Distribution of Power in UK

Some revision cards for A2 AQA Sociology on power distribution in the UK.

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  • Created by: Lizzie M
  • Created on: 05-06-14 15:15

Power rests with the Executive

Some say that power lies with the political executive - the elected government.

+ Members of the government develop policies and take bills to parliament, and most of these becomes laws that govern the entire nation. So they have the power to change we live. 

+ They have power because they control the agenda/timetable of the legislature. 

- Power lies with the official executive civil service, that draft/administer/implement decisions. Because of their ability can exert influence over departents.

- Legislature (pariament) has the power...they have the ability to make/amend laws'.

- Judiciary have power because have to interpret the laws and decide how to apply them.

- European Union have got a lot of power now, and the political executive do not have any control over the laws made by EU.

- Has to answer to the 'people', during elections. So it could be argued that in actual fact people have more power than the executive, as the exectuive is decided on by the electorate, and if they dont like something government are doing they can protest - meaning that the government are held responsible for their actions and so have to make bills etc. that the majority of the electorate will approve of (if they want to stay in government). PRESSURE GROUPS? NSMS?

- As part of our EU membership had to devolve Wales, Ireland and Scotland --> less power than used to have.

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Power lies with the Official Executive

Official Executive=civil service.

+ Has power because they are responsible for administering and implementing laws made by parliament. 

+ They advise ministers (Can influence them?)

+ Prepare/draft discussion documents/legislation.

- Can not 'make' laws, that power lies with the legislature (parliament), meaning their power is limited?

- Could be argued that the judiciary have more power, because they decide on how to interpret/apply laws administered by the official executive. 

- EU means that the official executive do not administer/implement all of the UK's laws e.g. human rights.

- Devolved Wales,Ireland and Scotland - less power?

Because of all of this they have often been called a mandarin power.

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Power rests with the Legislature

  • The legislature is parliament.
  • Parliament has the House of Commons and the House of Lords. 

+ The doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignity means that they can make/amend/unmake laws.

- Can only debate/vote on the bills given to it by the Executive, so this limits the legislatures power as they are unable to make their own laws. 

- The timetable/agenda of the legislature is determined by the Executive.

- Some say that power in the UK has become centralised and now PM's etc. can hide their plans from cabinet members.

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The Judiciary have a lot of power

  • Judges are unelected, and some say their power has greatly increased in the past years.

+ They perform judicial reviews of the legality of government action.

+ Decide on how to interpret the laws of the legislature (power because can interpret law to get guilty/not guilty verdicts).

+ Get to decide on the lives of suspected criminals. 

+ Unelected and so cannot be 'held responsible' by the 'people'.

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People have the power!

This is a key argument of Pluralist sociologists. 

+ Decide on who the executive are --> effects how the nation is governed/what happens. 

- Elections only once every 5 years, and the UK has very few referendums. Means that the people have very little power, because they have very few opportunities to influence the decision-making. (the running candidates for elections don't always explain every part of manifesto, and never get chance to decide on these policies etc.)

Marxists and Power Elite theorists think that 'people' have very little power, and elections make no difference.

However Power Elite Theorist MOSCA thought that elites not hereditary, and so anyone could become an 'elite'. Could this be a way of 'people power'?

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The EU have the most power?

+ Has powers over it's member countrys --> make decisions on economy/agriculture/environment/human rights. 

+ Can make countries do the things they want by setting 'membership conditions' e.g. UK and devolution (Wales, Ireland, Scotland).

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