Unit 2 revison notes

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What is a constitution?
The A set of principles, written or unwritten, that establishes
the distribution of power within a political system;
Constitution. relationships between political institutions, the rights of
citizens and methods of amending the constitution.
Types of constitutions: Codified constitution (1).
-Codified and uncodified constitution. Where all the rules relating to power of political
-Unitary and federal constitutions. institutions and citizens rights are located in a single
-Rigid and flexible constitutions. written document.
It is a two-tier legal system.
Codified constitution (2). Uncodified constitution (1).
Three key features: A constitution that is made up of rules that is found in a
1- Authoritative: highest law of the land. variety of sources.
2- Entrenched: difficult to amend/abolish. Therefore it is a single-tier legal system.
3- Judiciable: all political bodies are subject to
authority of courts.
Uncodified constitution (2). Unitary constitution.
Three key features: A constitution that concentrates sovereign power in a
1- Not authoritative: same as ordinary laws. single body of national government.
2- Not entrenched: can change through normal -Constitutional supremacy of central government over
processes of statue law. local bodies (can create/abolish/weaken other institutions.
3- Not judiciable: judges do not have legal -In the UK, this is Parliament, has unrivalled and
standards. unchallengeable legislative authority.
Federal constitution. Rigid and flexible constitution.
Constitution based on principle of shared Rigid: Codified constitutions, entrenched in higher laws.
sovereignty; are 2 levels of government. Flexible: Uncodified constitutions, flexible and adaptable
Both central government (federal) and regional laws because can be changed through ordinary legislative
government (local) possess powers others cannot process.
intrude/encroach on.
Two-tier legal system. Entrenchment.
When a country has a codified constitution, there This is what protects the constitution from short-term
are two types of laws: amendment. In order for higher laws to be changed it must
1- Higher law: power rights of citizens gain widespread support of the people and be in the long
(entrenched) term interest of the country,
2- Lower law: administration of the state (can be In the UK entrenchment is not possible because Parliament
changed) is sovereign and not bound by predecessor.
Judicial review (1). Judicial review (2).
If citizens take government to court, then senior EXAMPLE: 9 terrorist suspects at Belmarsh appealed
judges look to the constitution and interpret what `habeas corpus', judges said they were detained illegally
it means, their ruling becomes part of the but parliament passed The Terrorism Act (2006) allowing
constitution. Parliament is sovereign so they can them to be held for 28 days.
pass a law to avoid/evade this

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Nature (principles) of constitution (1). Nature (principles) of constitution (2).
-Parliamentary Sovereignty. between executive and Parliament.)
-The Rule of Law (government subject to legal -Constitutional monarchy (although lost lots of power, it
checks and constraints). remain a constitutionally significant body).
-Parliamentary Government (fusion of powers -EU membership (European law higher than statue).
Sources of the constitution (1): Sources of the constitution (2):
-Statue Law: laws made by Parliament/Acts of -Conventions: (non-legal rule) unwritten element within
Parliament; e.g. Scotland Act 1998 (Scottish the constitution; e.g.…read more

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Constitution under Blair and Brown ('97-'10) (3) Constitution under Blair and Brown ('97-'10) (4).
-Lords Reform: stage one of the reforms, with the BROWN:
removal of all apart from 92, hereditary peers. Through the combination of new conventions and
Constitutional Act, a wide range of powers would, only be
applied through the discussion with and approval of
Constitution under Blair and Brown ('97-'10) (5) Constitution under Clegg and Cameron (1).…read more

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FOR a codified constitution (1): FOR a codified constitution (2):
1. Clear rules: rules in a single document, crates 3. Neutral interpretation: `policed' by senior judges, who
less confusion about meanings of rules. are above politics, ensure neutrality and impartial
2. Limited government: limits executive decisions.
dictatorship, higher law protected from 4. Protecting rights: individual liberties would be
interference of government.…read more

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The Monarchy. Functions of Parliament (1).
-The head of state ( the Queen) 1. Legislation: parliament is the supreme legislature in
-Powers: appoint government, opening and the UK and can make or unmake any law it wishes,
dismissing Parliament, The Queen's Speech (when parliamentary sovereignty, parliament allows other
she opens Parliament) and royal assent (when she bodies to make laws. However, only a small number or
signs a bill to make it an act).…read more

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Reforming the House of Lords. FOR an elected second chamber (1).
-Stage one (1999)- saw the removal of all but 92 1. Wider representation: two elected chambers would be
hereditary peers, creating a partially reformed representative, strengthen democratic process.
second chamber. However: stage two is in 2. Better legislation: popular authority would greater
process, replacement of HoL with revised second exercise powers of legislative oversight and scrutiny.
chamber, support for fully elected.
FOR an elected second chamber (2). AGAINST an elected second chamber (1).
3.…read more

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Example Lord Hutton's -Rule of law is one of the fundamental of the UK's
enquiry over death of David Kelly ('03). uncodified constitution.
Rule of law (2): Rule of law (3):
- No one is above the law: implies that everyone - Equality before law: the law is meant to treat all citizens
is bound by law, it applies to ministers, public alike, it is no respecter of persons. All people should have
officials and other members of society.…read more

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HOWEVER... Are judges neutral? (1)
- One concern is through the appointment of - Definition: absence of any form of partisanship or
judges: used to be controlled by PM and Lord commitment, a refusal to `take sides'.
Chancellor but now changed because of JAC. - Political restrictions: judges are not supposed to
- Another concern is that minsters have publically engage in open political activity, or express support for
criticising the courts. Example 2010, Theresa May pressure groups.…read more

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Judicial reforms (2). What is a bill of rights?
- Judicial Appointments Committee: selecting A document that specifies the rights and freedoms of the
candidates for the appointment of new judges individual, and the legal extent of civil liberties.
Lord Chancellor has less power. - Entrenched bill: higher law, cannot be amended.
- Statutory bill: can be amended like statue laws.
FOR a bill of rights(1): FOR a bill of rights(2):
-Accountable government: like a written executive and Parliament.…read more

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Providing national leadership: in case of a -Made up of usually 20-23 members, some being
national crisis, most important. secretaries of state, responsible for running of Whitehall
departments. Meet with PM every Wednesday.
Role of the cabinet (1). Role of the cabinet (2).
1. Formal policy approval: policies have to be 2. Policy co-ordination: ensure ministers know what is
approved by cabinet in order to become official going on in other departments, reconcile minister's
government policy.…read more



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