Influences on Parliament

Within Section A of the Unit One AS Law exam. Questions may be asked on this topic in the Parliamentary Law making section. You will be asked to describe how the are an influence and possibly advantages or disadvantages.

Political Pressures (advantages and disadvantages)

Pressure groups (advantages and disadvantages)

The media (advantages and disadvantages)

Law Reform Agencies (advantages and disadvantages)



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Is there a need for influences on Parliament?

  • In order to be effective, the law must be able to adapt to changes within society. 
  • There are many pressures on parliament which try to influence the direction of this process. 
  • The pressures can come in the form of society or political. 

Must include examples if they ask you a question on the influences! 

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Political Pressures

  • Party manifesto - made by each party during a general election. This sets out proposals for new legislation if they are elected into the government. These have included things such as: Housing Act 1980 and the Human Rights Acts 1998. 
  • Some bills are responses to particular and unexpected events, such has the Drought Act 1976. 
  • Membership of the EU is another influence. It creates obligations under the treaties whereby decisions made by the EU commission or Council of ministers must be enacted as new laws. For example, the Consumer protection Act 1987. 
  • The civil service in each ministerial department also has its own views to the legislation necessary to achieve its goals. 
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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Political Infl

Advantages -

  • Government are elected and respond to what the public wants; furthermore they want to stay popular to be re-elected.
  • When there is an emergency the government can respond quickly: Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
  • Parliament is flexible enough to respond to other political influences.
  • Governmental ideas for legislation are thought out and planned with the help of expert civil servants. 

Disadvantages -

  • in order to stay popular, they are reluctant to introduce laws that are necessary but controversial e.g tougher rules on drink driving. Therefore they concentrate only on the laws that will make them popular. 
  • The government usually gets their own way if it has a large majority in the House of Commons.
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Pressure Groups

  • Pressure groups are bodies of people with a shared interest in getting the government to change the law in certain areas. For example: Shelter, Trade Unions and professional groups such as the Law Society.
  • They target politicians, civil servants and local government offices by lobbying MPs, organising petitions and gaining as much publicity as possible for their cause. 
  • Shelter was successful - Housing Homeless Persons Act 1977.
  • Large groups normally more successful than small groups - however one person Mary Whitehouse campaigned to introduce the Protection of Children Act 1984. 
  • Some pressure groups only stay around for a short time to target a specific issue.
  • Sometimes a pressure group is set up as a result of a tragic event. 
  • Sectional/interest groups exist to further the ends of their own particular section of society. e.g. trade unions.
  • The law society, which represent solicitors, has a parliamentary unit that actively lobbies MPs and peers from all parties to change laws
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressure Groups

Advantages -

  • Pressure groups give the public and particularly minorities a voice. 
  • They help MPs keep in touch with what people think.
  • They raise public awareness. For example Fathers for Justice have been successful by a variety of stunts. 
  • Members of pressure groups often have considerable expertise and can therefore suggest details and well - thought ideas in changing law.

Disadvantages -

  • Some large pressure groups are extremely influential but this makes it difficult for smaller pressure groups. 
  • The methods of some pressure groups can be a problem, for example strikes, protests and can cause disruptions. For example Fathers for justice have been criticised for their actions. 


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The Media

  • The media includes: television, radio, newspapers, internet and journals.
  • They play a powerful role in bringing issues to the attention of the government. 
  • Newspapers: The daily mail has often run headlines on immigration or asylum issues in order to try to achieve tighter controls. The sun has consistently campaigned against what it sees as the growing influence of the EU on British life. 
  • Another example of the media influence: the news of the world in 2000 published a campaign after the death of Sarah Payne by a **********. It published details of known **********s in order to force the government to take action. The result was a register of sex offenders and the promise of much closer supervision of those related into the community. 


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Advantages and Disadvantages of The Media


  • The media play a powerful role in bringing issues to the attention of the government and can force it to act. 
  • Coverage in the media can raise the public profile of an issue.


  • Newspapers often adopt the views of their owners. Rupert Murdoch who owns the sun, the news of the world, the times, and sky television has used his newspapers to promote his own views.
  • The media have a tendency to create panics by often exaggerating. 
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Law Reform Agencies

  • The most important is the Law Commission. 
  • The Law Commission was established by the Law Commission Act 1965. 
  • It is a full time body with five commissioners. The Chairperson is a High Court judge, the other four are from the legal profession and academic lawyers. 
  • The Commissions work involves looking at reform of the law, codification and consolidation. 
  • The Commission may have topics referred to it by The Lord Chancellor or the Government or may chose a subject themselves. 
  • After researching a selected area of law, the commission produces a consultative paper that details the present law, setting out the problems and amendments. Legislation that has resulted from this is: Law Reform (year and a day rule) act 1996 and Contract (rights of third parties) act 1999
  • Initially there was a high success rate but now it is not successful. 
  • Another aim is to codify the law in certain areas, this has not been achieved.
  • Consolidation involves drawing together all the provisions set out in a number of statutes so they are all in one act. 
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Law Reform Agencie


  • Made up of lawyers with much expertise. Commissioners change every five years so there is a different range of views brought in.
  • It is a permanent, full-time body.
  • It reduces the work load for ministers; produces draft bills ready for parliaments use. 
  • it has been responsible for many sensible changes to the law, for example Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the abolition of they year and a day rule
  • it can undertake extensive research and engage wide consultation.


  • Parliament often ignores their proposals.
  • Reccomendations are usually balanced and measured, they may not suit the political agenda of the government. 
  • Often governments cannot find time for the unimportant law reform.
  • The law commission investigates as many as 20-30 areas at the same time - each investigation not as thorough, lack of scrutiny.
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This really helped me understand more, thank you!! 

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