Unit 2, Government and Politics for Edexcel notes on Parliament

complete set of detailed notes for Unit 2 Politics exam on Edexcel board

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Parliament = the legislature. It is main way in which citizens are represented. It controls the power of
the government, forcing it to be accountable. Above all, Parliament exists to grant formal consent to
legislation even though it is dominated by the government.
Features of a Parliamentary Government:
Parliament is the highest source of political authority ­ political power has to be authorised by
Government has to be drawn from Parliament
No strict separation of powers between legislative and executive ­ fusion of powers
Government must be accountable to Parliament
Features of a Presidential Government:
Legislature and executive have separate sources of power ­ separately elected
President is not part of the legislature
The President (and therefore executive) is accountable directly to the people, not the legislature
Clear separation of powers between executive and legislature ­ there is therefore codified
constitutional arrangements that separates those powers
What is parliamentary sovereignty?
Parliament in the UK is legally sovereign
It is the source of all political power
It may restore to itself any powers that have been delegated to others
It may make any laws it wishes and they shall be enforced by the courts and any other
It is not bound by its predecessors ­ laws passed by parliaments in the past are not binding
on the current parliament ­ neither can it bind its successors
In reference to political sovereignty, Parliament has lost much of its sovereignty
Parliament in the UK is legally sovereign, but the political sovereignty is less clearly located (it
lies with the people at elections, with the government between elections)
The erosion of Parliamentary sovereign:
Legislative power has been moved to the EU ­ European law is superior to British law
EU law prevails
Parliament cannot pass any law that conflicts with EU law
Executive power has grown considerably in recent decades ­ there has been a transfer of
political not legal sovereignty
Increasing the use of referendums means that sovereignty lies with the people ­ Parliament
would not ignore the popular will of the people. However, results are not technically binding
ECHR is not binding but they do treat it as higher authority
Devolution has taken power away from Westminster Parliament

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The three main parts of Parliament:
House of Commons House of Lords The Monarch
All Mps elected by the All of the peers King/Queen at the time
citizens in the General Nominated experts in their Less power now, but still
Election ­ each MP field have the final sign-off and
represents their own PM has a large say in who on peerages
constituency becomes a peer
Basic structure:
HoC = lower house
HoL = upper house
Queen-in-Parliament = ceremonial role
The different roles:
Shared functions…read more

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Whip offices ­ respected MPs who's role is to inform MPs who's role is to inform MPs about
the business of the house, ensure MPs turn up when required
Composition and structure of the House of Lords:
Life Peers
Hereditary Peers
25 Bishops/Archbishops from Church of England
Socially Homogeneous
Committee Roles Strengths Weaknesses
Investigate the work of Act largely independently of Have relatively little
government for efficiency party control research back-up
and effectiveness Have the power to call Have no ability to enforce
House…read more

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Contain between 15-40 backbenchers
Examine proposed laws and to put forward amendments (need approval of whole HoC)
Departmental Committees:
19 such committees (e.g. ­ Health and Home Affairs)
Members are elected, but expected to behave in a non-partisan way
Reports carry significant weight
Have considerable powers, such as calling for ministers/civil servants/external
witnesses/official papers in their investigations
E.g. ­ March 2010.…read more

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Ministers responsible for Every minister to appear in 2 times debate Committees can
all activities including House regularly Ministers must justify question legislation,
themselves Questioned legislation finance and
(e.g.…read more

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Government is rarely removed from office Governments can become dictorial ­
prematurely legislation may not be properly scrutinised
Governments are generally able to carry out Have been times where the government has
virtually all their manifesto lost the confidence of the public, but can still
survive if the whips can maintain control
Why is the government able to dominate parliament?
Party loyalty ­ ensures that MPs support legislation
Voting system ­ FPTP ensures an absolute majority in the House of Commons (e.g.…read more

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Parliament can dismiss a government through a vote Government usually has overall majority ­
of no confidence means that it is very rare for government
legislation not to go through and leaves a
For example: minority of opposition for which cannot control
1979 Callaghan's Labour government was
the executive effectively
dismissed through a vote of no confidence of the
Under circumstances such as government majority or Power of Prime minister patronage is strong ­
no majority, effectiveness of parliament may be means that MPs…read more

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HoL can extensively Little time to debate Departmental select Don't have to
deliberate in HoC committees have implement the
HoL members have Government controls proved to be amendments
expertise and most of timetable ­ effective in Little time for scrutiny
knowledge possible to avoid and scrutinising the
Debates help to keep cut short debates government
government which might
accountable embarrass it
Key role of the HoC is to Procedures of Consent to Party loyalty and
make legislation Parliament in…read more

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Checks for efficiency, guards against wastefulness and ensures that services serve
the public effectively
Looks especially at `front-line' services, such as the NHS
Its reports are often highly critical and are used by government to improve its
performance, and by select committees as a basis for their own investigations…read more


Amal S

this was really helpful, thank you :)

Old Sir

A useful and comprehensive overview of the UK parliament and the issues surrounding it. Students might wish to use the examples given in order to develop case studies that they can use in discussions addressing AO2 (evaluation and analysis).


oh my gosh- to whomever made this I officially love you!!!!

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