Unit 2

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  • Created on: 18-04-13 21:00
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TOPIC 1: THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION
1. Sources of British Const (Statutes/Acts of Parliament, Common/Case
Law, Works of Authority, Treaties (e.g. Maastricht Treaty), Conventions)
2. Key Features (contrast to USA): written/unwritten, codified/uncodified,
unitary/federal, rigid (entrenched)/flexible.
3. Separation of Power/Overlapping powers (of the Executive, Judiciary
and Legislature - how their power is checked by this and other constitutional
arrangements.
4. Arguments for and against a codified constitution - those who are in
favour cite the fact that over the last 20 or so years the electoral system has
created exaggerated majorities and that an 'elective dictatorship' has ridden
roughshod over the British Constitution (look at how they how treated local
government, proliferation of QUANGOS, passed unpopular legislation (e.g.
poll tax, fox hunting, anti-terrorism laws) and pursued unpopular policies like
IRAQ and WMDs. They also point to sleaze and scandals - cash for questions,
cash for honours, the recent stuff about MPs expenses. So, draw on the
whole of this unit in a C type question because this is about how we govern
ourselves, who has power and how accountable they are for it.
5. The Judiciary - key features of independence and neutrality - what
these mean, evidence to support their existence? How are Judges appointed
(note recent changes)
Impact of the Constitutional Reform Act on: separation of powers, judicial
independence etc.
6. Concept of the Judicial Review - 'ultre vires' etc and the limitations
(when compared to the US system). See powerpoints
7. Human Rights Act & European Court of Human Rights - when
introduced, why, what are the key articles, how has it impacted on the UK
system (links to the government action and parliament). Note that there is to
be a supreme court (with fewer powers than the US one) in Oct 09.
The specification for the constitution and it says 'how far does the british
constitution influence and limit the powers of government' - ideas include
'Limit' is fairly straightforward. Limitations? Legitimising role
of Parliament, particularly the HoC (vote of 'no' confidence
etc), bicamerlism ensures that the second chamber can revise and delay
legislation. Also, Government need the support of the HoL to extend
their term (from 5 years). The role of the constitutional monarch - PM
has to formally ask permission of the monarch to dissolve parliament,
monarch formally invites the leader of the largest party to form
government (but note 1974 when there was a minority Labour govt etc).
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HOWEVER The 'government' or Executive in the USA is the President.
Because they have a written or codified constitution (all are written in
one document), this really limits his actions. For example, after the high
school massacres, the President (Clinton) wanted to limit the
ownership/use of handguns; however the USA constitution gives citizens
'the right to bear arms' - this stems back to the 'wild west' and
encouraging people to travel to the west coast to set up new
settlements.…read more

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D. BACKBENCHERS (ordinary MPs who do not hold ministerial office in
government or in the shadow government) and FRONT BENCHERS
(remember, these include ministers, parliamentary undersecretaries and
whips who aren't in the Cabinet). FRONTBENCHERS are bound by 'collective
responsibility'.
E. CROSS BENCHERS/INDEPENDENTS - peers in the HoL who do no take a
party whip.
2. The main roles and functions of Parliament - 'the Westminster Model'
A. REPRESENTATION - make sure you know the liberal interpretation (see
pp) and its recent criticisms.…read more

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Parliament and governmental relationships - how does Parliament hold
the government to account? How can government/executive dominate
Parliament? Consider the control of the Parliamentary timetable, the whips
system and the effect of a parliamentary majority and party discipline.
What is an 'elective dictatorship' (Lord Hailsham about the minority Labour
government in the late 70s) and how did/does it apply to Thatcher and
Blair/Brown governments?
5. Consider how backbenchers, Opposition and/or the House of Lords
have tried to 'fight back'.…read more

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The cabinet system - composition (who is in the cabinet, how chosen
etc), roles and functions of the cabinet - look at Burch in older textbook or
my powerpoint for functions. Be aware of structural changes to the
cabinet system (in order to reflect the increased role of government in 20th
Century and the need for government to think synoptically - ie for the
future).…read more

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Learning and Skills
Council fund further education in England who are they accountable to?).
C. Relationship with central government 'partnership model' during the
consensus period (4579) replaced by the 'agency model' from Thatcher
onwards (although Blair did address this to some extent). The latter model
suggests that central government CONTROLS and DICTATES to local
government through control of government grants, 'capping' of funding and
increases in council tax.…read more

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A. Supranational it's power and authority crosses national borders. Member
states have to give up a part of their sovereignty to it (e.g. EU law overrides UK
law).
B. 'Democratic deficit' again in the grid we defined this. Essentially power
rests with nonelected and unaccountable EU institutions which often meet in
secret Commission, Council of Ministers (although they are accountable to their
own Parliament).…read more

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