencing legislatures and Weak legislatures. British
Parliament is said to be either in the second or third tier.
Legitimation ­ Although any government enjoys a mandate from the electorate, it is still important that its
authority is underpinned by Parliament. For any law/executive action to be implemented, it must be sanctioned by
Parliament. This is effectively granting popular consent indirectly, making it legitimate. In this sense it is
supporting government. The House of Commons plays particular importance because it is elected and Parliament
is acting on behalf of the people.
Scrutiny ­ Though Parliament does not normally make law, it does scrutinise proposed legislation. It inspects the
legislation and proposes amendments to it. Parliament is representing various interests in society by ensuring
minorities are not discriminated against. It also scrutinises secondary legislation and also proposed EU laws,
although the latter is more to inform government of shortfalls rather than propose changes.

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Opposition ­ This applies only to the parties that do not make up government. Although it is more of a ritualised
process, it still plays an important role. It is expected that parliamentary politics will be adversarial meaning it
expects to be robustly challenged in Parliament. This ensures the government is forced to explain its policies,
hoping to expose weaknesses. It challenges all policies and makes sure government can prepare its case
Accountability ­ In a modern democracy, the accountability of government is essential.…read more

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The Commons is dominated by the executive and therefore not independent.
It is difficult for MPs to gather enough support to force through a bill.
Delaying and amendments
The Parliament Act limits this to power to one year.
Proposed Lords' amendments must be approved by the Commons where government dominates.
Scrutiny of proposed legislation
Legislative committees are whipped and rarely defy government.…read more

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The nature of parliamentary sovereignty
The UK Parliament is said to be legally sovereign, meaning
Parliament is the source of all political power. No body may exercise power unless granted by
Parliament, but it does delegate power through devolution and local authorities/courts.
Parliament may restore to itself any powers that have been delegated.
Parliament may make any laws it wishes and they shall be enforced by the courts. In other words, there
are no limits on Parliament ­ it is said to be Omni competent.…read more

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Arguments For
Arguments Against
It is an opportunity to bring people into the political It could put too much power into the hands of those
process that would not wish to stand for election. responsible for appointing members and could lead to
Membership can be controlled to ensure that all major It is undemocratic and holds back progress towards a
groups could be represented. modern system.…read more

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In the House of Lords, external groups are particularly active when legislative amendments are being made. As
most peers are not strongly pinned down by party discipline, may see their role in terms of protecting minority
interests. In this process, representation on interests can be seen at its most intense.
Limitations of Representation
The electoral system makes the Commons highly unrepresentative.
The House of Lords is not elected.
Both Houses are socially unrepresentative, in terms of women, social and ethnic background.…read more


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