Unit 2: Parliament Notes

all my notes typed up

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
What is Legislature?
The law making body of Government ­ Parliament in the UK
Almost all political systems operate on the basis of two legislative chambers, in the context of the
UK, Parliament is a term used to depict both chambers
Those two chambers are the House of Commons and the House of Lords
In the US the Legislature is Congress which consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives
and the Senate
What is meant by the term Parliamentary Government?
The British system operates on the basis of Parliamentary government - which can be defined as a
political system in which the Government governs in, and through, the Legislature
Britain is the oldest example of a Parliamentary system in the world
Implications of Parliamentary Government?
1) The Executive is formed from members of the Legislature ­ in the case of the UK; the party with
the largest number of seats forms the Executive. That party usually has a majority over all other
parties in the House of Commons
2) Britain's Parliamentary system implies a fusion of powers between the three branches of
The main alternative to a Parliamentary system is a Presidential system like in the USA
What is the difference between a Parliamentary system and a Presidential system?
There are 6 main differences:
The PM is a member of both the Executive and the The President is not a member of the Legislature
The Executive is formed from the Legislature and must A President may derive from a different party to the
retain the support of the Legislature. In practical terms, majority party in the Legislature and unlike a
this means that the Government of the day must hold the Parliamentary system, he Legislature cannot remove the
confidence of Parliament. If the Government loses a vote head of the Executive ­ as that role (called impeachment)
of no confidence, a General Election must be called in undertaken by the Judiciary
Thus, in a Parliamentary system the fate of Government
and Parliament are inextricably linked
The head of state is usually a monarch and the country is The head of state is usually the President and the country
under a monarchy system tends to be a republic
The PM is not directly elected by the people, as people The President however, is directly elected by the people
vote for MP's not head of state
Fusion of powers Separation of powers
Unitary Federal
Parliament related terms
A backbencher ­ the term given to an MP that does not hold ministerial office or a position in the
shadow Cabinet. Usually wants to achieve promotion to the frontbenchers although there are few
exceptions to this rule

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
For example, there is a small number of backbenchers resigned to the status of a maverick or rebel
and an even smaller group of ex-front benchers demoted from the Cabinet/shadow Cabinet who
often prove sometimes to be a thorn in the Governments side
The majority of MP's are backbenchers and their importance might be dismissed as little more than a
group heavily influenced by a tightly-controlled party machine stretching from the PM to the party
whip…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
Influence and scrutiny
­ The term Parliament derives from the French word "parler" (to speak) and as such the importance of
discussion and deliberation is self-evident
­ MP's and peers spend a great deal of their time discussing issues of interest to a law making
­ Although it may sound flippant, one of the most important abilities of a member of the Legislature is
the ability to talk
­ Legitimacy is an important concept;…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
The Burkean Notion and the role of party Whips
­ Edmund Burke 1729-97 argued that an elected representative was to follow his conscience when
reaching a decisions, rather than slavishly follow public opinion
­ The Burkean notion remains the theoretical basis for the actions of MP's to this day
­ However, in practice party Whips enforce a degree of discipline upon their own MP's
­ As such, the actions taken by MP's are to some extent…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
o Ministers are at no obligation to attend and some ministers (including Brown in his time as
chancellor) have simply refused to attend the select committee hearing
o As the Whips ultimately decide who sits in a select committee, rebellious MP's such as Gwyneth
Dunwoody can either be demoted or kept out.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
o If the Lords continue to reject proposed legislation form the Commons, the 1949 Parliament
Act can be used and the Commons will get its way. Since 1999, it has been used 4 times
o They have no say over the budget
o According to the Salisbury convention, the Lords will not oppose a commitment made by the
Government in its Manifesto.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
3. The length of time set aside for debates is usually arranged by an informal cross-party
agreement. However, the House of Commons may put an end to a debate by pasting a motion
of closure. This is quite rare, and must receive the agreement of the Speaker.
­ Those who argue that Parliament is an ineffective institution claim that MP's and peers spend a
disproportionate amount of time debating issues of little relevance to people.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
­ Members of the Legislature are therefore those made to the 2001 anti-terrorism crime
reduced to an essentially revising role and security bill on the issue of police powers,
­ This is particularly notable in the case of the and the disclosure of information
House of Lords, which spends a great deal of
its time amending legislation
­ The role of scrutiny is an important one for
­ One of the most important roles performed
any…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
2. Parliament can ignore and even withdraw from any of its international commitments, including those
obligations associated with members of NATO and the UN
3. Parliament can claim back devolved powers at any time, as they did in 2002 in the case of the
Northern Ireland Assembly
4. Labour backbench MP's have been more willing to vote against the Government since 2001, thus
reasserting the power of the Legislature e.g.…read more

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AS Government and Politics
Unit 2 ­ Retake Notes
­ After a decade of new Labour, the Lords remains an unelected body with no democratic legitimacy
or mandate from the people
­ However, at the time of writing the future of the Lords is uncertain ­ and we could be on the brink of
one of the most radical Parliamentary reforms in the history of the UK
How has the Government attempted to reform the Lords?
­ If not a great deal has changed since…read more


Old Sir

A very comprehensive and well-organised set of notes which pre-dates the 2010 general election and the reforms which have occurred since then, so students must be aware that important stuff is missing in relation to the Commons, although much of what is there might be useful. Students should not neglect the role of the parties in the business of the Commons either. Nevertheless, many students might find the section on the House of Lords particularly useful.

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