Unit 2: Constitutions Notes

all my notes typed up

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
What is a Constitution?
Basics principles and rules of Government
Covers all the institutions that govern
What does it consist of?
Says what kind of country it is e.g. France is a republic
Announces principles of the state e.g. Leninist-Marxist, democratic etc.
Defines rights of citizens
Indentifies institutes of Government ­ where the power lies and boundaries etc
Lays out arrangements for change
Britain's Constitution is...
Not a single written down document
Always adapting, never changed
Conventions are part of the unwritten part of the Constitution
1. Uncodified/unwritten/informal
Britain's uniqueness is due to its history
As there has been no real break in British politics and therefore, no real need for a written
Constitution or formal document to be made of the current Constitution
Britain's system has evolved over 100's of years and with that the Constitution has adapted and
modified to modern situations
There are 3 types of circumstance that lead to a new Constitution being drawn up
After defeat in a war ­ WWII, a defeated Japan, Italy and Germany drafted new Constitutions
When colonies are given self-determination ­
1947, India and Pakistan were given independence from the British empire
1950-60's, many African countries became independent
Following a revolution or coup d'état ­
Bolshevik revolution in 1917 meant Russia had to draw up a Constitution
France WWII and the Charles de Gaulle rise to power
2. Unitary
Power and authority is centralised under one body ­ Parliament
All other bodies have been granted power by Parliament e.g. the devolved bodies and EU Laws
These powers can be taken away by Parliament too
E.g. 1980's MT was unhappy with the GLC led by Livingstone so she used her majority to abolish it
The opposite to unitary is a federal system ­ countries like the USA and Germany have federal

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Here states or regions have individual political and Governmental powers that cannot be taken away
by National Government
3.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Parliament may decide to join other bodies above the nation state level. This means Parliament becomes
count by these rules meaning it can be superseded e.g. the EU gives legislation Parliament cannot change
Acts of Parliament
Statute Law lays out the relationship between the Government and its citizens. Modern acts supersedes
old ones e.g.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Only Parliament can make decisions and Laws for the UK. There is no power that can check or cancel
its decisions or give the UK Laws.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Could only declare Government officials as acting `ultra vires' (outside their power)
HRA increase the powers of the courts
From October 200, the courts could challenge any Law they believe doesn't comply with the HRA
Therefore, the HRA became a bill of rights, a written Constitution­ courts could now strike down
Technically, all they can do is point out how the offending Law breaches the HRA and ask Parliament
to change it
Therefore, Parliamentary…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Legal equality
Everyone, including Governments should be equal subject to the same Laws, and should have equal
access to the Law ­ legal aid is there to help lower income families
In reality, this ideal is not achieved. In general, only the very rich can afford to take legal action in the
Law courts e.g.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
A French nobleman, Montesquieu, visited Britain in the 18th century, attending Parliament as a
spectator. He writes a book called the spirit of the Law ­ "Esprit De Lois", in which he claimed Britain
is so tolerant and Liberal because it has a separation of power.
Separation of powers in where the 3 branches of Government are independent of one another
Each heck the other and prevents one group from dominating and controlling British Government.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Politicians act out of the interest of electoral
advantage, certain sections of society or their
own interests in power. Unelected judges can
act more impartially as a whole.
It is also not the product of a particular period of The imperfect separation of powers means that
history, so British politics and the running of the the Executive is places in a dominant position.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
The Executive needs a majority in HoC to get
its bills passed and stay in power
E.g. Blair lost a vote over extending detention
without charge to 90 days for terror suspects
HoL can also delay or stop Government actions
e.g.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Labour's Constitutional reforms since 1997
Constitutional reform has only developed since the 1960's in the face of Governments that were
unable to deal with inflation and high unemployment.
Criticism was not only of the politicians of the time but the Government system itself.
It began with outcries by a small number of critics like Lord Hailsham who had warned that Britain was
becoming an elective dictatorship.…read more


Old Sir

Despite dating from 2010, (and therefore missing reforms such as the creation of fixed term parliaments), this is a concise and comprehensive overview of the UK constitution, containing several typos, but nevertheless, very useful for students looking for an exemplary set of notes. Many will wish to further develop the points made by gathering knowledge of examples and case studies that will aid discussion and address assessment objective 2.

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