Government and Politics Unit 2 AQA AS Revision notes.

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Democratic Government
In a democracy, ordinary people have the right to vote, and in doing so can influence government
policy. In the UK, and many other western democracies, there are a range of constraints on the
actions of the government. In any democracy there has to be a separation of power between the
Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
a) The Executive
This represents the government, i.e. the Prime Minister (PM), the Cabinet, which includes all the
senior ministers, and, outside the Cabinet, junior ministers, who work in the various government
departments. This Executive body is responsible for deciding what policies should be introduced in
b) The Legislature
This represents the Houses of Parliament, i.e. the Commons and the Lords, whose main job is to
scrutinise government Bills and suggest amendments. There are various committees that scrutinise
Bills and the actions of government departments.
c) The Judiciary
This represents the judges and the courts. The most senior judges are called the Law Lords, led by the
Lord Chancellor. Their main role is to study the legal position of government policy. If the government
acts beyond its power, then the Law Lords can force government to change its policy.
The UK only has a partial separation of power, because the PM and the Cabinet are MPs and are
therefore in the Legislature as well as the Executive.
The Role of the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister has a number of different roles:
He or she appoints members of the government. This includes all members of the Cabinet and
all the Junior Ministers
Controls government policy ­ the PM directs and coordinates government policy
The PM organises the departments within government. He/she has the right to abolish
departments and create new ones. Tony Blair abolished the position of Lord Chancellor and
plans are in place to replace the Law Lords with a Supreme Court, as in the USA.
Controls the House of Commons, through the Leader of the House. He/she also controls the
timetable of the Commons
He/she provides leadership to the nation. The PM is the figurehead of government. He/she is
responsible for leading the nation in times of crisis. Tony Blair was able to show leadership
after the 9/11 crisis
The PM has the power to dissolve Parliament, by going to the Monarch and requesting
dissolution. There will then be a general election and a new Parliament and government
i) The Powers of the PM:

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The office of the PM is based largely on convention (an unwritten rule). Once the Monarch stopped
attending Cabinet meetings, the First Lord of the Treasury began chairing Cabinet meetings. This is
still the formal title of PMs in the 21st century. This is a formal title, however we refer to the Prime
Minister. It can be argued that Sir Robert Peel (1841-1846) was the first modern PM. The powers of
the PM have evolved gradually over the years.…read more

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The PM has a personal staff of around 100 highly specialised personnel. The PM's office includes his
private office, the press office, the political office and the policy unit. These experts based at No. 10
are there to support the PM and are often called the Kitchen Cabinet.
h) The Transformation of the Cabinet Office
The Cabinet Office has a staff of 1875 Civil Servants, who should support the needs of the Cabinet.
These experts form the Cabinet Secretariat.…read more

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The Cabinet will decide future government policy, eg. to introduce a ban on fox hunting. They ask
senior Civil Servants to draft the Bill and will then present it to Parliament.
b) Coordinating Departments
Apart from the PM, most Ministers are responsible for a government department. The most
important three are: the Treasury, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office. Each Minister runs a
government department and relies on senior Civil Servants based at the various departments.…read more

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Secretary of State, and resigned from Blair's Cabinet because of a "moment of madness", in
which he met a male stranger in a public toilet in South London. Davies had to resign in
In Major's term of office, he introduced a Back to Basics policy. This was a response to the
party being unpopular, because of sleaze and corruption. This meant any Minister having
extra-marital affairs would be forced to resign, eg. David Mellor resigned because of an
affair with an actress.…read more

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Some people are concerned that Parliament gives the wrong impression to women and ethnic
minorities; it suggests that middle class whites dominate political events.
1. It does give the impression that power is in the hands of a narrow section of society. This
causes disaffectionment, particularly amongst groups excluded from government. Falling
turnouts in recent years could be a consequence of this disaffection.
2.…read more

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When Blair was PM,
he always informed any new Labour MP that they are in Parliament because people voted Labour.
They should therefore support the party leadership and not worry about their conscience.
d) Legislation
MPs have a limited opportunity of introducing a Bill into the House. These are called Private
Members' Bills and are quite independent of the government. Each year, MPs draw lots to see who
will have an opportunity to introduce a Bill.…read more

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Magna Carta, which gave his Barons the right to influence a decision to raise taxation. The English Civil
War of the 17th century was largely the result of a conflict between the Monarch's power and the
role of Parliament. Oliver Cromwell, having defeated King Charles I, significantly reduced the power
of future Monarchs and, at the same time, increased the power of Parliament.
The 20th century has also seen a changing relationship between Parliament and the Executive.…read more

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MPs have a limited role in introducing legislation; this is done through Private Members' Bills, where
an MP can sponsor a Bill, which is quite separate from the government. The government can destroy
the Bill if it dislikes the proposed legislation by not allocating it enough time. The best example of a
Private Members' Bill was the Abortion Act of 1967.
ii) The Legislative Process:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Cabinet decision to introduce Bill
2.…read more

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The 1949 Parliament Act reduced the delaying power of the Lords from two years to one year.
The Lords lost even more power because of what was called the Salisbury Convention. In 1945, a
radical Labour government was elected and in its Manifesto it was committed to introducing the
Welfare State (NHS) and to nationalise a third of the British economy. Lord Salisbury realised that the
majority of the Lords, who were Conservative, would disagree with these policies.…read more


Ella Embleton


Bobby Perkins


Isobel Ley


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