Unit 2 Governing the UK

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Politics Unit 2 revision
The UK Constitution
A constitution is a set of laws on how a country is governed and the British
Constitution is an uncodified and unentrenched constitution because there is a
different number of sources of the constitution and it is flexible and open to
change to occur without too many problems.
Amendments to Britain's unwritten constitution are made by the majority
support in both Houses of Parliament (House of Lords and House of Commons)
and are to be followed by the Royal Assent (a method that is used by the
monarch to formally approve of any nation laws).
A historic feature of the UK constitution, the Royal Prerogative gives the
Crown the power to declare war, to make treaties, to pardon criminals, and to
dissolve Parliament. (Arbitrary powers) and today the role of the monarch in
such matters is largely ceremonial, but the Royal Prerogative is general used
by the PM.
The single most important principle of the UK constitution is that of
Parliamentary Sovereignty and under this principle, Parliament can make
or unmake any law on any subject whatsoever.
However, parliamentary sovereignty is now directly challenged by the UK's
membership of the European Union, because EU membership necessitates the
'pooling' of sovereignty over areas where the member states have agreed to
act together (making sure that laws that the UK want to put in place goes
alongside laws that the EU would approve of).
Parliamentary Sovereignty:
o allows the constitution to be unitary (All legal sovereignty lies within the
centre of the UK parliament in Westminster)
o the government owes all the power to the authority of Parliament
o the constitution is not entrenched
o the nature of the constitution is in the hands of parliament.
Roles of a Constitution
1) To make sure the rights and duties of citizens are safeguarded
2) How the constitution can be amended
3) The principles upon which the constitution is based for example the Rule of
Law (all are equal under the law, all are entitled to fair trial if accused of a
crime and the government itself is subject to laws and cannot exceed them)
4) How laws are made and how they are enforced
5) The nature of political institutions.

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Sources of the British Constitution
1) Statutes such as the Human Right Act in 1998 and the Scotland Act in 1998
2) Laws (Historical law such as individual rights) and Customs of Parliament
3) Political conventions (unwritten rules that are generally followed by those
involved in politics such as collective cabinet responsibility)
4) Authoritative books and documents such as the Bill of Rights ( 1689)
5) EU treaties such as Maastricht Treaty in 1992 which transferred sovereignty
form the UK to the EU
6) Traditions…read more

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Scotland and
Wales (Devolution)
1998: a referendum in northern Ireland to determine whether an autonomous,
power-sharing government should be established there.…read more

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Unitary (One where legal sovereignty lies Federal (Examples are USA, Germany)
in one central location)
Sovereignty in the UK lies the Legal sovereignty is shared between the
Westminster Parliament centre and regional bodies
Powers may be delegated (or devolved) The sovereignty of regional bodies cannot
to local and regional government be removed unless there is a
constitutional amendment
Devolved or delegated powers can be Any legal sovereignty not granted to be
taken back by Parliament, or overruled the central power is automatically given
by it.…read more

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Devolution after the 1997 general election was
introduced by the Blair government first for Scotland and Wales then for
Northern Ireland. Devolution involves a large degree of self-government and
directly national assemblies.
Legal Sovereignty Political Sovereignty
Refers to the idea of `ultimate' Term refers to where actual
political power which cannot be practical power lies whoever may
overruled by any other body or make the laws and political
law and it also locates the origin of sovereignty could be said to exist
all political power.…read more

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It is flexible It is old fashioned
Provides for strong and decisive Parliament is too weak relative to
government government
Stood the test of time and so Power is too centralised and so
remains part of Britain's political threatens democracy
traditions Individual rights are not well
Doctrines of parliamentary protected
sovereignty makes government The fact that the constitution is
relatively accountable not codified means that citizens
Unitary nature helps to maintain find it difficult to understand
national unity
Independent judiciary ensures
that the rule of…read more

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The speaker of the House of Commons are elected by all MPs and must
become politically neutral
Legislative committees are found for each proposed piece of legislation
Functions of The House of Commons
Representation: MPs represent constituents and may represent 'interests'
such as trade unions, or particular professions, provided these interests are
declared. Almost all MPs represent political parties, and usually vote according
to the party line (the whipping system).…read more

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Prime Ministers at least listen to
advice from senior colleagues before making appointments.
The Prime Ministers ability to control the flow of business is restricted
Apart from drawing up the party manifesto, most Prime Ministers do not
initiate policy- they have a small staff and most expertise and detailed
information is located in individual departments.…read more

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Government and may force a
Parliamentary Committees
Committees Strengths Weaknesses
House of Commons Act largely Have relatively little
departmental select independently of party research back-up
committees control Have no ability to
Have power to call enforce their
ministers, civil servants recommendations
and outsiders as Are sometimes put
witnesses to their under pressure by
hearings party whips to take a
May call for official particular view and
documents they are not always
Are given time for independent.…read more

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Decisions may be
overturned by the
House of Lords public bill whole House
Members have Proposed amendments
specialist knowledge, can be overturned in
experience and the House of Commons
Are relatively The government can
independent and are re-present proposed
free of party control legislation in the next
Can be obstructive and parliamentary session
so gain concessions and in which case
from the government committees are
powerless to interfere
Collective Responsibility
Convention ­ not legally binding
Most important for cabinet, but is for all…read more



wow, really detailed notes... thank you this will come in very useful :)

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