Law Unit 1 - Topic 1

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Parliamentary Law Making

Acts of Parliament

Parliament consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Composition and role of the House of Commons

  • Each MP represents a constituency. 
  • The leader of the winning party is then PM.
  • The PM & his chosen ministers make up the Cabinet.
  • The other political parties who aren't part of the Government are called 'the opposition'.
  • New polices require new laws. It's the role of the HC to debate, scrutinise & vote on whether to apply the law propsed by the Government.

Composition and role of the House of Lords

  • Unelected & upaid & attendence is voluntary.
  • Hereitary perrs, who inherit their title.
  • Life peers, awarded a peerage because of contribution to society or politics.
  • 26 Bishops of the Church of England.
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  • Complements the work of the Commons.
  • Lords pose questions to the Government & debate.
  • Scrutinise & amend proposed legislation.

Passing an Act of Parliament: The Pre-legislative process - Green & White Papers

Green Papers - purpose and use

  • When a government department is considering introducing a new law, it will draw up a discussion document called a Green Paper. Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government or a Government department which outline initial proposals or suggestions for a new laws. Green Papers are issued by the appropriate Minister having responsibility for the matter.
  • They allow interested parties, both inside and outside Parlianment, to comment on the subject and give feedback on its suggestions within an agreed time-scale.
  • The comments and suggestions are considered and may be taken into account. 
  • They are available on the related departmental websites.
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White Papers - Purpose and Use

  • A White Paper will be issued after consideration has been given t any submissions which the Government received in respect of the Green Paper.

A White Paper:

  • forms the basis of a new Act of Parliament.
  • allows the Government a final opportunity to gather feed back before it formally becomes a Bill.
  • comments & feedback are likely to concern the workings and effects of the potential new law as interested parties now have more detail on which to comment.
  • this part of the consulation is very important as it gives the Government a clear idea as to whether there is a firm support of opposition to the proposed new law.

A White Paper will be introduced by the Minister responsible for the government department to which it relates.

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Bills

  • A Bill will not become law unless or until it passes through the whole legislative process.
  • Most Bills are drafted by expert lawyers known as Parliamentary Council to the Treasury.
  • There are three main types of Bills: - Public Bills, Private Bills, Private Members Bills.

Public Bills

  • These are the largest category of legislation. They involve matters of public policy and are general laws applying to everyone in the UK or sometimes to one or more of its constituent countries. 
  • They will be proposed by the current government.

Private Bills

  • These types of Bills are quite rare.
  • They have local or personal effect, applying only to individuals or corporations.
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  • They are often promoted by organisations, to give themselves powers beyond, or in conflict with, the public law.

Private Members Bills

  • They are the same as public bills but the only difference from public Bills is that they are proposed by individual MP's or Peers rather than by the government.
  • Relatively few private members Bills actually become law mainly because time set aside for debating them is very limited. A few have made it on to the statue books.
  • Mp's can also introduce a Bill under the '10 minute rule'.This means that any MP can introduce a Bill by making a speech of up to 10 minutes. This is rarely succesful unless there is no opposition to the bill.

 

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Passing an Act of Parliament - The Legislative Process

Pre Legislative Process

  • Green Paper (consulatation)
  • White Paper (firm proposal)

Legislative Process

  • First Reading (in the HC or Hl)
  • Second Reading (in the HC or HL)
  • Committee Stage
  • Report Stage
  • Third Reading (in the HC or HL)
  • Repeat process in the other house
  • Royal Assent
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First Reading

  • It's the first stage of a Bill's passage through Parliament. 
  • The title and main aims of the Bill are read out, there is no debate or vote at this stage.
  • In the Commons, the short title of the Bill is read out by the Clerk. In the Lods, the long title of the Bill is read out by the Member in charge of the Bill.
  • Once formally presented, a Bill is printed and procees to a second reading.

Second Reading

  • The Minister in charge will explain the Bill's main purpose and answer any general questions. MP's then have the opportunity to debate the main principles of the Bill which will be followed by a vote.
  • To speak MP's must 'catch the speakers' eye'.
  • The House must vote in favour of the Bill in order for it to proceed to the next stage. The vote may be verbal or counted, 'Aye' or 'No'.
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Committee Stage

  • Amendments can be made at the committee stage. This is a detailed examination of each section of the Bill by a committee of MP's or peers. Amendments can be made on the wording.
  • The amendments are carried out by a Standing Committee made of members of all the main parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold.
  • The members on the committee usualy have a special interest of expertise in the topic of the Bill.

Report Stage

  • The committee report back to the House on those amendments. If there were no amendments, there will not be a Report Stage.
  • The amendments will be debated in the House & accepted or rejected. Further amendments can be added.
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Third Reading

  • Final vote, but it is unlikely that the Bill will fail at this late stage. 
  • In the HC there will only be an actual further debate on the Bill as a whole if at least 6 MP's request it. In the HL there may sometimes be amendments made at this stage.

Following the smooth passage through either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, the whole procedure is then repeated in the opposite house.

Royal Assent 

  • Once the Bill has been through both houses and both have agreed on the wording.
  • It has to go the Queen for Royal Assent. Unless the Bill is urgent, it will be kept waiting until a number of other Bills are ready. 
  • The Queen does not read or sign the actual Bill, instead she signs the 'Letters Patent' confirming the Royal Assent.
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Commencement of an Act

  • An act will usually come into force on midnight on the date of Royal Assent, unless another date has been set.
  • Some Acts require a special order called a Commencement Order before it can take effect becuase those affected by the new Act need time for adjustment e.g. disabilitly act.

The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949

The powers of the HL are ultimately limited by the Parliament Acts. Although rarely used, they provide a way of solving disagreement between the Commons and the Lords when trying to pass a Bill through Parliament.

The Parliament Act 1911 - Background

  • Untill 1911 the HL had the power to veto a Bill. However, this problem was finally put under pressure when the HL refused to pass David Lloyd - George's 'peoples budget of 1909'
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  • This Act removed the HL power to veto a Bill, expect under very limited circumstances. However, the Act did allow the Lords to delay a Bill by up to two years.

The Parliament Act 1949

The Hl limitations under the Parliament Acts mostly relate to Public Bills concerning:

  • Money Bills - Bills concerning taxes & public money which start in the Commos. The HL can only delay these Bills by up to a month after which time the HC can send the Bill for Royal Assent without the HL agreement. 
  • Most other common Bills can be held up by the Lords if they disagree with them for up to a year after this time the HC must reintroduce the Bill in the following Parliamentary session which must pass through all the stages again.

Bills which either start in the HL or Private Bills are not subject to the Parliament Acts. Only seven Bills have become Acts under this procedure: Government of Ireland Act 1914, Welsh Church Act 1914, Parliament Act 1949, War Crimes Act 1991, European Parliament Elections Act 1999, Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 & Hunting Act 2004.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Law Parliamentary Making

Advantages

  • Parliamentary law-making is democratic. MP's in the HC are democratically elected to make law. During the debates on the proposed law, each MP should  have the opportunity to put forward the view of his or her constituents.
  • The Government has considerable control over parliamentay law making. And the law is considered the majority of populations choice.
  • The HL acts a checking mechanism. It can guard against laws being passed solely to fit the Government's political agenda. The HL exercises power of delay. There will be further opportunity for debate & amendment. Provide expertise.
  • The legislative process is very thorough. There are three readings & two stages in each of the Houses of Parliament. This provides several opportunites for debate, scrutiny and amendments, ensuring that any mistakes can be corrected.
  • Paliramentary Law Making beneifts from expertise. This is because members of the HL often have specialist knowledge in a particular area of law and so can advise or voice.
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  • Their expertise can be used, especially in the committee stage. This can aid the amendment process and ensure that laws are appropriate and workable. Thiss maybe especially important in areas involving technology or businesses etc.
  • Parliamentary law making gives effect to government mainfesto promises. This aids the democratic process as parties are often voted for by the people, based on the manifesto promises.
  • The legislative process is open to public scrutiny as any members of public can listen to the debates in Parliament either via the media or in person at Westminister.

Disadvantages

  • The process is slow. A Bill has to go throughmany readings and stages in both Houses. This takes many months & isn't appropriate when important law need to be made quickly.
  • The Government is arguably too powerful, as it's able to bypass the HL by invoking the Parliament Acts. The most recent example is the Hunting Act 2004. Any law desired by the Government may be passed despite the HL's objections.
  • As the Government has a majority of MP's in the HC it can vote out any private members Bills that does not fit its political agenda.
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  • Neither the HL nor the Queen is elected. Arguably, the unelected HL should not have the power to delay Bills that have been approved by the democratically elected HC. Undemocratic
  • Parliament draftsmen use words & phrases that are ambiguous, unclear, obscure & over elaborate. It sometimes means it's up to the judiciary to decide what the Act is meant to say. Approx 75% of cases heard by the Supreme Court are about how words in an Act should be understood. Dated processes, language & statistics. The language is often incomprehensible to the general public.
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Influences on Parlimentary Law Making

Pressure on Parliament to make or reform the law comes from a variety of sources. While many laws are introduced by the Government, other pressures for Parliamentary law making come from:

  • The Media & Publlic Pressure
  • The Law Commission
  • Pressure Groups
  • Political Pressures

The Media

  • It includes newspapers, magazines, television, radio, internet sources etc.
  • The media can play a large role in bringing public opinion to the Government's attention. However, while the media may represent public opinion, it can also influence public opinion. Where an issue is given a high profile on television and in the newspaper, it will be brought to the attention of the public which can add weight or even sway public opinion.
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  • The media may also be used by pressure groups to highllight their cause to help bring about changes to the law.
  • There are sometimes direct campaigns in the media to reform the law.

Advantages of the Media

  • Rasis government awareness so that the government can see what the public are thinking or how concerned they are over particular issues.
  • Public opinion can also be represented by pressure groups which in turn can be supported by the media.
  • The media also raises public awareness of some issues which can lead Parliament to reform the law.  

Disadvantages of the Media 

  • Bais = newspapers are very often biased towards one or other political party or point of view. This means that they present a biased view of events or polictical policy.
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  • Newspapers are out the make a profit & so will publish material that will sell rather than merely keeping the public informed. This means that they do not report objectively. They often evoke painful fear by reporting event that rarely occur but will grab the public attention.

The Law Commission

  • The Law Commission is an independent, permanent, full-time body that reviews the law, modernises, updates, repeals old law & recommends new laws.
  • Set up by Law Commissions Act 1965, this act sets out what the Law Commision is meant to do.
  • The full-time staff is headed by five Law Commissioners including one chairman.
  • The Chairman is a High Court Judge.
  • The remaining commissioners are all highly qualified academic or practicing lawyers.
  • Each commissioner has a well qualified team working for them.
  • When reviewing the law, the commission may codify, consolidate or repeal the law all of which helps to bring the law up to date or otherwise modernise it.
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Codification

  • It means bringing together all of the laws of any particulaw topic into a single act of Parliament. 
  • It brings together both Acts of Parliament & case law judge made law common laws. 
  • The purpose of codification is to simplify & clarify the law. 
  • When the LC was first created the Law Commission aimed to codify large areas of law but it later accepted that this was over ambities & smaller areas were more achievable.

Consolidation

  • Consolidation means bringing together all statotury provisions into one single Act.
  • It makes the law more accessible/understandable.
  • Consolidation does not change the law.

Repeal

  • Remova of law that have no further use as they have become outdated or irrelevant due to the passage of time.
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  • Once an Act has come into force, it can only be repealed or altered by another Act.
  • It's important to repeal old Acrs to enable clarity when trying to discover what the law is on any one topic at any particular time.

Through the process of codification, consolidation and repeal, the law is simplified and modernised.

How does the Law Commission work?

  • Self-investigation - The LC can investigate and area of law of its own choosing if its own choosing if it thinks an area of law needs updating.
  • Parliament - Parliament can direct Law Commission to carry an investigation on its behalf.
  • Legal Academics - through their writings, legal academics may raise awareness of a particular problem in the law the LC.
  • Law Commission will firstly carry out research which will result in a 'working paper'. This the starting point for consulation with Parliament, academics, members of the Law Commisoon, the judiciary and legal profession before eventually writing a report. 
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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Law Commission on Parliamentary Law Making

Advantages

  • Possesses a large amount of expertise.
  • Large amount of research carried out & so reaches will informed recommendations.
  • Therefore will informed & helps to make good law.
  • Independent (and not under political pressure) Unbiased.
  • Law Commission can decide to investigate an area of law itself - looks at a topic parliament wouldn't have thought of.
  • Helps to put Parliaments aims & intentions into effect.

Disadvantages

  • About a third of recommendations are never implemented and so the LC lacks power.
  • Government not obliged to carry out its recommendations - propsals don't always suit the governments political agenda.
  • Investigations too lengthy & takes too long to come to fruition.
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  • Government doesn't have to consult with the LC when it implements law.
  • Conducts 20-30 investigations at a time meaning each one might not be as thorough as it could be.
  • Consolidation requires constant updating due to judges & government adding or interpreting the law soon after it comes into effect.
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Pressure Groups

Pressure groups campaign for changes in the law. They are groups of people who share similar

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Pressure Groups

Pressure groups campaign for changes in the law. They are groups of people who share similar ideas on a particular area. Their aim is to bring matters they are interested in to the attention of the government and try to influence Parliament to legislate on issues of interest to them. There are two main types of pressure groups:

  • Sectional 
  • Cause

Sectional 

  • Sectional pressure groups represent & promote the interests of particular professions such as doctors or lawyers, or industrial and commercial interests.
  • There are also tarde unions which represent a variety of different workers, all of whom may bring pressure on the government to consider the law on certain areas.
  • These groups often have direct contact with Government ministers or MPs and for this reason are often reffered to as insider groups.
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  • Sectional groups may employ a number of methods to influence parliamentary law making.
  • Weathly sectional groups are able to conduct research the results of which may be used to influence parliament. They can also afford the mount expernsive publicity campagins using media advertising to bring about changes in the law or conversely, to prevent the government from making changes to the law.
  • Insider groups are likely to be involved in the drafting of a bill and may be consulted  by the minister in charge of the bill.

Cause

  • Cause groups are often charities which promote a particular cause of belief, for example, the environment of animal welfare. 
  • Cause groups rarely have direct contact with ministers or MPs and so are sometimes referred to as outsider groups.
  • Cause groups are more likely to obtain support for their campaigns by taking direct action. 
  • As cause groups are often charities, they have limited funds or resources to bring about pressure on the government.
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  • Cause groups can also lobby MPs or run advertising campaigns where funds and resources allow. Very occasionally, a single person can campaign for a change in law. 
  • Successful pressure groups include the League against Cruel Sports bringing about the Hunting Act 2004.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressure Groups

Advantages

  • Political Power = Some pressure groups have huge memberships which exceed those of the main political parties. 
  • Raise Awareness = They raise awareness & remained Parliament of the importance of an issue. Pressure groups perform a valuable role in keeping Parliament in touch with issues that members of the public believe to be important.
  • Benefical = Pressure groups must have sound knowledge of an interest, in order to put a point across. Laws enacted as a result of influence from pressure groups should benefit from expertise.
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Disadvantages

  • Biased = They are inevitably biased in favour of their interest or cause. Campaigns by pressure groups may not present an objective, balanced agrument. 
  • Opinions = Opinions held by a pressure group may only represnt a small minority of the population.
  • Undesirable = Pressure groups often feel very passionate about their cause. This sometimes means they resort to undesirable tactics, involving criminal behaviour, to promote their cause.

Political Pressure

  • When a general election is held, each political party publishes a MANIFESTO - this sets out their proposals, promising to bring about new legislation if they are elected into government.
  • A parties mainfesto therefore has a big influence on parliamentary law making.
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Parlimentary Soverignty

  • Parliament has the right to make or unmake any law it chooses.
  • It comes from 1885 - A.V. Dicey
  • Nobody can override it. 

European Union

  • We joined in early 1973
  • European Parliament - can make laws.
  • Laws must be given effect in each member state.
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