Constitution revision cards

AS Politics revision cards - Constitutions

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The Human Rights Act

- Labour incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law

- They wanted to bring the British constitution into line with the rest of Europe because the rest of Europe has special arrangements to protect the rights of individuals

- 1980s and 1990s Increase in the powers of the police and courts were seen as a major threat to the rights of individuals

- The government had suffered embarassment from being brought before the European Court of Human Rights more than 50 times since 1966 and had lost most of the cases

- New Labour wanted to increase people's participation in their communities and the country as a whole. They believed that people's rights should be better safeguarded in return for these responsibilities

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Legal sovereignty - Ultimate power to make laws that will be enforced by the state

Political sovereignty - Where power is in reality, with those who can make political decisions 

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Legal sovereignty

UK - Parliament has legal sovereignty. No other body can make laws. Laws that Parliament make cannot be overruled. Some power has been given to the EU but the Parliament could restore all sovereignty at any time by withdrawing from the EU

Only Parliament can grant statutory powers to a subsidiary body or minister - Parliament delegating its legal sovereignty and can take them back at any time

Each Parliament usually lasts about 4/5 years between general elections

Each is legally sovereign - not bound by its predecessors and cannot bind its successors. In theory, a new Parliament can undo all laws

New Zealand and Canada are like the UK in that they do not have codified constitutions. However, their Parliaments can pass basic laws that cannot be repealed without a special procedure

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Political sovereignty

When an election is held, the people are politically sovereign. Between elections, they lose control of the decision making process

The government is politically sovereign. Ministers control the decision making process. They have a mandate from the people and a strong political direction

Parliament has ultimate power to pass or veto proposed law

Technically, the monarch is part of Parliament so shares legal sovereignty but this is just ceremonial because the only part she is involved with is the royal assent and she cannot refuse to do this

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PM soveignty

Prime Minister exercises prerogative powers of the monarch including:

Appointing and dismissing all ministers

Creating peerages

Granting honors e.g. knighthoods

Appointing ambassadors

Declaring wars

Conducting relations with foreign powers

He has a lot of political sovereignty that is not controlled directly by Parliament

If exceptional circumstances arose, the monarch could take back these powers and restore political sovereignty to herself 

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London Government

1985 - Greater London Council abolished by Conservatives - left London without any central government

GLC (led by left-wing Livingstone) had great power and responsibilities. Thatcher disliked it for being socialist and thought it was wasteful, over-bureaucratic and an excessive burden on tax payers 

London was divided into 33 boroughs, each had their own powers

1997 - Labour comes into power. Wanted to restore government to London and have an elected mayor

2000 - referendums approved an elected mayor and assembly. Elections were held for the two institutions

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The Mayor

Controls the allocation of funds to different users in London

These funds are distributed and administered by the assembly - 25 people

Assembly can veto the mayor's budgetary and other proposals if they have a two thirds majority

Has powers of patronage and can control a variety of appointments but assembly can also veto

Livingstone & Johnson have had limited power but have been involved in significant London developments

Mayors have influence rather than power

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Actions by Mayors

Livingstone introduced the congestion charge - Motorists pay to drive into central London on weekdays. Money from this has gone into public transport. Has not raised a lot of money but has cut traffic by a quarter

Livingstone & Johnson have secured Home Office funding to increase no. of police officers. Introduced 3,000 community support officers

Livingstone & Johnson both played parts in hosting the Olympic games in 2012

Johnson has made London more cycle friendly with the introduction of 'Boris bikes' 

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There has been movements dedicated to the introduction of greater self - government for Britain's national regions since the 19th century

Scottish Nationalist movement has existed for more than a century

Scottish National Party was introduced in 1928

Welsh National Party was introduced in 1925

Both were influenced by Ireland gaining virtually full independence in 1921

Devolution has existed in N.Ireland since the partition of Ireland in 1921

It was basically self-governing but the 1960s inter - community violence meant it was necessary to have some direct rule from London

1972 - devolution was abolished 1990s - Progress towards a peace settlement

1998 - Good Friday Agreement was signed which had in it a new system of devolved government for N.Ireland

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1990s demand for devolution

Demands for devolution in Scotland Wales grew as the '90s went on

Widespread dissatisfaction with London government - especially after the early '90s recession

Nationalists in both countries were inspired by smaller countries who were gaining full independence after the Cold War ended & Soviet Union collapsed

Labour proposed devolution in 1997 election manifesto

Partly a defensive measure because rise of Scottish and Welsh nationalism threatened the party dominating these countries

Labour granted a degree of autonomy - but not full independence - hoping to retain strong voting support

Conservatives had an opposition for devolution which had bad effects - losing virtually all its seats in Wales & Scotland in '97

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Introduction of devolution & why it happened

Labour had to win the general election with devolution as a clear part of its manifesto. Needed a comfortable majority (which it got) so that it could carry out radical changes without being questioned

Labour needed to win well in Scotland & Wales. Conservative votes there would question devolution. '97 - conservatives did not get a single seat in Scotland or Wales

Referendums were held. Turn out was low. Scotland made a decisive 'yes' vote (74%) but it was only 50.3% in Wales. Government approved Scottish & Welsh devolution

Huge parliamentary majority meant the legislation was passed without problem

1999 - Scottish Parliament and Welsh assembly was created. Scottish executive was formed from a Labour Liberal Democrat coalition

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Devolution involves giving power to a region or country to allow them to govern some or all aspects of life themselves

At the end of the 1990s, the Government pressed ahead with plans for devolution in the UK. Scotland now has its own Parliament where many of the decisions are made for the people of Scotland. Wales also has a devolved level of Government, called the Welsh Assembly, And in 2007, power sharing returned to Northern Ireland where there is also devolved Government.

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For devolution

- Growing popular demand for more self-government in national regions

- National regions have different needs to government which should be reflected in stronger regional government

- More democratic - brings government closer to the people

- Reduces the workload of British Parliament and government

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Against devolution

- Could break up the UK because demands for independence will be fuelled by devolution

- Extra layer of govenment will cost the taxpayer

- Demand for devolution is over-exaggerated

- Could lead to confusion because of an additional layer of bureaucracy

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Devolution in Scotland - Scottish Parliament

- Came into existence in 1999

- 129 seats - 73 are elected by FPTP -

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